“Okay, that’s it. I quit. I don’t want to be a parent anymore. I’m pretty sure I suck at it. All my kids are going to end up in therapy, and I’d just rather go hiking really.”
If you’re a parent, you’ve probably been here, right? You’ve had those days when you were just so discouraged that you couldn’t see a way through the tangled morass of hope, fear, fleeting joy, worry, doubt, and dread that is parenthood. It’s a colossal task, being a parent, and one for which we are all are, ultimately, woefully unprepared. We all start off as amateurs, sometimes little more than kids ourselves, who suddenly become responsible for other little human beings. And because there is no rule book or fool-proof training, child-rearing occurs largely on a trial and error basis.
The only models we had (some of us) are our own parents. But they raised different kids in a different world that bore little resemblance to the one currently filled with constant electronic stimuli and shadowed by the threat of a dystopian future. Because kids are, by definition, changeable, capricious, and often downright cheeky, they won’t make it easy for you. Just when you become an expert on your particular kid, he/she will change. Kids do that. They grow, they develop, they…gulp…enter puberty, and then all bets are off. So some days, I just want to know, Who the hell decided this was a good system?
Here I am trying to make decisions on a daily basis that are going to affect the development and future potential happiness of our children, and I’m guessing! Most of the time they are educated guesses, sure, based on past observations of said child, the experience of other parents, and often, extensive reading. (I’m a researching kind of girl and we have kids with autism and OCD.) But when it comes down to it, every decision is a judgment call, an educated guess at best, and one that is very often swayed by how much or little patience I’ve got left for the day. And lately, I’ve got to say, the reservoir is pretty darn low. I’m thinking about rationing, but I can’t figure out how to get my family to go along.
And that’s where I run into my other little problem – raising a child in the context of a family. It’s complicated! Everybody has needs, and they don’t always spread them out so that you can deal with them one-by-one when you are well-rested-and-emotionally-prepared. That’s not the way life happens. No, life likes to descend on you like a shit-storm of need, nausea and broken appliances. It’s failing grades and juggling bills and used Kleenex and muddy paw prints on the spread you just washed. Life happens in your face, when you least expect it, or when you honestly think the very next thing will be the last straw. You know what happens when you have that thought? Something awful, usually. (At least in my experience as I interpret it in my current frantic state of mind.)
Life is like someone calling your name over and over, but they never come to you. You must seek out the caller and carry out their commands. Can you get me a towel? I don’t understand my chemistry homework. Will you get those dogs to stop barking? I’m stressed, I’m nauseous, listen to my problems, fix it, fix it, fix it! It’s like being a genie with a house full of sadistic wishers. And just when you think you have a handle on it all, when you have put your house in order, walked the dogs, and anticipated and prepared for every child (and partner’s) every need – life will surprise you. It will wait until you have done your very best, until you are sweaty and dirty and proud of yourself, and then it will walk up, wag its tail, look you right in the eye – and then hike its leg and pee on your shoes.
So this is where I would probably be expected to add a paragraph about how it’s all worth it in the end and how the joys by far outweigh the stresses. And yeah, that’s true, though I’m not feeling it so much at this particular moment. Because we all know, you have to work for that attitude. So this is my first step – writing it down. It’s therapeutic. Then I’m going to go have a cleaning frenzy all over my house, because that’s what I do when I’m stressed and don’t know what to do next. (I already had a cleaning frenzy on our yard last evening and may have been a bit too vigorous with the weed-eater and gardening shears. I’m a little afraid to look.)
So after I’ve obsessively put our house (and yard) in order for a few hours, I will be sweaty, tired, satisfied in a way only a career house-not-wife can be after a day spent cleaning, and happy to see my partner and our children when they get home this evening. And we are going to have a happy and fun Friday evening together with lots of hugs and positive affirmations. But until then, I’m going to go bleach something.