“What’s it like being a parent?” or “How’s it going (with the concerned look and the somewhat pitying tone)?” Mind you, I haven’t been doing this parenting thing very long but I do get this question a lot, not sure why, maybe because many of my peers have little intention of slowing their life stride to be side-tracked by the slave labor necessary to raise little blobs into independence…oh to be single and/or child free again… but I digress…
On this Valentine’s Day, it seems fitting to reflect on the nature of being a parent. You start off for pretty selfish reasons – ‘wanting children’/‘wanting to have them’ and quickly realize that actually, no, this is demanding! Crazy demanding, physically, emotionally, psychologically…
“The days are long”… so…fucking…mind numbingly…long…
“The years are short.” Oh my god, it was like you nodded off for a sleep-deprived second and the infant period just clicked by and you are starting preschool and his favorite band is One Direction (for crying out loud, really?) and soon they won’t want to hold the hem of your shirt for comfort and demand to be snuggled to sleep.
It’s discovering your true strength — that you can lift more than half your body weight multiple times a day without batting an eye or breaking into a sweat, that you need only the tiniest sliver of sleep and can still undergo excruciating interrogation by the constant ‘Why?,’ that you can withstand endless repeats of “Let it Go,” and retain (most of) your sanity.
It is discovering the true meaning of humility — being an unsung hero day in and day out, striving for providing the best of your ability to someone who doesn’t know and will never notice until maybe someday they have children of their own.
It is being the center of someone’s universe and discovering that your entrance into a room or even the mere mention of your name could ignite the pure light of joy in another person.
It is shining a light on your many faults, weaknesses, and deep flaws when under the duress of a tight budget and one too many spilled cups of some premium organic liquid or a well-timed tantrum for something they will never ever need or play with ever again and that you will have to pick up because it has a thousand pieces to it.
It is discovering the true meaning of generosity, of the giving, always giving, enjoying the giving, surrendering to the giving and discovering the depths to which you didn’t know you could love.
It’s as if your heart has been removed from its natural repository in your chest cavity and taken into the world for anyone to damage, take, hurt, god-forbid kill, etc. You never knew that you could be this vulnerable, that you could love someone so ferociously, completely and be so absolutely, utterly defenseless.
It is wishing you could go back to before you had that crazy idea to have kids, when you could travel and sleep in and do whatever you wanted whenever you wanted.
It’s looking forward to doing it all again tomorrow and hoping that your best will be what’s best and will be enough.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8New International Version (NIV)
Dedicated to J, C, and all parents everywhere.
And if you needed to see Pat Benatar