Parenting: so easy a caveman could do it.

I’ve always been hesitant to post the struggles of my kids online. From time to time, I will share something funny that happened, for instance, several years ago when Bryce ate his own poop. Every so often, I’ll also proffer a tale of a day that included fits, crying, disobeying, or general parental exhaustion. I try not to do this at the expense of one of the kids, but rather a ‘we’re all in this thing together and my kid does the exact same thing as your kid,’ a shared camaraderie of knowing that none of us are in this alone, although we often feel that we are. And if you say that your kid doesn’t throw fits, cry, disobey, or exhaust you parentally at times, you’re a giant fibber.

Most of what I try to share, as it relates to parenting, regard my own shortcomings, of which I feel there are many.

I feel like many parents follow a general evolutionary timeline. Before kids, perhaps while expecting a baby, we’re hopeful but naive, although we don’t think we are. I’ll explain. We plan all the different ways we’re going to love our child and offer them encouragement while also challenging them to be great people. We say to ourselves and our partner that we’ll accept and love our child no matter what life throws at us, not matter how difficult they are, not really understanding what that means because meanwhile we’re silently judging everyone we know who has kids outside the womb for feeding their kids junk food and sometimes yelling at them.

When we have our children but they are still little and perfect and can do no wrong, our world opens up. We think, “How did I ever think this was going to be easy?! Parenting is so hard!,” but its not really parenting, its just caring for something and unless you have really great help, you don’t really get a break. Its still pretty easy to be self righteous at this point, because now you are technically a parent, so you think you know what you’re talking about. I remember a friend with older children telling me she yelled at her kids to get out of the house come school time, and I was secretly horrified. I pretended I understood, but Addie was still between 6 months and 2 years (its all a blur) and all I felt for her was elation and love. Not annoyance at getting up in the night, no postpartum blues, it was really just idiotically easy, thereby, super easy to judge everybody else. I remember coming home and telling Tony, “So and So actually *yells* at her kids. I can never imagine doing that to Addie. I just love her so much, and I don’t want our house to be a ‘yelling’ house.”

Ok Katie from 6 years ago. You were being kind of dumb.

What happens is that with each new stage of parenting, we are taken down a peg. What we once silently judged about other parents now happens to us and we are overcome with empathy and understanding, and we think “Oh how did I ever judge them? I get it now.” And yes, you do now understand what its like to have a tantruming kid in the store and not want to leave, but we still judge parents who have older kids for allowing them to have cell phones or talk back or watch a billion minutes of screen time. So while yes, you do empathize with what you now understand, we still judge what we don’t. Maybe I’m just a terrible person and no one does all this except me. The jury’s still out!

I think that our only hope for ourselves as parents is that this process of repeatedly realizing that we really don’t know what we’re talking about happens enough that we eventually become humbled.

What I can say is that not only parenting, but life while parenting, is much harder than I thought it was going to be. Life throws things at your kids that is so unfair. Challenges that they shouldn’t have to deal with, that other kids may not have to deal with, and you find yourself thinking, “Well they have it easier because of such and such,” when really thats just another form of judgement. And its also not true. While not everyone is open about their struggles with everything, or nor should we always be, especially when it comes to our kids and its not really ours to share, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t struggles. We never really know whats going on under others roofs. I once had a friend who said that whenever someone was rude to her, she imagined that their cat had died that morning. Well, imagine everyone who yells at their kids *also* had a cat die that very same morning. Millions of cats everyday meeting their untimely death. The point is, we literally have no idea what other people are dealing with. I know that doesn’t change much, and we still make judgements and assumptions because we’re all human and thats what we do, but its probably something we should write on our foreheads or something. Well, you should write it on your forehead. My humility and lack of judgement are probably the two greatest things about me. And as for my family and kids, they’re perfect, and my parenting is 100% to blame.