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.

 

Heroe’s in a Half Shell

If I had to pick a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle to be in love with, I would have chosen Raphael. And I did, when I was between the ages of 8-10. Back then I think I was blinded by brunt machismo, red headbands, and cool fighting things (which I now know are called ‘sai’s). I’ve since evolved (albeit at the age of 33 I’m still thinking about which Ninja Turtle I would marry), and I would now choose Michelangelo, without question. I’ve come to realize that life isn’t always funny, but someone who has a good attitude, provides comic relief, and loves pizza are some of the most important things to look for in a life partner.

I’m mostly always glad I didn’t marry a turtle (and not because all of their real life movies were terrible and they probably stopped getting paid the big bucks), and appreciate the human partner I’ve chosen in Tony, although that is beside the point. My kids have become pulled into the turtle universe lately thanks to Nickelodeon reviving this childhood namesake. Not only is it pretty good, has a super awesome rap title song (its legitimately catchy), but it reminds me of the hours that I spent when I was little in our red basement watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Before you write me off as irrevocably creepy, I wasn’t actually in love with the turtles, it was more a crush on a cartoon character who wasn’t human. So, maybe that is a little weird. Nickelodeons’ version even has pretty cool actors doing the voices, Sean Astin and Jason Biggs (until he made a mistake in the twittersphere and was subsequently replaced with Seth Green). As I cuddle on the couch with my kids and watch TMNT, not only am overcome with what good taste in cartoons I had as a kid, I’m bowled over with this overwhelming feeling of “try as you might, you just can’t go back.”

I don’t know if this is a common feeling, but I’m sometimes saddened by wanting to go back in time. Whether its a certain vacation, a time when I didn’t have to pay bills, back when I lived with 7 amazing girlfriends and our greatest bicker was that I had stuck someones expensive bra in the dryer and shrunk it, or to a friendship before the plaque of life and misunderstandings and hurt got in the way, I find myself wanting to go back. I don’t want to miss out on the time I’m in right now because its incredible, but I also feel like its more heavy and real and full of responsibility and mistakes than it was when I was 21 (well duh said everyone in the room). Maybe it is more that I want to go back to my 24, 25, 26 year old self and hold her hand and tell her what really matters, and to be on the lookout for those things, so that I don’t take them for granted. Maybe its shaking my 31 year old shoulders and telling her to stop worrying about silly things like losing weight after my son, or whether or not to keep nursing (sorry for everyone I talked to during those horrendous few weeks of trying to decide, I even annoyed myself), to stop worrying about people who don’t love you, or overlook the stupid things that people who actually do love you say, and move on, because we all say and do stupid things. Like all the time.

I just wish I was wise enough in the moment to know what mattered in that moment. Remember English class? Sort of? Having to painstakingly underline the theme of every paragraph, however boring, did impress on me what really mattered to the story. Like, when the main pig in Animal Farm was totally scary and you better get out of his way, or that the Great Gatsby was telling us that theres more to people than meets the eye, regardless of how expensive the parties are that they throw (please forgive me if you’ve studied these books in depth and I butchered the themes…its been a long time since I was in English class). Sometimes I wish life was more like it was when I was sitting in Mr. Hanrahan’s 10th grade honors class, and I was only expected to know what was important to the story, not what was critical to succeeding in my actual life.

Though maybe this all really is just me. I’ve always been introspective, often erring on the side of excessive and sometimes useless self contemplation….but I think its more than I just want to do life well. I want to heal relationships, I want to live a passionate and meaningful existence that involves more than summer camps and running my kids back and forth to school twice a day. I think most people want to leave an impression behind when we finally shuffle off this mortal coil. I’m just not entirely sure how to do it well yet. Though at least I’ve figured out, beyond a shadow of a doubt, which turtle I’d bring home to meet Mom and Dad.

Cowabunga Dude!

 

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