“What’s the hardest part about being a parent?”
I heard this exchange on a podcast today while driving to work, and it resonated deeply. This weekend was tough for me. I hit that proverbial wall.
You know, the vast majority of these letters to you are infused with happiness, joy, and gratitude, and while this post probably won’t lack any of that, I admit that I sometimes gloss over how truly challenging parenting can be.
I’m not sure if it’s for your sake, so you never doubt how utterly, desperately treasured you are, or if it’s me trying to project an aire of having it all together.
At some point this weekend, I joked that I should take a shot every time you screamed “NO” at me, but then wryly quipped that I’d get alcohol poisoning way too quickly.
You are exerting your independence in the fiercest way. Screaming, hitting, kicking, destroying. At a low point this weekend, I told your father that perhaps I wasn’t meant to be your mother, that you needed someone less sensitive, more firm, more intuitive, someone who knew what the hell to do in these situations.
I want to teach you discipline, empathy, and humility without crushing your incredible spirit, energy, and zest for life. I want you to respect and love your Dad and me, without fearing us. I want to raise you to become a man who isn’t afraid to show his love, yet will fiercely defend it if needed.
I feel lost. I’m tired.
Right now, everything has to be done your way. No compromise. Everything is a battle, from putting on your socks, to holding my hand in parking lots, to not throwing books—hell, the other day you screamed at me when I remarked that the sun had set. NOOOOOOO, THE SUN IS NOT GONE DOOOOOWWWWWWWNNN!
I look forward to picking you up from school all day, only to have every moment we’re together feel like a fight.
This weekend, your father and I were those parents, the ones lugging a horizontal, flailing, screeching child out of the science museum after your second epic breakdown there. We caused such a scene that a museum employee followed us outside to check if we were OK.
The entire weekend was like this, and, by the end of it, I was exhausted. It’s really hard to be the parent all the time, despite totally emphathizing that you’re going through a normal part of development.
This recent bout of independence coincided with a long, three-day weekend in which you and I spent a lot of time together, one-on-one. But even mentioning that makes me feel guilty. I’m a working mom—I should treasure the limited time we have together, right?!
I cling to the hope that your stubbornness is an indicator of your crazy intelligence. You’re only 2.5 years old, but this is the conversation we had this morning (before it degenerated into a physical struggle to get you out of your pee-soaked pajamas):
Me: Today is a school day, Charlie. It’s time to get up.
Charlie: No, it’s not a school day. It’s a Grandma Z day. (Fridays)
Me: No, today is Tuesday. We still have to get through today, tomorrow, and Thursday before it’s a Grandma Z day on Friday.
Charlie: I don’t waaaaaanaaa go to school.
Me: I understand how you feel, but today is a school day. I can’t do anything to change that.
Charlie: I can’t go to school today. I’m still coughing.
Me: You are not coughing. You are fine. You are going to school.
Charlie: Nooooooo! It’s not a school day. I’m sleeeeeeeping. See, I’m closing my eyes. (he closes his eyes)
Me: Despite your eyes being closed, I know you’re awake. It’s time to get dressed; it’s a school day.
Charlie: Shhhhh. I’m sleeping.
Me: It’s time to wake up. Now.
Charlie: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! ::thrash, thrash, kick, scream, thrash::
How can I be unimpressed at how insanely clever you are! How can I contain my pride watching you bargain your way out of something you don’t want to to! You’re not even 3!
I started this letter earlier today and am finishing it moments after we’ve put you to bed. Of course, we just had an incredible evening. You recited an entire book to me, though we’ve only read it to you a few times. Dad made us tuna fish sandwiches as you and I played “Adventures of the Firefighter and Construction Worker” (gender-neutral role-playing, of course) and solved mysteries around the house (e.g. where is Baron the cat?… We shouted “Whooopeee!” when we found him).
When I asked you how I looked in the fire hat, you responded, “In-creh-ah-bul!”
As a parent, the lows can be so low, but the highs?
Man, those highs are out of this world.