Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Just Look at Them and Sigh, and Know They Love You

People! Could we please stop being so exasperated by our children? (I don't mean people, as in you, reader. It's more of a call to the broader parenthood rank and file, including myself.) Yes, kids argue, they challenge, they get poop on things, they don't eat mixed food. But one of life's dirtiest tricks is that they're with you for only about a quarter of their lives. My daughter for example, is likely to be physically gone in seven years. Probably emotionally gone in about four. And you know how quickly those years fly by. So let's have a little shift in our collective thinking and griping, and focus on the kid positive. We don't have much time.

Sure, I'm generalizing to the nth degree here. But think about how often you hear people complain about parenthood. I'm reacting specifically to a “mom’s view” column in our local newspaper that groaned yesterday about taking a family vacation. “My headache starts in the car on the way to the airport,” wrote the author. While I know she’s just trying to write an entertaining article, it’s really too bad that she couldn’t have written something like “Our adventure started in the car…”. Sure didn’t seem like she enjoyed her vacation.

Parenting negativity all began with my first pregnancy and that book What to Expect While You're Expecting. It scared me with all its notes about things that could go wrong during a pregnancy, birth, or thereafter. I couldn't even read it. Sure, those early baby years are a shock to the system. You are tired, confused, overwhelmed. But babydom only lasts for one short year! Love it while you have it!

The toddler and pre-K years are still a time of disorder and deprivations. But by the time a kid's 5, you're already nearly 1/3 of the way done. (Assuming, of course, your child[ren] follows the typical go-to-college-at-18 path).

Then come the school aged/soccer mom years where the exasperation (including my own) often comes from being "too busy" shuttling kids hither and yon. But after age 9 -- around third/fourth grade -- you pass the age when your future time together is less than the time you've already had. A cruel awakening.

I can't comment on the teen years yet, but from family and friends, it seems that you simply resign at this point. Maybe that what makes the split endurable.

But wouldn't it be life's greatest treasure to be able to live it all in the moment? To somehow cherish that kids argue, challenge you, get poop on things, and avoid mixing their food? To remember vividly and lovingly every annoying or destructive thing they ever said or did?

I've over-dramatized and over-postulated on all of this, to be sure, and I really have little evidence to back up my argument other than a half-baked sense that the culture of parenthood reinforces feeling agitated and overwhelmed rather than feeling lucky and grateful. Nevertheless, I'd like to suggest that we put a lid on whining about the daily rigors of parenthood, and most simply, savor it while we have it. I could very well just be talking to myself here, but it's worth remembering that experiencing parenthood as an incredible journey (rather than hours missed for other things) seems like a far more fulfilling approach in the long run -- that is really quite short.

(563 words)

"My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it." -- Mark Twain


  1. I scolded K this morning for dragging her feet when we were late to school and I still had to scrape the ice off the car. Now I feel terrible. These are nice years, when they just love us so much....

  2. I scold mine all the time! I'm no Saint Mother Patricia, and kids need boundaries, structure, and constant reminders. We just need to love it all as a whole.

  3. I hope you sent this to the local paper:)

    P.S. Enjoyed talking to you today.