This weekend, I listened to an interview from Jennifer Senior, author of All Joy and No Fun.
She talks about how parenting has been sentimentalized and although the highs are incredibly high, the day to day struggles are exhausting and so difficult that it's possibly leading to greater unhappiness.
Parenting being sentimentalized, how true this is and I even do it here, in my words to both of you. I try and capture those incredible highs and since I am using this blog as a way to heal and find my second chance at a happy childhood, I don't talk enough about the secrets that come with creating you.
The secrets that all parents don't talk about and maybe because we all feel too guilty, maybe it's because there are so many parents that would give anything for what we have but have lost it, or never had it, that we are constantly fighting a "feel lucky" syndrome. Maybe it's because, as Ms. Senior suggests, that as a society we have defined you all as a gift, a precious unbelievable gift and if you talk about the ugly, well what will you hear, what will you remember? What will you take away from your childhood?
But, the secret is out. We all know it, we all feel it. And if you don't find a way to talk about it, you will lose it. You will feel like you are the only one and that kind of isolation is so lonely, so scary, so daunting. And the secret is, becoming a parent will rip you apart. Even in the most comforting and strong relationships, add another human being that you are responsible for, another human being that literally cries and screams for your attention, another human being you have to juggle between work, obligations, home, marriage and it will tear. you. apart.
When we were talking about putting you on this earth with us, even though we (mainly I) knew it would be difficult, there is nothing that prepares you for it. And, since I'm a planner, I really tried to be as prepared as I could. And I knew, I'm going to put as much in place now, but there's so much that's going to come at me, that I will have no idea how to handle.
We talked about how we would get you to sleep through the night, we talked about how we would get you to eat, how we would disciple, how important consistency is, how we would always back each other up, how we would check in with one another to see if they needed something we weren't providing. And in the beginning, for me, for us, it was easy. Our first year with just you Anna, it was the most incredible experience of my life. I have never felt closer to your dad, I have never felt more at peace with myself, more confident in my motherhood experience. The balance of you and work, it was remarkably easy, you were remarkably easy. It all fit like this incredible puzzle and I was so amazed at how wonderful it was, how right it all felt.
And then, you started to talk, and talk back, and fight, and fight us, and test us. You started to become your own person and were no longer this blob that would do anything we wanted. And at the same time, we welcomed you Cole. Like most parents, we created a new little one when our first was becoming so challenging. And of course our marriage suffered. Of course we took our stress out on each other and on you. Of course I didn't heal well with Cole's birth at the same time that dad was wrapping up his school year and I flat out said to him, you left me feeling alone and abandoned.
And we fought on.
And of course Cole is a more difficult baby. Of course his toddler years would send me into rage and heartache. Of course he would scream and cry for five months straight. Of course he would make me question love.
And we fought on.
And of course our patience with you, it wore down to something so thin it was see through. And then, of course, because why not, you turning three triggered something terrifying in me. I can remember three Anna. I can remember how awful my memories are and it rushed them all back. It brought me back to a dark and difficult world, a world I thought I had let go, a world I thought I had worked through and found the other side. And it all went black for me. Panic attacks started, dad couldn't understand. I would cry all the time, dad couldn't understand. Watching you be disciplined sent me into a panic and fear that I couldn't control, and dad, he couldn't understand.
And we fought on.
And dad, he works with kids all. day. long. By the time he comes home to us, he has had enough. Enough bargaining, enough negotiating, enough tantrums, enough disciple, enough keeping it together because they are not his kids. And as he walked in the door, hoping to have the love and comfort of his home, it all starts up again. And me, well I can't understand. I felt they got the good side of him, and we would get the angry and tired version.
And we fought on.
And of course I was really struggling with this feeling of surviving the time and trying to hold on to the good and not wishing it all away.
And we fought on.
We fought on and will continue to fight on because love, love in this family is so deep. And Jennifer Senior is so right, the highs are moments you will remember the moment of your death.
I will never forget how you both fit perfectly on my chest. I will never forget what "I love you mom" sounds like from little voices. I will never forget the moment you realized as an infant that I'm your mom. I will never forget your smile. I will never forget the look on dad's face when he saw you for the first time. I will never forget what we sound like going to bed at night and talking about the highs of the day. I will never forget how gentle bedtime routines are. I will never forget how love fixes so much that is broken and tired and angry and over it. Love fixes so much.
But the secret, the exhausting truth is, these little faces we put on this earth, they drain. They rip and tear apart lives and sanity and natural joy. They bring you to your knees, they bring back horrible memories and they cause anxiety and they cause you to worry and stress. They make you look at every person on this earth as a threat. They make you question who you are, who you have become, they make you cry, sobbing cry. They destroy all that you have worked to create.
So why? Why do we all do it? Why is it important? Why are you defined as a gift?
Because you create something different in what you destroy. You create a couple that redefines what love means. You recreate a couple, entirely out of something new. Because when you smile, when you laugh, my heart fills. Because when you were born, my heart grew and I could feel it happening.
Because you create a world in which we live in direct contrast. Time is fleeting with you, time flying by, but you make incredibly long days. You are so heavy, but you weightless. You are exhausting but you wake me up and bring me to life. You are draining, but you give me strength. You are loud, but you have brought a calm in me I didn't realize was out there. You are so little, but you represent the biggest accomplishment of my life.
Because these days together, they will define you both. I live each day realizing how important childhood is. And the one thing I believe with all of my body is that if we do this right, you will become remarkable adults. I know this is true, I see it in my world everyday. We all continue because you are worth it. The highs, they are moments that I will remember when I am dying. They are the moments I will remember when I am dying and that is the ultimate secret.