Parenting is going to utterly crush you.
It’s going to distill you into the very essence of who you are, at which point – when you haven’t slept in what feels like 8 weeks, and can’t remember what you last ate or when and you may not have showered since you left the hospital – you will rise again. But better.
I would know – I’ve been a parent for a year and a half. This makes me an expert. Only a year and a half, you say? Well wait for it: that’s to TWO kids, so their combined age is 3. And that’s TWO kids, mind you, which is 6. Six years of parenting experience! That’s basically ten years right there.*
Before kids, you don’t really have your shit together. You might think you do, and you might be partly right, but really – having a baby or two will teach you how unprepared you are for life. You’re like Bruce Wayne when he’s just cruising around looking for fights because ? Your beard is straggly and you’re always getting rained on because umbrellas are hard, man.
That’s when the tyrant/s enter your life. Everything changes. Your perspective, your willingness to live in a house and not in a jail in Thailand or what have you. Your focus begins to change from “Justice failed me, so I’m going to waste my life and that will teach everyone!” (aka: emo)
At some point, you sit down and do a lot of thinking. You probably forget your umbrella again because you can’t remember stuff like that when you have kids. Your focus begins to change to “I gotta do stuff because other people need me to do this.” (aka: responsible adult)
You accept that you will wear clothes you would have NEVER otherwise considered, because you’re going to get snot/pee/poop/vomit on you, so might as well wear something that cleans up easily.
Finally, you come up for air at some point, and boom. You’ve done it. You’re better at being you. You thank the little people in your life. You are the parent they need, not the parent they deserve.
When you become a parent, you take on a responsibility that is unlike any other. It is a stressor that laughs directly in the face of any other stressor, flicks them in the throat, and pantses them before stealing their girl and peeing on their dog. It’s no joke, in other words and kind of impossible to reason with.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean babies are unreasonable tyrants (except that they are, they just grow out of it), I mean that this is the kind of stress that is unrelenting (day and night, for the rest of your life). It will never end, because you love these babies with a kind of love that is utterly overwhelming and without restraint. Like the kind of intense love a toddler lavishes upon a favored book, that results in the complete annihilation of the book. This love is going to stick with you until everyone involved is dust.**
And you eventually adjust to the level of stress. It won’t ever get less, but you’re able to handle it better. Because you’re better at existing in general. It doesn’t always feel that way, but I’m here to tell you that it’s true.
It irrevocably changes you. It is not for everyone. Your primary purpose goes from keeping yourself alive to keeping them alive. Let me repeat that, because it is not a small thing. If it came down to it, you would make sure they lived even if it meant you died. Also, you get used to being vomited on.
Things start coming out of your mouth that, in a previous life, you could never have imagined uttering in any kind of serious sense.
“Is that poop or banana?”
“Please don’t eat that shoe.”
“Is that cheese in your ear?”
And so on. Most involve some untenable combination of eating and poop.
You reach a new level of being. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” You can utterly and totally fear for these small beings’ lives, and yet feel nothing but a zen-like calm as they dive headfirst off the couch; then you make pancakes. You relish the time you spend with your children, celebrate TGIM, and get the laundry done.
You spend more of your time less in control, while solidifying your role as the most powerful person on earth (kind of, only for certain people). It’s both heady and terrifying. The power is almost guaranteed to go to your head. You’ll forget yourself. You’ll start making ridiculous pronouncements, like, “My kids will never love Elmo! They will read by age one!”***
Then you’ll get a day or a couple of days where everything comes together and sort of falls into place, like that time a hurricane made a jumbo jet out of ten larger jumbo jets.****
And you start to think, “Let’s have more!”
This is the most clear sign that you have not been distilled enough, and need to repeat the process.
*Parenting might make you insane.
**Props to Caroline for the book analogy
***These are ridiculous for our life, not everyone’s. My kids love Elmo, despite my ridiculous pronouncements, and they like to look at the pictures but can’t read. In other words: they’re really normal. Your ridiculous pronouncements will vary depending on you and your particular lack of sleep.
****I clearly don’t remember this stupid analogy, but I do remember it was stupid.