Look, be it in blog or insta-format, I share many wonderful and loving pictures and moments of my kids and family as we embark on creative and fun adventures. Everything I post is a truth and I stand behind it 100%: this life make me happy and I wouldn’t exchange any little piece of it for youth or fame or all the money in the world. My life is rich with joy and I wake each day happy for where I am. That said; it’s not all sunshine and roses. Parenting is f@#$#ing hard.
When it comes to sharing publicly, I think it’s safe to assume that most people are not posting pictures of the difficult daily realities as much as they are the ‘fun’ stuff. I don’t say this just in relation to parenting, as it is likely true for most aspects of our lives in a growing age of social media and validation. My comments on this are not original, and I don’t proclaim them to be. The purpose of this post is. not to propose a method to revolutionize the way we tell our ‘truths’ to the world, but rather, well, just to to honest with those that are listening. Sometimes there is comfort in knowing your not alone, and despite all of these wonderful stories I share, I am still human in all aspects of my life, especially when it comes to being a parent.
I get frustrated. I get upset. I grow angry or annoyed. I get sad. I raise my voice. I struggle with consequence and sometimes I just don’t know what to do. To admit anything different would be a lie and I think it’s unfortunate that, for some, there’s a perceived weakness in doing so. It is not realistic that I will be ‘on’ all the time; not with my kids, or my friends, or my co-workers. I have feelings and needs and when they are challenged I struggle to avoid the resulting frustration. And that’s okay.
On any given night I make, at minimum, 15 trips up and down the stairs to fill water bottles, turn out lights, turn on lights, tuck in sheets, change sheets, take someone to the bathroom, find a stuffy, fill a water bottle, bring a snack, take away a bowl, squish a spider, save a spider, fight off a shadow, turn on Alexa, and on and on and on. Our oldest calls me up for the 16th time tonight to tell me that her tummy hurts. Ugh. Do I get upset, or empathize? There is no right answer to this.
I’ve tried very hard to set boundaries and discipline, but these little rugrats are great negotiators and they know how to play me. They are often times stronger then me: “Let them cry it out” I say to myself and my amazing and supportive wife, and so we give it 5 minutes. 10 minutes. But 10 minutes of screaming at the top their lungs crying equates to roughly 3-hours in perceived time, and so we cave and check-in. So much for staying strong. The older they get, the later this goes. Bedtime used to be 6:30 back in the good ‘ol days. Now it’s pushing 10:00, and all I want to do is watch an episode of Seinfeld and fall asleep in peace. So, what am I doing wrong? Why can I not get this parenting thing right? What makes me a failing father? Absolutely nothing. This. Is. Work.
I question these things all the time. When they are acting out and I don’t stick to my guns by holding them accountable, I feel like I’m ‘doing it wrong’. The reality is though, that I’ve only been a parent as long as they’ve been alive. I have no previous experience and I never will. There’s no guidebook I can buy for how to parent my children. All members of this family have been living this dynamic for precisely the same amount of time and nothing in this world can alter that. Sure, I can read the books, listen to the podcasts, seek the advice of others, and those are all great resources to lean into, but there’s no singular answer for this. I am learning at the same pace that they are growing and there are going to be times when they outpace me, and that’s ok.
Much of these feelings can also be attributed to a sort of grieving period that we are going through, where we consider what our lives were like before children. We see our friends going out in the evening, socializing at a bar, buying concert tickets, and that they generally have more energy than we do most days. I get a little jealous of these things, which is not to say that I’d change anything about where I am right now, but it is a piece of the emotional pie, and sometimes when I want to do something as simple as walk to the store for milk, I think back to when I used to be able to make the round-trip in under 6-minutes….now it takes at least an hour.
On most days these girls are incredibly helpful, joining me in the kitchen, or cleaning the house and overall participating in contributing to Team Bean. But we’re in a phase right now where, quite frankly, the girls don’t want to listen. In fact, they much prefer ignoring basic forms of reasoning altogether. One minute they are playing beautifully together, and in the blink of an eye there are puzzle pieces being thrown across the room and tears are flowing for reasons I cannot explain. This is a frustrating phase and I look forward to it being over, which I anticipate being some time in the next 33-years. But while I wish away this phase, all I can think about is how much I miss that last one. It’s a lose-lose situation, where I want to hold on to all of the heart-melting parts of each day, but do away with the palpitation-inducing aspects in-between. I want to stick to my guns and take away their toys when they’re not listening. I don’t want to give them a snack in the evening after they don’t eat their dinner. I don’t want to go to the ski hill when they refuse to put on their snow pants; except that I want to skiing today, damnit! Sigh.
All this is to say that, despite my stories of adventure, imagination, joy and excitement, there are very real moments of every emotion and experience that exists in between, and that’s perfectly alright. It’s life, and, as tough as it may be: it’s okay to be human because it’s in being human that we are not alone.