Originally published October 3, 2018
All these thoughts before 50 and the one thing I haven’t really talked about is the best part of my life up until now.
These kids of mine.
I mean, yeah, the ’80s were great and the music from that decade will forever be the soundtrack of my life. And I found myself a super life partner. But these kids of mine. These crazy, challenging, adorable-even-when-horrible kids. I don’t know that parenting was a destined life purpose or that I’d be less satisfied without them, because you can’t miss what you don’t know. But I would not have planned almost the last quarter century any other way.
Children were not, nor do they continue to be, an easy venture for my husband and I. I’ve written before about losing our first baby in the six month of pregnancy. And our oldest, now pushing 23, has special needs that no one definition accurately describes. Our middle just turned 21 and is at that point in his life where reality starts gently slapping you in the face, waking you from that 4-year dream that is college living, and our youngest, now 17, is trying to survive that hellish period that is the first semester of senior year where everything from a fall sports season to academics and college apps all converge to suck up more than 24 hours a day.
Tensions often run high around here.
Their stories are their stories and aside from the occasional advice column giving people what for when it comes to kids with special needs, I try to stay away from proselytizing too much about being a mommy. There’s so much of that out there in the white noise that is the blogosphere. I’m hopeful I made more right choices than wrong ones and stories about the once-in-a-blue-moon screaming fit or the time I put all the ice cream down the sink disposal because they were fighting over who got what flavor doesn’t take up too much of their future therapists’ time. But I didn’t want this 50-day exercise conclude without sharing how parenting changed me.
Being a parent made me a much MUCH more empathetic human being that I think I would have been had I not had these kids. I know now what it’s like to give your heart so completely to your child, only to watch them struggle, especially in the face of bullying. There’s no amount of love that takes the sting out of being excluded, teased, taunted and ignored. I can look at other parents now with eyes wide open, understanding how much it hurts to want to help and know that you can’t always fix the boo boo.
Being a parent expanded my perspective. What is good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander. And maybe parenting styles I would have previously scoffed at now suddenly made sense. Toilet training and taking toddlers to a restaurant goes a long way toward smashing that judgmental barrier we threw up as a childless couple.
Being a parent kept me current. I can say with absolute certainty I would know nothing about pop culture today without kids in the house. This does not make me cool, but I am much better at Trivia Night.
Being a parent challenged me with such totality, physically and emotionally. Those 2 a.m. feedings and all-nighters with a baby suffering from an ear infection is just practice for those sleepless nights when they are teenagers. From an emotional perspective, there have been times I had to really dig deep to keep it together in the face of counselors, other parents, my husband and friends. There are times you want to crumble, but can’t. CAN’T. Your child needs you.
Being a parent redefined love. I love my husband. That relationship is of the utmost importance to me. I do feel an allegiance, a responsibility to our vows that I respect. But the responsibility that comes with a child is all encompassing, even long after they leave the nest. That old adage about walking around with your heart outside of your body is pretty spot on. Every physical and emotional bump and bruise they encounter reverberates in you. There is an overwhelming desire to protect them from hurt, from heartbreak, from disappointment. It’s the push and pull of loving and teaching and guiding that keeps you from encasing them in bubblewrap and giving them the moon. It’s understanding even when the lessons are hard, it’s because you love them so much that you soldier on.
These kids may soon be out and on their own, but I will never stop loving them as much as I did the moment they came into my world, and I am so, so grateful for everything they have taught me.
Today’s recommendation: Oh my gosh, the heart wrenching parental angst in The Light Between Oceans. Yes.