To all of you in the throes of babyhood and toddler madness, please let me assure you that you will get through this.
And when you do, you will get down on your knees and pray to the gods of squeaky toys and late night feedings to go back.
I remember. I remember the sleep deprivation, the constant trail of unidentifiable gunk on your shirt and wondering bemusedly whether it was applesauce or poop, the endless delays because I can do it by MYSELF mommy, and the throw down tantrums in the middle of Target.
I also remember the wistful looks from parents of older kids – kids who could, for example, wipe themselves without your assistance. I saw the longing in their eyes for the days when soft heads nuzzled into their shoulders and when their children still called them Mama instead of Mom. Or Moooo-ooom. I remember thinking that it looked so easy.
But holy shit, babyhood has nothing on adolescence.
My kids are 7 and 9 (sorry – almost 8 and 10, as they constantly remind me). They aren’t little kids but they aren’t big kids yet either. They are in limbo, one foot lingering in the world where all their problems are solved by curling up in my lap, while the other foot tests the waters of independence, sarcasm, and false bravado.
They look big, almost 8 and almost 10. And they do big things. They dress and feed themselves without my help. They do long division and talk about girls. They watch Sports Center and ask questions about politics.
Almost 8 and almost 10 think they know everything. That’s not hyperbole – they ACTUALLY think they know everything. Not because they’re 3 and sweetly believe they can tie their own shoes even though they can barely hold a damn spoon, but because they saw it on TV.
Or worse, because their friends told them it was true. You know you have hit rock bottom when you start pulling out your transcript from Yale to rebut something little Jimmy said in PE class.
Almost 8 and almost 10 also roll their eyes and stomp up the stairs. They scream “You are the worst parents EVER” because you had the gall to suggest something horrific like going out to dinner. And you have to turn and hide your face in the wall so they won’t see you laughing. You also wonder if it’s true.
Almost 8 and almost 10 don’t have a lot of perspective. They seem, despite your best efforts – despite ALL your efforts – to be largely unable to recognize that having engaged, loving parents and a house and food and three different jerseys for the same team is pretty fucking awesome. And you wonder why your kids can’t be like the ones on the interwebs you read about who build an orphanage or cure cancer after doing their math homework.
Almost 8 and almost 10 try so hard to be good at school, in the grocery store, at restaurants that no one believes you when you say they have split personalities. And when they’re in the safety of your four walls they just can’t anymore.
They. Can’t. Even.
That’s because almost 8 and almost 10 have very real and very big emotions but they don’t know how to process them, much less work through them rationally. Hell, I am still working on that one. They’re like a dormant volcano waiting to blow at any moment – like if you ask them to not wear a jersey for one damn day or if their brother has the audacity to breathe too loudly. And when they blow, you’re the one standing in the lava flow.
Almost 8 and almost 10 will push you to the breaking point, mostly because you know that this is just the beginning.
But almost 8 and almost 10 will also gently bring you back down from the ledge with a soft hand that slips into yours, not because they have to but because they want to.
Almost 8 and almost 10 still believe in magic. They still laugh until their bellies hurt because they’re running around with bubble wrap taped to their feet.
Almost 8 and almost 10 don’t quite know all the ways in which we can hurt each other. They are still funny and smart and sweet and snuggly.
Almost 8 and almost 10 pick weeds because they look like flowers and make them into a bouquet for their mom.
Almost 8 and almost 10 still love hard in the way only children can, the way that we adults have forgotten.
Almost 8 and almost 10, after a big fight about nothing that turned in to a whole lot of something, spent 30 minutes standing at the easel together – totally of their own volition – drawing this. A list of all the things they love about each other.
Almost 8 and almost 10 are learning about the power of words. That words can hurt. But they can also heal.
And that’s when you think that almost 8 and almost 10 might be wrong: maybe you’re not actually the worst parents ever.