My father told me on the day my first child was born, “Now begins the hardest job of your life.”
I had no idea what he was talking about…until now.
When they’re little and you’ve just gone through excruciating physical labor and you have this peanut baby to hold and coo (and cry for two hours each night), it doesn’t seem so hard. Just tiring. But easy – do this and the baby is happy.
So you spend all these years raising cute little pipsqueaks who adore you and basically listen when you give direction. Easy enough. Exhausting in a physical way, but not really emotionally draining.
Until they hit about 10 years of age.
It’s brilliant how parenting works. You put in all this time when they are helpless and adoring and you can’t help but love them unconditionally. So when the awfulness of the tween years hits, as a precursor to the full-on teen time, you’re already reeled in. You love them. They are yours. You would do anything for them.
So when your 11-year-old is surly in the morning and insists he doesn’t need to shower because he knows best how to take care of himself, even though he played a baseball game the night before and fell into bed, well, then the real parenting kicks in.
And then breakfast happens and you insist that three pieces of lox is not enough to sustain a growing boy until lunch. But he knows better. So that’s what he eats while reading at the kitchen table even though you have to leave, like, NOW.
And it goes on and on and on. The boy who promised he’d never leave you, that he would live next-door to you with his wife and children because he loves you so much and couldn’t bear to live far away, now insists that the moment he turns 18, he is out the door and far away.
Which at the moment of the morning craziness, doesn’t seem so bad. Except that when all the surly-ness melts away, you remember how much you love him and that you kind of liked the idea of having your grown children (and eventual grandchildren) really close by.
This parenting thing, it’s a roller coaster. I’m in the pit-in-your-stomach drop right now. But I have to trust that the ride will end its dip and arc back up to a pinnacle where I’ll raise my hands from the white-knuckled safety bar and scream with exhilaration because it feels so good.