Kids are tough to raise. That's not new - not only are they independent creatures who have minds, plans, and intentions of their own, they also are completely dependent on you. And that haunts us. It keeps us up at night wondering if we did the best for our kid and if we are raising them appropriately in this hypercritical and uber-sensitive world.
There seem to be a few different types of kids in this world: the people who have forgotten what it is like to have kids, the folks raising kids, and the folks without kids (and let's divide this last group into younger and older). The first two groups always say 'Children are a Blessing' and 'Don't blink, they grow up too fast, savor it.' I think this is, in part, due to us hoping that by repeating it like some self help affirmation, we eventually come to believe that it is true*. We band together with our logo print tees reminding everyone out there that we are a mama or a dada and that we operate on coffee and love. We even wear shirts that sport our favorite hashtags because, by reminding everyone else with our trendy threads, we eventually end up reminding ourselves that this is all worth it and we did want this. And damnit, we are going to look good picking up the lego pieces off the floor in target while your daughter mops it as she wallows in pity because she couldn't get a new. All the while your son is having a sort of panic attack because he just dropped his lego lab he spent hours building and couldn't, despite what wise old dad said, leave it in the car - it was just too important. Yeah, So damn important you dropped it and it exploded into a million (literally, there must be a million) pieces in the line as we are set to pay creating a traffic jam of epic proportions. #blessed
*It is, in fact true, but sometimes hard to appreciate in the finer moments of toddlerhood*.
In these times, the kiddos can often be overwhelming. And you must be careful. They can smell your weakness. One must always put on a brave face and a stern (but warm, because you can't be an ass to your kids) voice and remind them or the consequences of their actions and how that will affect them for the rest of your life. "Don't pick your nose. Why? Because it will bleed. And it probably won't stop, you'll end up hemorrhaging out so much blood you'll die. That's why." See, stern, but warm.
All this time, I thought this was just a major part of raising kids. The instagram tells us that it should be easy and you should look beautiful and effortless doing it. I have personally not found that to be a true reflection of life but maybe I'm the outlier. Often, when I get home from work I immediately change into slippers and sweats and resemble more of a homeless person than parent. Although, I suspect some homeless people are parents...or at least their sign says so. #anythingwillhelp #godbless
While on a trip to Colorado a few weeks back I had my naive, infant eyes opened to how the 3rd group views us parents (the no kids one, older and younger). It blew my damn mind. It came in two waves and ultimately changed my parenting style forever (a paradigm shift if you will). The first wave was with the younger folks without kids - we pull into the parking garage at the airport. Excitement is buzzing-we are going on a trip! I was solo Dad for this trip, so the burden was heavy (literally, CO in the winter makes suitcases multiply!). The kids, amped up, are doing their best to be patient while dad gets all the suitcases out of the car and figures out how he can possibly get tabs on his kids and carry all this at the same time. Then, it happened. Two young, twentysomethings dressed up as though they are going to a business meeting at the airport (what is it about everyone dressing up as formal as possible to fly?) stroll by and observe the current scene unfolding. A plane was just taking off above us so the background noise was intense. I heard it as much as I saw it - one twentysomething turned to the other and said, "That sucks. I hope I never have to do that." The overhead plane had passed so now it was awkwardly quiet and they just kept click-click-clicking away with their fancy heels and tiny designer bags. They probably were just going to carry on. I was a bit miffed at first, because, yes, it did suck - but I was more mad that she turned the mirror on me to see the situation. I don't think she meant anything mean by it. It wasn't intended to offend, merely an outsiders observation of what could be in store for them it they didn't use birth control and protection and make good choices in their lives. If you don't have kids and are reading this- kids make you do a lot of things you don't like to do, like check bags. Please use protection if not for that one reason. Nothing in your life will be efficient ever again if you don't.
The second wave came as We finally managed to get into the terminal, check our bags and were prepping for the next hurdle in our journey, security. Did you know they make you pull out every bag of snacks you're carrying? As a well prepared Dad backed up by a Mom who knows how to pack snacks, this was no easy feat. I steeled myself, took off my belt and slippers (yes I wore slippers to the airport) and prepared for battle. An older lady (group three, older folks) must have seen the look on my face - she quietly walked up to me and said in a southern drawl, "Honey, why don't you just go in that line."
The line she was pointing to was empty. A sign above it read "TSA, Pre-Check, and Passengers with Disabilities Only".
She nodded her head approvingly, "Go ahead."
I moved my stuff over and the attendant nodded as well - "Don't worry about taking anything out - and you can keep your belt and shoes on. "
It was at that moment I realized it: the rest of the world views having kids as having a disability. Kids are a Disability! Of Course! I had always suspected it but was afraid to voice it too loud because nobody would approve of that language. I felt vindicated, understood, and justified. The more I looked around, the more I realized it - people at restaurants nodding their heads as you walk by with two kids - they supported me because I was overcoming the adversity of a disability (kids) much like Eddie the Eagle. Boarding flights everyone in the seats we were passing were smiling and nodding - looking me in the eyes (which never happens without kids) and showing me they were proud of me, that I could do it. I was waiting for a slow clap to happen, but it never did. Sadly. It all made so much sense. I'm not raising kids, I'm overcoming adversity!! How did I never see this before?!
So, if you're out an about, held up in a checkout lane in Target due to a child making floor angels and a lego explosion you may have more insight into the backstory and have more compassion. And, if given the opportunity and a parent of children is near, please don't be afraid to start a slow clap for them. There is nothing like a slow clap to cement the hero status of a parent.
Please note this was written as tongue in cheek. In no way do I intend to offend anyone who has a legit disability.