Tell me you love every minute of being a parent and I’ll call you a liar.
People love to say that to young parents, don’t they? “Enjoy every minute; they grow up so fast.” That sounds nice, but it’s not sustainable. Because sometimes, parenthood isn’t a skip through flowering fields; it’s a slog through muddy waters.
“I don’t love you anymore.” The words sting in my ears and in my chest as they leave my daughter’s mouth. I know she’s just asserting her newly-minted four-year-oldness, but that’s hardly consolation.
“I love my Nana, not you.”
Ouch. She must really be mad at me.
I had been looking forward to the Mother’s Day party at my daughter’s preschool since I saw it noted on the calendar. My reasons were selfish – I wanted to feel appreciated in my role as a mom. I wanted to be put on a kid-sized pedestal for an afternoon. I wanted to celebrate this 24-hour-a-day gig that changed my life. I needed to soak it all in and erase the words she had hurled at me just days before. The party was planned for the Thursday before Mother’s Day.
That Monday morning, however, had different plans for our family and my daughter woke up vomiting. What followed was six days of the both of us confined to the couch and bathroom with the stomach bug. We missed the party.
I was wallowing, not just because of severe dehydration, but because I was feeling robbed of that little bit of recognition I craved. After a week of sickness I was emotionally tapped out and physically spent and, just when I didn’t think I had any more to give, my daughter curled up once again into my lower abdomen, to the very spot where she fits so well and where I carried her for nine months, and reached for my ear. If there was ever a time you knew my daughter loves you, it’s when she plays with your ear; and as she melted against my belly and the scar that remains from bringing her into our family she whispered, “I love you, mommy. Don’t ever doubt it; don’t ever forget it.”
They are the words I speak to her daily, no matter what else caused us to push and pull and stretch and test the limits of our relationship; I use those words to remind her just how strong my love is for her. And, just when I needed it most, my daughter gave those words back as a gift to me.
There’s the rub of parenting – parenting through. Parenting through the constant need. Parenting through the harsh words you know they can’t mean. Lesson after lesson in immediate forgiveness. Maybe the key is that we remember only the parts about parenting that we want to remember and gloss over the rest. I wouldn’t call it denial, I’d call it survival. It’s what makes us to turn wistfully to the new parents and urge them to enjoy it all.
So – tell me you love every minute of being a parent and…I might believe you. We’ll share stories of how incredible our children are and how we wouldn’t have it any other way. And we’ll mean every last word.