When I first became a parent, I was often warned by well-intentioned people that life will be less orderly, less quiet, less controlled. I held my newborn in my arms and nodded in approval listening to their advice. In the back of my mind, I was determined to defy all those awkward notions.
Then as with everything else we romanticize in our life like marriage, adolescence, and losing our virginity, the stark reality sets in. No one told me that I’d be feeling like a gutted fish by the end of most evenings. Or that I’d experience this hurried tinge of anticipation as my sons settled in for bedtime.
Managing a household, parenting, and keeping up with marital relations is downright unrelenting. It is easy to see why one begins to question the validity of just about everything in life. Since becoming a parent almost eight years ago, my perspective on most things have changed. Back when I was cradling my firstborn infant are some things that were never brought to my attention.
Fuck those Legos.
Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry’s careers did fine without them. My young children do not play with Legos in any kind of orderly fashion and the time consumption it takes to properly organize them is just not worth it. It is also not in my heart to have my kids built something out of the box, superglue it, and let it stand on a shelf to collect dust. That’s the equivalent of lining your sofa couch with plastic. There is no way to fully enjoy either of them like this. On the flip side the image of the pounds of Legos hastily overturned on the carpet arouses a nervous breakdown in me. Whining and complaining by my kids when I politely ask them to clean up is followed by their loud cries when I threaten to pull out my cyclone suctioning super vacuum.
I relish a chip-free manicure for however long it lasts.
Reconciling vanity with practicality just gets trickier. My grooming upkeep has taken a downward turn but remnants still exists. Since I no longer have the expendable income or the time to devote to making me feel put together, I do the best I can. I try not to pick up my grade school-age son in the same outfit more than thrice a week. What I once thought was unimaginable, is now my daily dose of reality. Wearing sneakers to just about everywhere. I have also become quite resourceful. Each morning for 20 minutes I swish a wad of coconut oil in my mouth. Not only does it promote oral hygiene and whitens teeth, it also gives me a chunk of time when I don’t incessantly bark orders at my kids. Consider it a close cousin to transcendental meditation.
My son makes me feel dumb as bricks, inadvertently of course.
I get it that we parents are in charge of spearheading the intellectual pursuits of our children. Growing up my mom invested in volumes of encyclopedias for me to use as a reference to satisfy my quest for knowledge. Nowadays, the amount of questions my older son throws my way has reached staggering heights. I simply cannot keep up with inquiries about WWII battleships, military gear, construction machinery, Coast Guard patrol duties, and feats of engineering. I truly have no clue how to respond to him about any of those subjects. Why can’t he ask me who is on the cover of People magazine? That is why each week when I take him to the library, I get to learn about digging the Eurotunnel through the English Channel.
The mediocre quality of my linguistics.
Someone could have warned me that parenting children of a certain age requires the constant stream of repeating oneself to numbness. Did you wash your hands? Did you really wash them, with soap? Brush your teeth? Did you brush the back ones too? Did you really eat the grapes I packed for lunch? You didn’t throw away the grapes, right? If all the phrases, statements, and questions that have become part of my daily conversational repertoire were strung together, it probably sounds like a winning combination that is both unintelligible and dull.
Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
Of course I want my children to be able to dress themselves, wipe their buttocks, fix their breakfast. Every time they come to me smiling to proudly proclaim they can do it all on their own, my mind rejoices with relief but my heart snaps a bit too.
Wisdom dictates that kids need to grow into themselves, mistakes and all. Your parental guidance slowly shifts direction, and I suspect letting go is much easier for children than it is for the adults. At the same time when I cannot take another “Mommy where is my…” or “Mommy I need your help,” I realize that these moments are finite. Just as is the exhaustion, the clutter, and the hustle of parenthood.
Grace Sanchez Wisser is the mom of two boys, wife of an academic know-it-all, and a sunburn prone native of Miami. Her new-to-the-blogosphere blog, Wonder Life of Mom, discusses the inaccuracies of child-rearing advice, dirty truths of everlasting relationships, professional roadblocks, and confusion that arises from having a bi-cultural family.