I had to do it over again, I don’t think I would have had children.Now, I’m not saying that I don’t love my children, I do. It’s just the image of parenthood I was presented with and what occurs, in reality, are two totally different demons. And in my case, it feels like better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
From the time we reach our allowed child-rearing age, there’s a burden on women to procreate. The longer you go without children, the harder it becomes to resist the urge to recreate your DNA into a tiny human. Our feeds are flooded with images of babies on a daily basis to the extent that our collective uterus’ cry out, “Give me sperm or give me death.”
But even if my uterus cried out for a child and I subsequently gave in to its requests, I wish I would have waited until I got to know myself a bit more. Being a parent and trying to figure yourself out at the same time isn’t for the faint of heart. I wasn’t one of those women who spent their entire childhood dreaming of a life of domesticity. I didn’t know what I wanted. I just bounded about through life floating from one-half decision to the next.
Living in an age where women working outside of the home is the norm and the expectation of having aspirations higher than just the proper way to get blood out of a baseball jersey is at times daunting. I’m glad to have options but just maybe not so many. Finding my place among them while simultaneously raising new citizens is a feat I seem to think I fail at more times than not.
Our parents had it easy in some respects. They raised children during a time when technology was coming into its own. Smartphones didn’t exist, and not everyone had a personal computer. Shoot, we were lucky because we had a VCR. Bullies only existed during the day and disappeared from our purview during the summer months. Pedophiles and child abductions were the fodder of Lifetime movies and afterschool specials. School shootings were two words that weren’t even used in the same sentence.
The field they navigated us through wasn’t bursting with landmines. It was painted with idyllic scenes of kids speeding through neighborhoods on bicycles eager to get home before the street lights came on. While my parents couldn’t have prepared me for the trials, I would have to navigate my children through there are quite a few things that I think they left out.
When I brought my first baby home, it was all attention and being catered to, and it was lovely. There was this new tiny human in the world, and she was all mine. It isn’t long before reality sets in, and you become a milk machine. I spent every hour of every day catering to each whim of this little person whose sole contribution to the household was cuteness and poop. But I got over it. I pushed through colic and the horror show that was teething. I relished every coo, giggle, and first step. Then they start crawling and finally walking. Life goes from cute little human to keeping this tiny terror from killing itself on a daily basis.
The Toddler Years
The only thing there is to like about the toddler years is the fact that they still have all the adorable pudgy cuteness of their baby years. And they need it believe me. It’s the single thread that keeps you from wanting to run away screaming into the hills. My mother never told me about the tantrums. The explosions that occur because their shoe becomes untied but yet they don’t want you to tie it. They don’t make sense. They don’t know what they want, and they don’t know how to tell you. It’s like trying to communicate with an alien lifeform. I prayed for the toddler to end as soon as possible, thinking naively that the worst was over when they started school. HA thing again, the worst has only just reached my doorstep.
The Elementary Years
I was just a tad happy when my youngest, a set of twins started school. I was #sorrynotsorry to see them go. There may have been a jig involved.
Once they start school, it opened up a whole new can of worms. I found myself asking questions like, have I done my job as a parent? Have I raised nice little people? Have I raised a bully? What do I do if my child is the mean girl? How do I encourage my child to do their work without bribing them? I asked myself questions like these every day because now my little people are out in the world and can affect other people in ways that I know they will carry for the rest of their lives.
I fight for my children, against the administration, against red tape, against bullies. I cheer them on when they strike out over and over again until finally they make the winning play and get the game ball. My heart stops when they take the stage to deliver a line they repeatedly practiced, scared they would get it wrong, and they don’t. I relive my youth and all the horrors associated with it vicariously through them. Always being mindful of the fact that my experience is not theirs.
I worry about school shootings and giving them enough independence to walk to school knowing the dangers that are out there.
The school years are the worry years. And it never ends.
The Teen Years
“It’s not that we make mistakes but how we correct them that defines us.”
Seems to be the mantra of the teenage years. Let them make their mistakes and learn from them. Even as I write these words, I know that there are some mistakes, so life-altering that they will never come back from them. The decision to drive intoxicated, to binge drink, to try that drug, to have sex. I know that no matter how many “talks” we have. No matter how many real-world scenarios I illustrate, at the moment when the time comes to make a choice, I have no idea if they’ll make the correct one.
By the time the teen years roll around, I have already made the bed that is my child’s personality and moral compass. My only hope is that I’ve given them the tools to become good humans. I can’t protect them from the world, but I can put good back into it.
It’s not all bad. I’ve loved raising my children. I enjoyed all of the eureka moments with them. But I could have done without three crawling babies with the stomach bug, watching one puking and crying as he crawled down the hallway and his brother crawling right behind him through it. That’s what our parents left out. They neglected to tell us just how much they got covered in bodily fluids over the span of eighteen years. Or how much I’d worry, constantly about little things just as much as the big things.
My life would have been easier without kids. It would also have been less hectic, less puke covered, and I would have had freedom in spades.
I don’t think I’d change it but give me a few minutes, the school bus is coming, and I might change my mind.
Previously published on Medium.