As Parents, We All Do It

IMG_20170825_085941_671The kids and I stopped at the park on the way home from our bike ride yesterday.  My younger son had some bubbles in his pocket, so he pulled the bottle out and slowly began to fill the sky with happiness.  His brother and sister ran, jumped and clapped the bubbles between their hands.  As the kids laughed and played, I sat contentedly on a nearby bench letting the warm afternoon sun wash over me.

A little boy who had been playing on the nearby slide came barreling over to join in the fun.  My son showed him how to blow through the bubble wand, and soon the boy was scattering bubbles across the park.  A few moments later his mom appeared and began apologizing on behalf of her son.

“I’m so sorry!” she gushed.  “He’s only two.  I hope you don’t mind that he came over!”

I shaded my eyes with my hand, and looked up at her.  “No worries,” I smiled.  “They’re all having fun together.  Bubbles are like the ultimate olive branch among kids.”

“I have so much to learn,” she sighed, plopping down onto the bench beside me.  “I didn’t bring any bubbles or toys with us.  I have a seven month old as well, and she doesn’t need any toys, so I always forget.  I guess I’ll know better for next time.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” I said gently.  “There’s no right or wrong way to go to the park.  Most kids are happy with some sand and a stick.”

“I guess you’re right.”  She paused, thoughtful for a moment, then said, “Your kids are really well behaved.  They’re sharing so nicely with my son, and they’re really happy and polite!  How do you do it with three?  You make it look easy, and I’m here struggling with only two!”

I was so surprised by her comments that it took me a moment to answer.  How and when did I become that mom that other people look at and think, “Wow, she’s really got her shit together!”  I could remember not that long ago being a new mom myself and looking at all the other moms at the park who seemed so at ease, their kids playing perfectly without the need for constant supervision.  I remembered feeling so overwhelmed and discouraged, thinking maybe I was doing something wrong, and wondering if it was ever going to get any easier.

“I struggle every day,” I finally admitted.  “My kids scream and fight, and they often hold each other’s toys hostage.  Sometimes they play nicely together, but sometimes I feel like I’m raising a pack of wild animals.  It’s hard, and sometimes I cry, but every day I learn a little bit more, I become a little bit wiser and a tiny bit more confident.  I used to compare myself to other parents, but after a while I realized that I was never going to be anyone other than me, so I stopped caring about what everyone else did.”

The kids came running up to me then, and I took a moment to tousle their sand filled hair before continuing.   “It will be the same for you,” I said, wiping a streak of dirt off my youngest’s cheek.  “As your kids get older, you’ll gain more experience, you will develop your skills as a mom, and before you know it, you’ll be right here where I am, sitting casually on a bench watching your kids play.”

I paused to sip on some water, and to let that sink in.  “Don’t get me wrong,”  I continued.  “You’ll still be slightly stressed, pretty damn tired, and you may drink a little more wine some days than you should, but you’ll have mastered being able to look totally chill when you take your kids to the park.”

The other mom laughed, then said, “No one has ever been that honest with me before.  You’ve given me more hope than you’ll ever know.  Thank you for that.”

“My pleasure,” I said, and I meant it.  Too often we avoid talking about how hard parenting actually is.  We are all in this together, and it’s okay to share our stories, and to reach out and ask for help.  We all struggle and feel like a failure from time to time, and that is completely normal and perfectly okay.  It’s how we learn and grow, and it’s how we become better parents.

 

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With Sand Between Our Toes

The kids and I spent the morning at the park yesterday, twirling, digging and running around making sounds only puppies can hear.  Well, the kids did that.  I, on the other hand, stretched out luxuriously in the shade, sipped on ice water and made sweat look fashionable.  I handed out snacks and drinks, and occasionally got up to help the kids reach the monkey bars so they could hang motionless, like sacs of skinny potatoes, before dropping and rolling dramatically across the ground.  The thrill is in the fall, I suppose.

About half an hour after we arrived, I noticed a dad and his little boy walking together through the sand.  The boy, who couldn’t have been much more than a year, clutched his father’s finger while he teetered and wobbled about, eyes wide with wonder. Every ten steps or so the boy would stop and sit, and his dad would sit down with him.  They quietly explored the sand in front of them.  Ran their hands through the soft grit; dug their heels in and pushed it around.  Then they were up and off again, this time towards a rock.  It was slow going, unhurried and beautiful.  The little boy plopped himself down in front of the rock; his dad slowly lowered himself to the ground beside him.  They examined the rock with their fingers, poking and patting it, their heads bent together in private exploration.  Lost in their own world, they were oblivious to the other children running around them.  It struck me then what was happening.  This father was seeing the park through his son’s eyes.  He was experiencing it in that sweet simple way that children do, and was clearly just as enchanted with it as his son.

I remembered what it was like to experience the park that way with my own kids.  The pace was slower, the joy was effortless.  I glanced over at my children who were working hard to build a mountain together.  The two older boys working feverishly to build it up to monster proportions, and my daughter secretly taking out scoops of sand and pouring them slowly into her shoes.   They were occupied and entertained; their faces awash with the magic of the moment.  They didn’t need me to dig with them, but I knew that if did, some of their magic might wear off on me.

I left the blanket and joined them.  And it was delightful.