One of the great injustices of life has to be the never ending cycle of thinking you know something only to find out later that your well thought opinions are woefully wrong. (Or at least not right in every situation.) Just as the new opinion is formed out of the broken pieces of the old ones, something will swoop out of the sky and smash that one too. Going through these cycles could be thought of as developing an understanding of life. Your definition of understanding changes too.
The cycle starts the moment you can imagine the future. You watch what someone is doing and say “Wow, I will never do that.” You are a kid and Mom or Dad makes a rule that feels unfair and your only explanation is “Because I said so!”. The nerve. The audacity. The unmitigated gall. If only they understood how much I wanted that toy or car or that modestly small island in the Caribbean. I will never be that parent.
Then you grow up and decide to have kids and everything is going to be done right. Why shouldn’t it be better? Think of all the technology and science since you were a kid. Everything must be much more improved and understood since twenty something years ago. Parents barely had discovered fire or the wheel way back then. You have the modern world on your side and you will never be that parent.
You are now a first time parent and the world will be perfect. Schedules. Floor time. Nap time. Matching furniture in themed bedrooms. Protective gear for every situation. It is hard to imagine a world where children are out of control and allowed to pursue moderately risk activities. Let alone, unruly behavior in public with screaming fits and somewhere nearby is a parent who doesn’t even seem to notice the sweet sound of their own child screaming like an excited smoke detector. Gasp. First time parents pass by and avoid eye contact while thinking to themselves, “I will never be that parent.”
Then the next child comes and things are a little more lax and you start to filter critical concerns from the non-critical. You start to realize that small children are basically terrorists and there can be no negotiation. More children are added and your positivity towards raising a string of child prodigies slowly dies. Between the brief flashes of potential brilliance, your children are doing things like wiping their butt and realizing they need to blow their nose. You watch from a distance. A distance too great to even try and prevent the inevitable poo face. You yell down the hall and into the bathroom.
“Put the toilet paper down!”
“Because I said so!”
Too late. You resign yourself to merely keeping the kids alive and commit to sporadic life coaching when the opportunities are very clear. Things like, “Please don’t drink hand soap or feed your sisters the Raid Ant-Bait packets, I don’t have time for the ER and that stuff is expensive.” Then one day you are at the grocery store with two kids running circles around the cart and two others crammed in the cart screaming because they want to run circles too. One of the kids running is also crying. Maybe she is being chased by the other with a weapon of some sort.
Suddenly for some reason you notice a new family passing you in the aisle. They have a custom hand-sewn cart liner so baby doesn’t come in contact with the poisonous grocery buggy, a ribbon tied to the pacifier and Velcro-ed to the outfit so it doesn’t fly away, a diaper bag that could carry hockey gear for an NFL goalie, and a complete Arctic expedition outfit for baby because a brisk 45 degree day is no joking matter. You are unconsciously checking off the things you have given up on when you notice they are giving you “the look”. They will never be that parent. You are that parent but now you understand.
The most bitter part to swallow is realizing what the word understanding really means. It is made of two words; Under and Standing. Does this mean knowing what it feels like to be crushed? Probably. If you are having a hard time and pray for understanding don’t be surprised to find yourself crushed by something heavy. Kids are very heavy. I applaud all parents who manage to do everything for their kids the right way but I find myself unable.
So if you have kids and often feel “understood” this post is for you. You’re welcome.
-Underdaddy to the rescue.