Y'all, I cannot even believe how exhausting parenting is. Daily, certainly, but sometimes even hour by hour. It's like an absurd vortex of love, fatigue, revulsion, excrement, boot camp, servitude, diplomacy, and groundhog day. I think this is what, my seventh year of writing about this? my twelfth year of feeling it? The shock never wears off.
You know not when the whirl will touch down. You know not where its eye lies. Are your levies strong? Did the Army Corps bungle the job before these spawn were even twinkles in your eye? Do you have plastic gloves? The ability to set your brain and insanity meter outside of your own physical self? Are you an improvisation genius?
When Oliver was little and had made clear that his preferred sleeping schedule was literally anytime until 4:45am -DAILY- I started putting him to bed at 4:45pm. It's one thing to wake up at 4:45am one day or two a month, but every day and with a 3-year-old, two pets, and a husband in tow? Hilarious.
I hired a "sleep consultant" immediately, had her on speed dial in place of 911, and spent a small fortune attempting to sleep.
I did not sleep. But the good news is that now at 9, Oliver sleeps until 6 and does not even think to wake anyone until 6:45. Nonetheless, I am still making up for eighteen months of daily pre-dawn, ready-to-play rooster calls.
Who knew that poetry would be such an extreme nails-down-the-chalkboard-24/7 for both boys? Whoever tells you that your children, at 2 years and 9 months apart, will probably one day, when you wonder if finally you've made it to 8 minutes in Easy Town, be forced to intensively study poetry for months at the SAME TIME? You are immediately Deloreaned backwards to the many years of your adolescence during which your mother tried, bless her heart, to make you feel her extremely ardent love of poetry.
Is poetry concurrently taught/mandated in 3rd and 6th grades some sort of karmic retribution?
You do wonder.
No one tells you that at the same time your children start to do private things in their rooms, they will both refuse to clean those rooms but also still desperately want you to come in there and check on them and tuck them in. Holy stale air, people.
No one tells you that just when middle school-puberty-geekness-coolness-fad item'ness kicks in and thus you, parents, are exhausted AF by 6pm, you'll actually have to stay awake listening to and feeding your offspring until at least 9pm which is an hour after you want to go to bed and all the hours past the time you and your partner could actually have some quality catch-up time.
It is unclear to me that even once during the "best thing in the whole world, all my heart" biz I was told about being a mother, did anyone say, "Sometimes you will absolutely wonder if you can go on. You will wonder how you will swallow another worry, another frustration, another iota of insane boredom. You will wonder what of you will come out on the other side."
At least a quarter of every day is inane. Why is old poop still in the guest room toilet? Is it possible to wipe your face clean OF THE ICE CREAM FROM TWO DAYS AGO THAT I'VE ASKED YOU TO REMOVE 983 TIMES? Have you done your homework? What does procrastination mean? Are you trying to tell me you don't know how to put the Legos into the Lego bin?
And then there are the big-ticket items? The ones you knew were part of adulthood but also the ones you thought you'd left behind with high school graduation or hoped your child would bypass completely? How will we afford X, Y, or Z? Is this something to worry about? Yes? So, who can we call? What help can we get? Why does that child/parent continue to act in such ugly/hurtful ways? Why is that parent so competitive? Am I doing it wrong?
And then there's your own attempt at self-definition. At boundaries.
And then there's a marriage to maintain. Friendships. That book that's been beckoning to you for months.
The funny thing is that when you think you cannot go on, you do. And then you get a break, and you miss them. Miss them? Yes. You miss the egregious Hansel trail of gross crumbs that leads all ants to your living room. You miss the sticky hands that clutch you tight and whisper "Thank you" amidst snotty tears. You don't miss flushed toilets, but you do miss the silliness of naked runners and dog houses and spy-like sprites who have been cloistered in your closet forever even though you'd checked there and still changed into pajamas.
Today I taught one to make pie. I cleaned up and enjoyed a wonderful client. I taught one how to GooGone a gummy blade, and I raked compost over my to-be vegetable garden. I vacuumed and wrote a grocery list and finally screamed "I cannot hear about this poem ONE MORE TIME." I filled out forms and fed the cat and washed dishes and thought about how hard it's been for me lately, to own and share all this shit. For it does seem mundane and dull. But it's also real, and sometimes I cannot fathom how we'll get them to college. It's so many years away.
But then I panic. It's so few years away. And then they may need to snuggle but they probably won't want to. And they'll still leave trails of crumbs but be attitudey about cleaning up. And they won't need me to teach them about GooGone, and they might not laugh over dumb jokes that are funny simply because of the potty humor element. They may not hear me when I try to teach. "Exposing yourself is a crime," boys. "Really?" they said. As if they would ever do that but also, god, don't leave anything to chance. #boys
Last week, the dental hygienist who takes such good care of me and for whom I feel true affection was racist, classist, and trans-phobic, all in one cleaning! Her efficiency! I was so taken aback. And so sad. The only thing I managed to rebut, in between her scraping my stains and gums clean, was by saying I believed it was exceedingly rare for men to pretend to be trans in order to take advantage of women in female restrooms.
The man "who exposed himself in the women's restroom...well, you know, he was black" comment as well as the "a janitor at the college. You have to wonder who takes a job like that. Maybe mental illness?" commentary did not sit well with me. But as with so much in parenting, we are ill-trained to immediately and effectively respond to such statements.
I wrote a letter to this dear woman. I hope that she hears me, or least doesn't shut me out. I hope she might see that exposing oneself has zero to do with skin color. And that many people work the jobs they can get to take care of their families. And that maybe her own fears -for her children, herself, her world- are actually at the heart of these biased, ugly statements. Not race. Not class. Not mental status.
It seemed germane tonight, round about bathtime and snotty tears about poetry and jesus h christ the end of the weekend, to mention that exposing oneself is a crime and that standing up for what you believe to be inclusive and fair is the best path forward even when it's scary because the recipient is a lovely middle-aged woman who really loves her children and fears for their welfare, as we all do for ours.