Raising kids: thoughts on when the times, they are a'challenging

It's possible that you won't be surprised by this admission: we're having a bit of a tough time with J right now. I am sure that this time, these times, will come again as we head down the pipeline of maturation with Ol, but presently, it's our darling firstborn who is issuing new and vexing challenges. I feel as if I'm standing on the shores of Lake Your-Children-Can-Bring-You-To-Your-Knees, and boy, the vista isn't a terribly sunny one. No, the skies are cloudy, visibility no more than slight; the winds are swirling, storms threaten. Do you hunker down? De-camp? Wish you'd better prepared in some way?

This tumultuous landscape might also be an accurate description for whatever inner struggle is bewitching my Jack, and I keep that thought present because it helps me maintain empathy. When I can look upon him with empathic love, rather than as some sort of insane urchin who switched via body double with my real J, I am able to put aside enough of my frustration and instead make space for reminders of just why and how terribly much I love him. In addition to all of the things no one ever tells you about parenthood is this: you will definitely dislike your sweet child(ren) more often than you suspect. Sometimes you will even look at them, aghast and angrier than you can believe, and consider that perhaps you even more than don't like them. But as you are in it for the long haul, you've got to figure out how to proceed in the healthiest, most positive way possible.

It is uncomfortable enough to grapple with feelings of "I don't like him/her right now," but to make matters tougher, I've found that close inspection of what you become most frustrated and angry with, what disappoints you most deeply, are often the elements of your own (or your partner's) character that are/were not the most appealing. Put more simply, I recognize that I dislike some of J's current behavior because it reminds me, uncomfortably, of me as a young person. It reminds me of how hard it was to grow up and to learn life lessons, how painful and scary those developments were. Are. Because I've managed to shed some parts of my own self I didn't much like, when I see them in J, I not only feel so deeply sorry that I passed them on to him, but I also recoil to some extent because, shit, didn't I just spend however many years trying to excise that from my life? The same goes for what T donated.

Jack is such a blend of me and Tom. He looks like both of our families, he's extroverted and loves words like me, he's got T's nearly photographic memory and ability to do math and like it. He articulates his emotions a bit more like T than like me (slight boo!), he can be overly cautious like I was, he is moody at times (me; boo!), and he has a hell of a dramatic bent (I attribute this to osmotic influence in utero by certain female members of my family). He has an unceasing imagination, he is insatiably curious, he appreciates beauty, and he is kind. He is a great kid, but his stew is his own unique brew, and like everyone else's, it needs some tweaking: what makes Jack Jack is not just the inputs we passed on but also the combinative effects of those traits.

This honest appraisal and appreciation of the nascent person my eldest is helps me when I feel utterly baffled and a little bit scared. Motherhood has largely been an instinctual experience for me so far, and I feel immensely grateful for that comfort with the "job". But I sure don't have all the answers, and I am desperate to do my best by this little boy. I think that's all any of us can do at the end of the day: our best. We should honor the lights of individuality in each of the children we're fortunate enough to have but remain firm when needed, seek help when we don't know or feel lost, remember how much we've all learned and changed as we've grown and give them the space to do that as well.

As I wrap this up, a steady rain has started to fall; the floodgates up above have opened, washing away the vista I had not long ago. It remains cloudy, not a ray of sun in sight, but I feel hope because growth is equal parts water and light.