The Hard Parts of Parenting
by Abbie Schiller, CEO and Founder of The Mother Company
I just put my two year old to bed after an epic hour-long, hysterical tantrum. After a napless day, he announced at dinner it was his turn to put the napkins on the table. I had already placed them. Then there was the scary silence before the scream. Then the scream. Then the push of the plate away – which actually knocked the entire plate (rice and all) onto the dining room floor. Then I carried the screaming child up to bed. There was screaming so loud I heard ringing. There was head bashing, first his head against his crib and then his head against my chin. I was pinched – that was a new one. Helplessly clutched in an emotional storm, he was spiraling downward. I tried to reason. I tried to hold him. I tried to walk away. I tried everything reasonable. But there was no “reasonable.” After 40 minutes, I wanted to give-up and let him deal with it alone, exhausted. My son was completely, entirely, 100% out-of-control and all I could do was ride it out and think about how very difficult parts of parenting are. Moments like these bring me to my knees. But staying on my knees serves no one. I can’t quit – there is no quitting. If I left him alone in this room – he would have become more terrified and I would have contributed to it. We had to get through it – even if we both came out of it wounded a little. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. No hindsight in that moment.
There are many kinds of “hard parts” in parenting. Defiance is another one. Nothing presses my buttons like a defiant child. Once, after a particularly difficult stand-off with my (then) three year old, she announced “Well I’m not your friend anymore!” and I shot back (totally at my wits end) “Yeah? Well I’m not your friend either!” That’s when my husband stepped in and sent us both to our rooms for a little cooling off. It was a first, and a last.
Part of the myth of parenting that persists is if we’re getting these behaviors from our children, we aren’t doing everything right. It just isn’t true – and only adds to the pressure we feel during the hard parts. Parenting can be tough. It’s really unavoidable. I often wonder if we would be so aware of the highs if it weren’t for the lows. I take comfort in my own made-up fact that if kids are cooperative 70 – 80 percent of the time, I’m doing an excellent job.
Then there are different kinds of “hard parts” – the parts that make my heart hurt. The time when my baby needed stitches and we had to hold his little head while a doctor sewed his lip. Or a different kind of hard when you say goodbye to your daughter as she leaves for sleep-away camp and realize you won’t hear from her for a few weeks. Hard when you realize you might be failing your kid in some – if not many ways. Hard when you can’t afford the time or thing they most desperately want.
If someone had warned me about all these hard parts before I was a parent, I’m sure I would’ve lessened their impact in my mind. Like everything, before I was a parent, parenting would’ve seemed easier – more simple. But these moments are deep and raw and larger-than-life. These hard parts come in unrecognizable shapes and sizes, at unpredictable times. The only thing that lessens them entirely is the immense love we feel for our children, the moments when they reach for your hand. The times they sleep on your chest.
When the tantrum ended and sleep finally took over his little body, my son sighed. He lay asleep and peaceful as if nothing happened. But I was there. I had felt its force. I stayed with him. I know what we endured. We endured it together. And we will again.
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The Mother Company aims to support parents and their children, providing thought-provoking web content and products based in social and emotional learning for children ages 3-6. Check out episodes of our “Ruby’s Studio” children’s video series, along with our beautiful children’s books, apps, music, handmade dolls, and more.Posted in: Parental Wisdom, The Mother Co. Mamas