It’s always the stuff they don’t tell you about that is the hardest.
Everyone hears about the poopy diapers, the lack of sleep, the teething tantrums and so on but to be honest, those elements of parenting are a breeze, at least in my opinion.
If you ask me, the real challenge to parenting is keeping your cool during the small stressful moments that seem to arise multiple times, every day. It’s the gradual chipping away at your psyche, slowly eroding your ‘calm and cool as a cucumber’ mentality day after day that takes a toll on you and your quest to be the best parent ever who never gets upset or mad about anything and farts cheery rainbows all day long. Ok, that rainbow farting part was a bit bizarre but you get the point. It’s not the knockout punch but the persistent jabs and body shots that will take you out if you’re not prepared.
As a parent, I think we all expect the occasional big blow ups to happen. We’re dealing with little humans after all who are trying to express something to us and when they experience communication barriers, they get frustrated. I get that, I would be frustrated too. Those things I can deal with because I know if I stay calm and try to work it out with her, I’ll eventually decipher the toddler code and put the fire out. If that doesn’t work, I can always substitute one of my many ‘Dad tricks’ where I simply redirect her attention to something else or change the subject in a way that makes her forget about whatever she was asking or telling me about one minute ago. Boom, disaster averted.
The blow ups are easy. It’s the constant whining, the ever-present ‘No!’s, the rapid changing of their mind around EVERYTHING, the refusal to brush their teeth when they’ve done it a thousand times before, the requesting to watch the same eight-minute mind-numbing kids tv show repeatedly, etc. that causes the corner of your eye to twitch. Oh, and don’t get me started on the topic of food. I don’t know if I’m alone on this one but my kid does not stop eating. I mean like, never. She is akin to a dog that will eat until it throws up, devour its own vomit, and then proceed to beg for more food despite the fact that it’s stomach is full and in pain.
Now, before anyone calls children’s aid on us, I should clarify that we’ve never actually let her eat her own tossed cookies but the point is, she doesn’t stop asking for food, even when she’s full to the brim and is saying “Daddy, my tummy huuurts”. That might sound innocent to someone who doesn’t have a kid at home but try hearing “I’m hungry!”, “Dinner time? Dinner now?” and “Eat now Mommy!” at all hours of the day, with little sticky hands pulling at your pants, your shirt, the fridge door, the dishes, and anything else until their request is met. That crap gets on your nerves real quick.
For some, maybe I sound like I’m complaining and overreacting but for my wife and I, our goal was always to do our best to keep our cool, talk to our children like adults and try our best never to lose our temper towards them or even around them whenever possible. When you apply those parameters, dealing with the little nagging elements of daily parenting presents a whole different category of challenges to overcome.
Fortunately for us, we are rocking a two parent household which works wonders when one parent needs to ‘tag out’ before steam starts shooting out of their ears. We seem to work well with each other, recognizing when the other parent is starting to reach their near breaking point and quickly jumping in as relief. We joke that it’s kind of like having two pots of water on a hot stove top and trying to prevent both from bubbling over at the same time. When one gets too hot and starts to boil you lift it off the burner until the water calms down. Then the other pot starts to bubble out of control so you set the first pot down and jump over to the other burner to prevent that pot from spilling. Repeat indefinitely.
At the risk of this blog sounding like a parent rant about the difficulties of the annoying minutia I’ll bring it around full circle to say that the point of this entry is two-fold in nature: 1) I have a new respect and understanding for the parents, especially the stay at home parents, that revel in a big glass of ‘take the edge off’ wine at the end of the day and 2) Since nobody ever tells you what the real challenging stuff is, I’ll be the one to step up and provide a hefty dose of ‘real talk’ by telling you to look out for the little stuff. We’ve all heard the saying ‘It’s the small stuff that counts’ and this is no different.
Let’s face it, every one of us can handle the explosive diarrhea and temper tantrums when we tell our kid not to kick the chihuahua but it’s the seemingly inconsequential little stuff that will catch up to you and kick you straight in the teeth if you’re not ready for it. Don’t sweat the small stuff but don’t overlook it either. You’ve been warned.