After my son was born, I remember being furious that no one had warned me about all of the intimate details of parenthood. Surprises kept popping up and I couldn’t understand why it was so difficult. If we’re being honest, I still can’t. I mean, I googled. I signed up for those weekly emails. I read baby books. I prepared myself in every way possible. But still, the most common phrases I heard as a parent-to-be were vague cliches like “parenting is so difficult” and “it’s the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do.”
Now, I’m not saying parenting isn’t difficult or rewarding. And I’ve definitely depended on those old cliches time and time again. When my best friend had a baby of her own and she yelled at me for not warning her, I realized I had totally dropped the ball like all of the other jerks. It wasn’t that I intentionally kept anything from her; I had actually blocked out entire phases of the early days. Self preservation and all that. It turns out that becoming a parent makes you a big fat liar.
The biggest lie? “It’s just a phase.” Veteran parents love that one. And sure, it does have a shred of truth to it, because it usually is a phase. The inherent problem though, is that by saying something is “just a phase” you imply parenting gets easier somewhere along the line. But that phase is like a wave in the ocean. And you’re on the raft from Titanic. You aren’t Rose, nu uh, your kid is Rose and you’re Jack and you’re holding on for dear life and the damn waves keep coming. Sure, sometimes you get a reprieve. You catch your breath, relax your grip for a few seconds, you brag to a friend, “I totally got this!” Maybe, you take a shower and do a load of a laundry. You feel pretty proud of yourself. And then a whole freaking storm hits.
Your kid may never sleep through the night. At least not until long after you’ve given up hope of ever sleeping again and have completely forgotten how to sleep eight consecutive hours yourself. Crying still happens, even after your little bundle of lungs has words. A 6 year old screaming “I hate you” sucks every bit as much as the imaginary commentary you put to your newborn’s cries. At least they won’t remember the time they rolled off the bed, but your 10 year old will definitely remember the time you forgot to pick them up from school. Whoops.
And sure, the “clingy” phase might end and your kid might stop crying when you leave the room, but don’t think you’ll ever be able to poop in peace again. Meal time will always be a mess, and even the best of eaters will decide to be picky at times. (Don’t worry though, it’s just a phase. They’ll hate something else next month.) Suddenly, your kid will have opinions and wants and parenting will become a battle of wills! And my personal favourite: butt wiping doesn’t end where potty training begins. What the actual fuck.
Seriously, how do we survive? Oh, our kids are freaking adorable when they’re finally asleep? That’s true. Admitting to myself that I know nothing about parenting, but neither does anyone else, helps too. Seriously, everyone is making it up as they go along. But of course, I still defer to the experts because I don’t want screwing up to be on my shoulders! At least if I screw up, I can point to the expert and whine, “Well he told me to!”
So no, parenting doesn’t get easier, it just gets different. No amount of reading is going to prepare you for what’s next. Parenting is on the job training; and sometimes, just like in the real world, your boss is a complete jerk.
So what can you do? Invest in wine. (The cheap wine, you’re gonna need lots.) Keep a stash of sweets. Surround yourself with people who get it, people who you can rant and rave to and know that they won’t think worse of you for it. Waste valuable sleeping time looking at pictures and videos of your kid to remind yourself how damn freaking much you love them. And tell yourself over and over that this too shall pass.
(But something new will be waiting around the corner to take it’s place.)