Originally published in the Miami News-Record on November 1, 2015
I have teenagers. Two of them still live at home. Every day of their lives I love them more than I love myself, but there are days I think if a band of traveling gypsies came across our property I’d send them off with a smile. And then, I am instantly flooded with such an overwhelming sense of shame at such thoughts when there are parents all over the world who are missing their kids for so many different reasons. Sometimes I’m a great mom. Sometimes, I’m awful. Whether we are Pinterest Perfect Parents or whether we are constantly seen struggling to balance it all, the constant truth is this: Parenting is hard.
Babies don’t sleep much. They poop and cry a lot. They suck on your nipples until they are as cracked as the Sahara. But oh, do they smell nice. Well, after a bath they do. After the pooping everywhere, not so much.
Toddlers are angry little creatures. They are easily frustrated. They’re sticky. They have perpetual boogers in (and on) their cute little noses. They want to do everything all. by. themselves. and God help the adult who tries to assist them. They still poop a lot – except now it’s in larger amounts and it smells horrible. They will make your exhausted heart melt into a puddle when you watch them sleep.
Lower elementary kids tend to be easy. They love Santa and the Easter Bunny. Their teeth fall out so adorably. They write you phonetic notes saying you’re “beeuteefool.” They believe in magic and fairies and monsters – and you.
Upper elementary/tweens are typically the spawn of the devil. They know everything. They smell like onions. They giggle one minute then cry for seven hours after. They become hyper-aware of the opposite sex. Their friends are all awful, fickle, and obnoxious, but truthfully… your kid is, too.
Teenagers are cool for the most part, but that whole “they know everything” they started as tweens is ongoing. They are even more hyper-aware of the opposite sex. They become very sure then unsure about their future and change their post-high school plans 400 billion times in the span of one week. When your child nears graduation you learn to just keep college and scholarship applications filled out and on hand because depending on the week they plan to send them in – or they tearfully rip them up and declare they’ll just become a hobo.
And through all of this, we parents just hold on for dear life. We endure sleepless nights, bullies, breakups, Algebra, and food allergies and we’re all expected to just come out of it with our sanity and the ability to create science fair posters and bridges made out of toothpicks. Some of us do it with flair; some don’t. Some of us spend so much time keeping up with Suzy Homemaker that we fail to realize that perhaps she also is running on 2.6 hours of sleep a night, her husband won’t help her with bathtime any more than yours will, and her child is also terrified of the tub drain. Does her ability to show up without a perpetual spitup stain on her shirt make her a better mom than you of the multiple mystery chunks? Absolutely not. Who’s to say that she doesn’t lock herself in the bathroom to eat Fun Size Snickers and cry a little every night just the way you do?
We’re all just muddling through. These beautiful, wonderful, noisy, smelly, amazing creatures God gave us are life-sucking and marvelous, but they definitely didn’t come with instructions. The best thing we can do through all the stages of their lives is pray. And just hang on, Momma.
Go ahead and stuff that Hershey bar in your bra as you race past the kids to devour it away from their little hawk eyes. Just hurry though, sister. Boob heat makes chocolate melt pretty fast. So I hear.