My kid is making me almost quite literally lose my mind.
Those two statements are both true. I both love him and loathe every minute of parenting lately. He is both kind and the most stubborn person I know. He makes me laugh and makes me cry. A lot.
Oh the beauty of containing multitudes, right? Everything is terrible and wonderful all at once. But mostly, lately, it’s been terrible.
Some days I think, this parenting thing is not easy because I have depression and anxiety. That makes it worse. Other days I think, this parenting thing is not easy because my kid has ADD and anxiety. Yet other days (there are lots of days), I think this parenting thing is not easy because IT IS NOT EASY. My child is mulishly determined to make his own choices (such as stopping doing homework) and willing to die on that hill even though he understands why his choice sucks. He is temperamental, absent-minded, and completely uninterested in doing any task or finding any idea appealing it if generates from anyone’s brain other than his own.
It is exhausting.
The hardest parts of parenting are that there is no easy path for answers or “fixing” a situation. There is just no winning, some days. I feel like I’m doing a spectacularly awful job all the time. I feel like I’m failing this stupid endless job of parenting because I can’t get my child to do his homework (or any of the 64,000 other requests and demands I make in a day). Me, a person who adored homework and grades, who nearly threw up if I got anything less than 100% (look, I’m not saying my way to be is better), was offered the chance to skip two grades, and would still be in school forever if school were free. I thrive on doing well. I thrive on success. And with parenting, it has been nearly 11 years of feeling like I’m failing.
And I don’t need you to jump in and tell me why I’m not failing, or that we all feel like that, or any other kind things. Rationally, I get it. Trust me. I sit through plenty of therapy to talk about how rough parenting is for me and how things like my child’s failures (or things I perceive as failure) are not a reflection of me or my parenting. I get it. But I still get to feel what I feel. And anxiety and depression make sure that rational thoughts that sound remotely positive or soothing will never actually get through to my brain and override how I feel.
Here is what I am infinitely grateful for: I have many close friends who freely and loudly admit that parenting is terrible. That kids are sometimes just the worst and that we had no idea what we were really getting into when we had them. Being a parent (and particularly a mother) and saying to people, yeah, parenting SUCKS is still not really acceptable. I am supposed to find it rewarding. I am supposed to be endlessly patient and just so naturally maternal and giving and selfless. I am supposed to like this.
My kid has never been “easy.” From colic on, it has been a struggle. He is all the best and worst qualities of his parents. As my husband said recently, prior to this, I was the most stubborn person he knew (and let me tell you, the endless eye-rolling my kid does for sure is 100% me. I still roll my eyes that much). My amazingly smart husband will ask me a question, appear to listen to my answer, then 90 seconds later ask me the same question. Because he was still in his work-brain, writing an algorithm or something. This is what our kid does, too. Most of his qualities are things I find admirable, when spun in slightly different ways. He knows his own mind. He doesn’t care what people think. He’s determined to do his own thing. He’s independent and extremely creative. Those are all wonderful things, but they are also things that are hard to parent. I do not want to wear him down, to change him, to somehow make him fit in some kind of box. I just don’t want to feel like every second is a battle and nothing I say or do can change that.
I’d like to think we’ll hit an easy stretch soon and I’ll feel like I can breathe a little more, but heading into these middle school years, I feel like that’s not likely. And so we will go on. We will argue and cry and yell and stomp off. We will laugh and snuggle up and crack jokes and hang out. He will tell me he hates me, then six hours later, slip into bed next to me and wriggle his (not so little anymore) hand into mine and whisper he’s sorry. The days will be good and bad and endless and go quickly. They are what I signed up for. They are not at all what I signed up for. I will wish for grace and I will settle for survival. The days will contain multitudes. And we will trudge forward, carrying the weight of the bad yesterdays and the hope for a better tomorrow, not because we are good parents, or because we are patient (or because we can feign patience), or because of any indication that things will actually be easier, but because we have to. We hear from so many people this too shall pass. And it probably will. Most things do. But that doesn’t make it any easier. Fiercely loving your child does not magically erase exasperation.
These two statements are both true:
My kid is amazing and I love him.
Parenting kind of sucks.