Originally posted Jan. 11, 2008
Parenting isn't for sissies, but sometimes I feel like one.
I remember watching helplessly, while coping with pregnancy-induced nausea, as my oldest, then two, mixed juice shaken out of his sippy cup into blue Play-do, then smeared the gloppy goo all over my "What to Expect: The Toddler Years" book.
The irony wasn't lost on me.
Later, at three, Noah developed a penchant for bolting out the door wearing nothing but his Scooby-Doo skivvies the minute I sat down to nurse his baby sister, Holly. My husband, Todd, considering the myth of the terrible two's, proclaimed that "Two can't hold a candle to three."
No kidding. A three-year-old is just a big two-year-old with strategy.
Not wanting to come undone (or maybe I should say be outdone), I checked out a library book titled "Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy" by Louise Bates Ames. The title still amuses me. What amuses me more is that I'd ever hoped to read it at all, while I had an energetic toddler and newborn to care for. The best I could do was to quickly scan a few pages in our driveway while the kids dozed in their car seats after our trip home from the library. While I never actually read it cover to cover, just having the book handy somehow bolstered my confidence. The library didn't agree with my methods, however, and late notices soon became late fines greater than the book's replacement cost. When I finally pulled up to the library's drive-thru book-drop, I found myself thumbing through the pages for a few desperate moments, hoping some kernel of wisdom would leap out at me before the kids had meltdowns in the backseat. I felt giddy, like I was cramming for a big test.
I'm happy to report that I've survived the "wild three's" with both of my kids, and actually really loved those fleeting earliest years of their lives. Even as I mopped up the gloppy goo, feeling utterly outnumbered by one little person, I recognized just how absurdly funny the moment would be - later.
I am passionate about the value of confessing my own frailties as a parent, and the impact these revelations can have on readers who might not otherwise consider reaching out, only to discover that their feelings are perfectly normal. I make no bones about the fact that in spite of my training, I, too, occasionally find myself 'on my knees' begging for mercy. After all, none of my family therapy manuals mentions how to cope when you're so tired from midnight feedings that you accidentally brush your teeth with Balmex.
Believe me, I've looked.
In spite of the mishaps and messes, I marvel at my luck and good fortune. I have two beautiful, inquisitive children, with whom I get to explore everything from the muddy sandbox in which a once two-year-old Noah said he was making "twinkle soup," to the mysteries of the universe, but parenting can be darned hard sometimes. Take, for example, the time I spotted my then five-year-old daughter Holly doing cartwheels on the high beam for the very first time, with her long hair threatening to trip her up. Frustrated that another child got a turn on the balance beam while I refastened her hair into the uncooperative ponytail holder, Holly announced "You're ruining my life!" I humbly tiptoed back out of the gym with my proverbial tail tucked safely between my legs, made a mental note to cancel the cable Disney channel which had spawned her fabulous verbiage, and considered burying my family therapy books in the backyard - where at least they'll make good mulch.
A good belly laugh of recognition goes a long way toward making a hard day a little easier. I hope my stories give you a few belly laughs and better days
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.