With the arrival of my second child I have come face to face with a hard reality: being a good parent is really, really hard. Being a mediocre parent is still hard. Being a bad parent is some work. Being a neglectful parent is easy.
It can be tempting at times to just throw my three year old in front of his favorite cartoon show and let him sit there for a few hours. He is more than willing to let me do that to him. Sometimes it is all I can do to distract him for at least twenty minutes while I do the dishes that should have been done the night before but my wife and I were simply too worn out to attempt to clean up. It seems like there is always something on the to-do list that gets dropped, and somewhere in the mayhem of everyday life I also try to have an active relationship with my wife, and at the same time keep up with the maintenance of a house full of appliances, two older vehicles, and various other tasks that require my attention and focus while I am not at work. I am a car mechanic, appliance repair man, electrician, roofer, plumber, tutor, relationship councilor, dispute arbitrator, chicken farmer, short order cook, dishwasher and cleaning person, and much much more. And that is all before going to my full job as a vocational instructor. In short, I am a dad.
This shit is hard. But no one said it was going to be easy, and if anyone did they were lying. And the constant wisdom that I keep getting from grandparents and anyone else who now has an empty nest is simply this: Enjoy this time. Enjoy your kids. They will grow up fast and be gone before you know it. You need to treasure this time.
I am trying to treasure the hell out of this time, believe me. Sometimes in the rare moment of quiet early in the morning before my son wakes up and demands breakfast or cartoons or both, I quiet myself enough to imagine him as a grown man. It always makes me cry. A lot. I feel duty bound to enjoy this time as a parent, and at the same time be a damned good one. Sometimes these two seem mutually exclusive. Sometimes I pick fights with my son about things that don’t even matter, and I catch myself half-way through it, and have the guts to stop and ask for his forgiveness. Because hey, he’s 3. He doesn’t have a clue what is going on. He is in a dream state and barely conscious until what, 8 years old? That is not to say that I have no discipline, I just try to explain things in rational way and tone down the aggravation when things don’t go my way. Which is most of the time.
I guess at this point I am just ranting about how seemingly impossible it is to be a good parent. And would like to encourage other parents out there who are in the same predicament, that I think its all going to be okay. I’m not 100% sure, but I am at least 60% confidant that it’s going to be okay.
Instead of plying you with outlandish advice like: take time to yourself and always make sure to set aside quality time with your spouse– which makes me chuckle sarcastically or cry, or both at the same time- I would rather give you more realistic advice like: Do what you need to do to maintain your sanity. Give up your ideals, they were probably crap anyway. Your children rule your life now, even if you feel like you are in charge, which you probably aren’t. It’s okay if you get absolutely nothing done on a weekend when you were supposed to get everything done. Any day when the house didn’t burn down or your child did not fall down a well or otherwise impale themselves on a sharp object is a GOOD day. Cherish the days when you feel like you have your shit together, because the very next day your child will defy every single thing that you ask or dare to suggest.
It’s very easy to be peaceful and calm and collected and organized and on top of things when you are single, or in a serious relationship with only one other person. Add one child to that mix and try to stay on top of things in the same manner. Add another child and the difficulty goes up several orders of magnitude.
One other nugget of wisdom is to simply accept that when it comes to having quality time with your spouse once you have kids, you only have two choices: Stay up late and spend time with your spouse, or sleep. There are no other alternatives, trust me on this one, THERE ARE NO OTHER ALTERNATIVES! You can have a close personal relationship, and even maintain a physical intimacy with your spouse, or you can sleep. YOU CANNOT DO BOTH. Your children will not allow you to do both. Choose wisely… Some nights I choose sleep, and some nights I choose relationship. Other nights the choice is made for me and defaults to sleep.
This is your life now, get used to it. But do more than get used to it, love it.
Since writing this post our second child has (mostly) started sleeping through the night. Wow. I can’t even describe in words how much more of a human being I feel like. With the addition of some uninterrupted sleep into your life, it’s amazing how much easier things have become. For any parents out there who are still in the not sleeping stage- there is light at the end of the tunnel!