Friday, November 17, 2006

Parenting Insanity

I have been in conversation with many of our parents of young children lately. Usually this occurs when we have been thrown together in some toddler or pre-schooler whirlwind like the Halloween party, a spontaneous celebration of the Chicken Dance, or outside the polls. Or else it is via email at strange hours between feedings. (Ours or the children's - take your pick.)

A consistent theme of conversation is: insanity. In trying to be good parents, kind neighbors, responsible workers, loving family members, and civic minded people... we have completely lost our minds. We do things we swore we would never do (Krispy kreme drive-thru). We think things that are too shameful to share ("What would life have been like if I had become a dancer for Prince's world tours?") And we all share the same dream (Maybe one day I will be less tired.)

The day your first child is born is also the day an exponentially larger birth occurs - the birth of guilt. First time baby falls and bleeds - 10 lbs guilt. Baby's First French Fry - 10 lbs guilt, and some trans fat to boot. First missed family gathering due to baby's sleep schedule... third cancelled out of town trip due to family illness and exhaustion... umpteenth article recommended by good friend that goes unread... the un-vacuumed rooms, the delayed professional plans, the loss of cool, the gain of weight... GUILTY. And I think, it is the guilt that drives us over the edge of the sane world and into gonzo parenthood.

We are looking for balance, particularly those of us who became parents after 30 and had known some balance in our previous lives. Our pre-parenthood standards are often based on mature and in depth interaction with other adults. Now we no longer meet the standards of pre-parenthood because the bulk of our psychic and physical energy is channeled toward keeping these hungry, precious, delicate, beautiful, and maddening little bundles of future safe and, when possible, happy. Instead of heady conversation, raucous celebration, or feats of strength on the athletic field, we're amazed if we get together on any occasion other than wee one birthday fetes. It's hard to be intellectual, raucous, or athletic when eating off Barney the purple dinosaur plates. Insanity is the only viable response.

To all the other parents of small children, I say - you are not alone. Yes, you have lost your mind, but you are not alone. Maybe one day we will know sanity again. I doubt it. There is another universe, though, and while we are here let's boldly go where women really do say, "Take that diaper off your sister's head this minute." This is a place where men given the choice between sexual interaction and intellectual betterment, choose neither and take a nap. In this universe success is a day without a trip to the ER. Joy means someone only had three crying meltdowns in public. And nutritional guidelines are relative.

To the rest of you I say: My entire family has been felled by an intestinal flu and my house has only one bathroom. You're darn skippy I haven't had time to blog.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just sent this to my daughter, whose situation is virtually the same as yours--kids are same age and sex, she's 41 (ok, she's in a lesbian 'marriage' in CA, but that's a minor difference). And as I tell her, this too will pass, and you'll realize how previous every minute of insanity was (ah, the beauty of that past tense!). Meanwhile, my ribs hurt from laughing and remembering!