By Lisa Cucinotta
There are some parenting days that are exciting, delicious and fun. Julia’s preschool graduation ceremony comes to mind. It was so adorable it made me laugh and cry. Each kid recited a poem about what they wanted to be when they grew up and they wore tiny graduation hats. But most parenting days are not those days, even the good ones.
I am a working mom, so I probably get a greater balance of the good days than stay at home moms do, because I’m not handling the mundane as much. But yesterday was just a regular day. No birthday parties, no trip to the zoo, no first steps or first words. Luca and Daddy went to the supermarket, and Mommy took Julia to a playdate.
It was a pretty decent day yesterday. I didn’t yell at anyone, no one got hurt, there were no major arguments, everyone went to sleep on time. So, especially if you aren’t a parent, you’re thinking, sounds pretty chill. Except that every parent knows that a pretty decent day as a parent is a lot different than a pretty decent day before kids.
Pretty decent day before kids: Maybe you sleep until 9 or 10 am. Run a few errands, laze around. Eat lunch on the couch, binge watching some TV. Cook dinner, or maybe you order in. It’s possible you read a magazine, or take a nap in the afternoon. You make decisions based on what you want to do.
By comparison, a pretty decent day with kids is going to have a relatively high level of chaos. First of all, there is not likely to be any sleeping in, at least not in our house. Our kids are early to bed (Luca by 6:30, Julia by 7) but also early to rise. Julia has a wake-up light in her room (a cow that is either dancing or sleeping) that tells her when she is allowed to get up. The cow dances at 6:10 am because that’s when we get up for work five days a week, and it’s too damn hard to change the settings every weekend, so that’s our lot in life. But it’s not like we could really sleep much later – Luca is up before Julia is, but we just won’t go in there until she wakes us up (thankfully he’s not a screamer in the morning).
We go downstairs on the weekends at about 7am to make breakfast, before which we all lounge together in bed watching TV (Paw Patrol is a favorite). And by lounge, I mean that Luca attempted multiple times to slide off the bed and accidentally hit people with all the books he brought in. We did have two delicious minutes where Luca decided to sit on Julia’s lap while she rested on my lap and we had a cuddle party. For a second there it felt like what you picture when you dream of having kids. But then Luca pulled her hair, and that was all over.
So, like most weekend mornings, Julia inevitably forgot to bring in “monkah”, her beloved stuffed monkey, and tried to convince us to get it for her (no). She and I got into our usual discussion about her sucking her thumb (I say discussion because I refuse to argue about it anymore, even though the orthodontia is going to be a nightmare). She complained incessantly about being hungry but when offered the option to go downstairs and get herself something to eat she acted like I suggested she climb into a pit filled with alligators.
This week the hunger argument was particularly heated, because Saturday is the morning she gets to help fill Mommy’s pill box for the week. Mommy takes a lot of meds (I’ll get into that on this blog another time), and oddly Julia loves helping with the sorting (yes, she knows not to take them, don’t worry). So she wanted a scenario where she can come back upstairs. Various debates/discussions ensued, there was crying, then screaming (both her, I stayed calm – Mom FTW!), then we finally came to an agreement and she ran off to get the squeezer on condition that she eat it downstairs, then come back up.
By 7:30 we were all playing nicely in the playroom while Daddy made breakfast (did I mention that my husband does all the cooking in our house? It’s heavenly). Then Julia lost her will to live for a few minutes because she mistakenly thought the corn beef hash Brian was making from our leftovers was going into the eggs, and YOU CAN NOT PUT THINGS IN HER EGGS if she is unfamiliar with them and/or they contain meat or most cheeses. Instead, she now wanted to have cereal and a cereal bar. I said no dice, one or the other, and she should still try the eggs. I am the worst person on earth. She acts as if I am torturing her. We clear up that the eggs will be regular Julia approved cheesy eggs, so she is then willing to have them and cereal, forgoing the cereal bar. Crisis averted.
But hey, let’s stop here for a second. We hadn’t eaten eaten breakfast yet and already I was mentally exhausted. I mean, it’s exhausting even describing it to you. Yet, it’s the reality of parenting (the #truthinparenting , perhaps?). I mentioned in my first post for this blog that after a while, you just get sort of used to this. Doesn’t make it easy, but makes it easier. Because like I said, this was a decent day.
The thing about decent days is that they will mostly be forgotten. There’s a relief to this, because it reminds me that things will get easier as they get older. But there’s also a sadness because the very fact that they are rote in nature means I will will most likely forget them. I will forget that Luca all of a sudden yesterday started calling his play computer a “peter”. That Julia and I were doing coordinated clapping to Fitz & The Tantrum’s “Handclap” (Or was that today? I’m telling you, these moments blur together).
I just finished reading this terrific book called “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin (I highly recommend it by the way). One of the things she says repeatedly is “The days are long but the years are short.” It sums up exactly what it feels like to go through the early years of parenting. There will be so many days like this and many of them will drag on for what seems like an eternity. But looking back I’m sure I’ll remember so little of them.
So what is there to do? It sounds like I should end this post saying that I’ll try to be more grateful for these days because I’ll look back on them with wistfulness. True, gratitude is important. I actually started keeping a gratitude journal a few months ago and I have found it has helped me appreciate my life more. I write down five things every day that I am grateful for. Some of them are certainly related to my children. But it feels pat to say that gratitude will solve all my parenting struggles because it’s not true. What the gratitude journal helps me do is also remember more. Even when it is hard, I want to remember. I think that’s what will help get me through.