Parenthood is a choose-your-own-adventure story, except at the end the main character could just go totally off-script and do something totally unexpected. Not that parenting ever ends, it’s just that for this particular analogy I had to have an end, because no book is never-ending, except maybe Anna Karenina, because I’m not smart enough to stick with it and as far as I know it just stalls out at chapter 2 and thus, never ends. Like, never.
The longer I parent, the more I realize that we should give parents a break. There are some phenomenally bad parents out there, but most of us are just trying to survive. Total care of a human soul can be pretty daunting, especially if you have anything else going on, like driving your car or eating a bowl of Ramen noodles while standing up.
And the catch is, one catch is, just when you figure out one thing and you get your Master of the Omelette badge, then another thing comes at you quick and you are back to Rookie at the Toilet Training. Does it strike terror in me, in the wee hours of the night, to think about The Gauntlet of Puberty or The Valley of the Shadow of Boyfriends? It strikes terror in me.
It’s not just parenting, although that is my continual struggle. It can be a job, a relationship, life. We’re all winging it.
Part of the trouble is nobody is handing out medals. “What do you need a medal for?” maybe you’re saying, “when I was in that prison camp in ‘Nam, nobody was handing out medals.” If so, you are an incredibly specific demographic and I think you, especially, should get a medal. But back to my analogy (and thank you for your service), I think we should celebrate each other more, SAY more.
I have often pondered nominating myself for sainthood after a particularly rough bout with a diaper. “Somebody should know about this,” I think, as I scrub my hands raw with a Brillo pad and citrus soap. What if we celebrated each other? Not just our best-side-to-social-media celebration but the real nitty-gritty, the hard parts? Not because we handled it perfectly but because we’re still trying.
What if we said to a friend, face-to-face, or face-to-facebook or snail mail or any other variety of way of communicating, “I think you have a hard job, and you are getting it done, and you are doing a good job and I’m proud of you. Keep going.” What if we meant it? What could that mean to someone who is secretly struggling and over their heads?
I’ll say it to you, just to get things started: I know you are tired and sometimes it’s overwhelming and you blow it. But love is what makes you get back up and try again. I honor your love for your family. You are doing a good job. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be love.
Let’s hand out some medals today.