The best part of being a parent is playing with my kids and totally forgetting that they are my kids. Totally forgetting that they are kids. Totally forgetting that I am a parent. Just playing with them as though we are ageless friends.
The worst part of being a parent (and I write this knowing that my kids are not yet teenagers) is hearing the way I sound sometimes when playing the role of “parent”. I appreciate that my irritability levels are at record highs. I am certain it has something to do with total sleep deprivation / constant sleep disruption. Between my ordinary sleep habits of waking up every two hours, I am now following the sleeping patterns of at least two, and up to four other people. And a puppy.
I brought this all on myself. Willingly, and in full awareness of fact. And I know that it is the most glorious stage of life. I love it, but it is utterly exhausting, at times overwhelming, and it leaves me a little less patient than I might have been 10 years ago. Or maybe I was always a little impatient…
I suspect this is a sentiment that most, if not all parents have. At times I hear myself, and I hate it. I hate it partially because I now understand what it means to “become your parent”. “If you don’t put that down in three seconds…”. “If you don’t finish your dinner…”. “If you don’t share, I’m taking it away”. Parental threats under the guise of discipline. I hear myself. And I hate the way I sound when I sound the way I hate. Wait, what?
Before kids (and then even when we had one and two kids), I used to love watching other parents get frustrated at their kids’ behavior. Actually, I still love watching it. It’s so irrational most of the time. The orders, the commands, the discipline… It is sometimes so arbitrary and erratic that it’s comical. Nonetheless, from time to time when asked “why” by my kids for the fifth time after four reasonable explanations, I too am now guilty of resorting to the paradigm of parenting nonsensical response of “BECAUSE I SAID SO!”.
People will reflexively retort “if you don’t like the way you sound, stop sounding like that”. And I do make an active effort to “not sound like that”. But fatigue is a powerful force. Almost as powerful as a misbehaving kid. And sometimes you know that no matter how rational and reasonable the justification, a kid just won’t accept it.
The more parenting experience I gain, the more I realize that kids essentially behave like ragging drunks. They are happy one minute, crying the next. Cooperative one minute, combative the next. Impervious to pain one minute, then incapacitated by a papercut the next. It’s exhausting. It’s irrational. And it’s this sometimes seemingly endless behaviour from a kid that elicits the sometimes irrational responses from the parent.
Sometimes the parental response is both rational and merited. I may be wrong, but I think that responsible parenting sometimes requires that a kid just be told no, even if a yes could be justified (even if I am not always good at doing it myself). Sometimes disciplining a kid will make them cry. Rational or irrational, justified or unjustified, it still doesn’t make me like the way I sound. I still hate it. It still hurts my heart to make my kids cry. I try my best no to hate the way I sound too often, but it still happens.
They say a parent’s best revenge is being able to watch them raise their own kids. Or at least my parents always say this. It’s true. I get it. But nothing is better for good, rational parenting than a good night’s sleep. And trying to have fun as often as possible.