I’ve been thinking lately about how each stage of parenting is completely overwhelming and terrifying, not to mention exhausting, along with enchanting and exhilarating, kind of like what I imagine sky-diving would be like.
There’s the newborn honeymoon when I was so glad to be out of labor that even scrubbing bathrooms would have a joy, so holding a brand new baby was beyond the beyond. Of course sleep was only available in odd and varied increments, and whenever the baby did something unexpected, which was often, my heart trembled with both worry and wonder.
There was the toddler and preschool years when I thrilled myself with tiny milestone — “She’s walking!” “He threw his dirty towel in the laundryroom!” “The missing shoe was under the cat!” But there were also the floor-diving, climbing-the-piano and vomiting on long car trip phases.
Then were elementary school years when the government provided up to six hours a day for us of free daycare, otherwise known as school. There were all-too-exciting teacher conferences, failed attempts to teach anyone to ride a bike, evening musical programs when herds of kindergartners sang about the expanding universe, and driving to and fro to soccer for the sake of plastic trophy.
The tween and teen years blur for me, starting with a thick cloud of sarcasm, even more driving, the huge surges of hormones that resulted in rapid-fire door slamming, weeping and screaming, and the great talks about why the film “Almost Famous” has everything you need to know about adulthood encoded in it.
I thought, foolish and short-sighted as I was, that young adulthood would be a walk in the park. Turns out it’s a walk in a theme park, in a blackout, surrounded by exploding decoys. There’s the missing college form that can eliminate the possibility of graduation, the roommate who watches loud sit-coms in the dorm room all night and smokes cigars, the sudden medical maybe-emergencies, the phone calls that begin with a big intake breath and dissolve into sobbing. While the actual physical work of parenting, aside from earning money to help pay for college educations that will cost more than it did to build our house, eases, the mental anguish, worry and intense praying (as in, “I will not worry; I will beg the universe for help instead”) at 3 a.m. rise.
There’s also the astonishing joy intermingled with sadness when, early this morning, I hugged my daughter goodbye so she could get on a bus for 11 hours and land in the beginning of her new life.
I do not know where this leads, if it ever gets easier (“Yes,” cry some friend; “No,” others tell me with somber faces), only that parenting is continually beyond whatever I think it will be.