The challenge in describing anything (parenthood included) is that you inevitably leave so much out. And what you leave out changes the story, and the more you leave out, the more exclusionary your story becomes. And yet generalization is what humans do to survive. So most of us generalize. And our accounts of daily life become platitudes and bumper stickers because, well, they are basically true.
With parenthood, it’s easiest to focus on the events with clearly defined emotions. Boy crawls into your nap on his own to read a bedtime book? Joy. Boy colors on hardwood floor after countless reminders not to? Frustration. Sharing ice cream as a family? Contentment. Mornings spent hearing 10 no’s for every yes? Spoon out my eyeballs. The picture below? Awesome.
But events don’t exist in a bubble. One day links with another, one emotion with the next, and what results is a confusing swirl of everything. Like neapolitan ice cream if you mix the flavors together, or water colors if you (like Declan) prefer to drag your brush through all of the possible colors before putting it to paper.
One of the hardest parts of growing up is realizing how complex the world is. One of the best parts about being older is realizing that’s it’s okay that what you are experiencing in this moment is not any one thing.
So, this morning…
I heard Declan crying, and I was, like, exhausted disappointment! and then I looked at the clock and it was 6 instead of 5:30 (surprised relief) and I noticed the warmth of the bed and Colleen lying close (comfort). And then it occurred to me, oh, I still have to get up (excited resignation…yes, it’s a thing). So I did. Colleen brought Declan into our room and he chirped my name (serene normality) and took my hand before I’d put my clothes on (annoyed affection) and led me out to the toys we’ve played with hundreds of times (dutiful boredom). He showed me his toy trash truck (fake excitement) and then talked about real trash trucks (anticipated impatience). He asked me to take him outside to see the real trash trucks (actual impatience) that were never going to come (superiority). I told him they were not coming today and that he’d have to wait until tomorrow (nervous anticipation) and then I led him away from the front door as he started crying (smug annoyance mixed with empathy). And then we repeated this scene three or four times (!?!?!?!) before I finally distracted him with crayons and paint brushes (relief & dread) that he eventually threw onto the floor (knowing eye roll) before picking them up when asked (gratitude) and showing me a new brush stroke (pride & awe) that seemed to me to be way advanced for his age (irrational but understandable? vanity). And that was all before breakfast.
So it’s not any one thing. It’s a roller coaster of emotions, with the general trajectory headed–for me anyway–toward joyful exhaustion.