Monday, April 6, 2009


Over the weekend my cousin gave a shot-out to my blog via her facebook status which read, “I’ll never have kids if I keep reading my cousin’s blog.” I thought this was great. In fact, I consider what the kids and I provide as a valuable service to my not-yet-parent friends. The effect of an afternoon with us is something akin to that of the Scared Straight program in which troubled teens get sent to juvi boot camp to get a taste of what life in the clink is really like. In the case of Scared Straight, the experience serves, one would hope, as a deterrent. In our case, it’s about managing expectations.

Since I was the very first of my friends to have kids (having two kids under 30 in Park Slope is basically babies having babies), I didn’t know what the hell I was doing or what the hell it would be like. I sort of thought the whole pregnancy and childbirth would be a cross between She’s Having a Baby and Nine Months and I guessed that when I had the kid, it would be like a Pampers commercial with some Full House thrown in. I am not an idiot. I just hadn’t spent time with people rearing young children. Well, let me qualify. I taught at day cares and summer camps and tutored kids and was an instructor at clown class. In fact, I’ve always sought out the small fries because they are smart and unsullied and inquisitive and open to joy. We understand each other. 

But –- spoiler alert -- teaching clown class is not the same as being a parent. I have been dwarfed by the sheer weight of the worry, the guilt, the pain I feel when they are ill or unhappy (pretty much a default setting at 2 and 4 years old). I have been ravaged by the sleeplessness which never seems to end, shocked and discouraged by the limitations of my patience and energy and generosity, enraged at how willing the kids are to bring me to my limits. I am often estranged from my husband. I blame him for things that aren’t his fault because there’s no one else to blame. To say parenting is hard is almost an insult. Driving a stick shift is hard. Parenting is impossible.

But, if you were to spend an afternoon with us, this wouldn’t be your takeaway. (Or at least, I hope not, for the sake of perpetuating the human species). Because you couldn’t help but discern, and quite powerfully, I think, that these children are a blessing which words cannot encompass. And I don’t mean “blessing” in the vague sense of something really cool or neat or nice. I mean, I get down on my old-before-their-time, broken-down knees and I thank God Almighty for the gift of these children, a gift I could never deserve.

My son told me last night that he loves me more than the sky. He called me into his room before he went to sleep and he said, “I am full of so much love, Mommy. I am so full of love, I love you more than the sky.” Then he went to sleep curled up in a ball with his blanket tangled around him and his sister slept in the crib beside him, with her wispy hair in her eyes and smelling of citrus, and both of their chests rose and fell, rose and fell and I actually thought I would have a heart attack if the good feeling didn’t dissipate. So much love, indeed.

So to all the non-parents out there, let me dissuade you from believing people like my cousin’s friends who replied to her facebook post, “OH NO! Don’t listen to her! Having kids is great! We travel, we go out ouce a week, we have so much fun!!!!!!!!”

First of all, dear readers, never take the advice of anyone who uses more than one exclamation point, unless it is me quoting my children, or they are being sarcastic.

Here’s the point. Parenting is not “fun,” and you don’t “still” do anything the way you used to do it. But it has the very real possibly of bringing your life into Technicolor.

Before this adventure of motherhood, I had fun galore, I traveled a ton, I was a happy, fulfilled woman with a career and friends and a soul mate. But looking back, it feels like I was all in sepia. I have never laughed so hard, or cried so hard, or prayed so hard or felt so fully at peace. If that deters you from having kids, well, at least you’ve been fully informed.