We don’t mean it, but sometimes we think it. Every parent thinks it. Well, probably not exactly that, because that whole “let’s raise geckos instead” thing is a pretty strange way to say it.
But some version of it. Every parent thinks some version of it.
Because parenting is not for wimps.
The breathtaking relief/ecstasy/fist-pumping-thrill when Gregory was born after a precipitous labor that required herculean measures to bring him into the world, including breaking his arm so the midwife could get his shoulder out and free him from Maddie’s body. In that moment, there was nothing more precious to me than the knowledge that we were all safe, and sound, and we had another son, biologically but not emotionally my first.
The moment the OB nurse laid Samuel in my arms, after a similarly harrowing birth in which so very many thing could have gone wrong, but didn’t.
The moment that I got an email I’ve come to call the “Mark Twain” note, in which our oldest, Grant, told me that for all the fight he’d given us and all the moments he treated me as if I were the dumbest rock on the planet, he’d finally come to realize that maybe he should have listened more. That maybe I wasn’t so dumb after all.
The things they built and did and accomplished, the moments of pride in their talents – Claire’s art and Chris’s music and Grant’s fencing and Greg’s building and Samuel’s poetry and Samantha’s singing – all those moments that, if we allow ourselves to remember, every parent can call to mind.
Also like most parents, I have experienced guilt and anguish and crushing defeat beyond anything that I ever thought I could possible endure. My memories are clouded by those moments, and sometimes they block out any thought of happiness.
Gabriel’s death in my arms, twice. Drug problems, angry rages, a brush with the law, looks of contempt. Moments of a child’s depression in which I was crazy with fear that a he or she might seriously consider ending life.
Moments like yesterday, in which I listened from the distance of a business trip to a mom so agonized over hearing words that left her feeling a terrible failure as a parent. Moments in which I barely can put one foot in front of the other to get through the day, hoping that the night would bring sleep undisturbed by anxious, bizarre dreams. Hoping that the next day would bring a new perspective, and new thought, a new breakthrough.
The thing about parenting is there’s no way to get it right. After all these years of parenting, I realize that my own parents, for all their flaws – and they were many, and varied – did the very best they could. Against great odds, including coming to this country with two small children in tow, speaking not a word of the English language, they made a life for themselves and their children and taught us to value learning and thinking and working hard.
Like them, I get things mostly okay. Like them I make mistakes in parenting every day.
Every. Damn. Day.
I don’t turn away from the computer and toward my son when he comes to talk with me about something that – whether I understand it or agree with it or like it, or not – is important, to him. I argue instead of listening. I refute instead of accepting. I yell when in truth I am afraid, sick with worry. I lose opportunities to take seriously my children’s thoughts and feelings. I miss chances to grow closer.
And like my own parents, probably like almost all parents, I keep on loving and trying.
I get up off my ass, dust myself off, and try again.
I keep on doing the best that I can, hoping each moment that I will learn something that makes me a better parent.
And though I might think, “Raising geckos would have been easier,” I don’t mean it, at least not for long.
Because, parenting is not for wimps.
Dr Les Kertay