Every night at dinner (well, we try to do it every night), the family goes around the table and run through our “peaks and pits.” (Except The Hammer. He mostly screams.)
We each share the best part and worst parts of our day. It’s mostly a ploy to get our 6-year-old to talk to us, but it’s become an interesting exercise for Mom and Buried and I as well. I’ve learned that no matter how well or how poorly my day went at work, or with my fantasy team, or even with my wife, it’s almost always the interactions with my kids that make up the best and worst moments of my day.
It’s kind of astonishing how your children are so frequently responsible for both your highest highs and lowest lows.
I’m a big proponent of not letting your kids dominate your life.
But even if you’re able to manage a healthy balance between your pre-parent personality and lifestyle and your mom- or dad-based life, once you have children, they’re always on your mind. There’s literally no part of my day on which thoughts of my kids don’t intrude. Just last week I was walking to a bar and I saw a cement mixer on the street. I don’t give AF about cement mixers but my kids do, and even though neither of them were around to see, I got excited. I was all, “Look! A cement mixer!”
Did I mention that I was all by myself?
Sometimes that can be frustrating, especially if you feel like you’re drowning, and sometimes it can be exhilarating and fulfilling, especially when you feel like it gives you purpose. But it’s always something. Often, it’s both things, one after another.
One minute, Detective Munch does something shitty and suddenly I’m scolding him and making him feel bad for doing something that he should know better than to do at his age, and I’m making myself feel bad by doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing as a parent except it requires being “mean” to my kid, and I also feel bad because if he’s still doing shitty things that he should know better than to do, then I’ve clearly done something wrong as a parent.
The frequent need to be the bad guy and the constant insecurity of being a bad parent can really bring you down and ruin your whole day.
Then, later when we’re at the park and some boys start picking on the little girl Detective Munch is playing with and he stands up for her and tells them to stop making fun of his friend just because she’s a girl and suddenly my heart is full and I’m feeling great, not necessarily like the world’s greatest parent but at least reassured that I’ve been doing something right.
It’s like watching a horse race that’s coming down to the wire, with your heart palpitating the entire time as your horse captures and loses and captures and loses the lead over and over, except the race lasts your entire life.It’s hard not to react in the moment even though you know the stretch run is still to come. You can’t help feeling every bump and every break as it happens.
This is one of the reasons I am all for parents diversifying our lives as much as we can, and having things we care about besides our children. Parenting refocuses all your anxiety and energy and stress on your children, it makes sense to have something else on which to offload some of the emotional dependence! I have a variety of interests and activities: I escape to work, I do some freelance writing, I hang out with my friends, I go to the gym, I play fantasy football and I promise I won’t talk about it. Anymore.
Unfortunately, as beneficial as those things can be, they ultimately fail.
Because for any parent who has their priorities in the right place, parenthood is always going to trump work, hobbies, even friends. There’s no way around it. I’m not sure this is 100% healthy and I know getting used to it can be a challenge, but I also know it’s normal. And it’s impossible to avoid.
So far, at least. Does anyone know how? I feel like I’m going insane!