Last night, after we’d gotten the kids to bed, Mom and Buried and I sat down to talk.
It was the end of a long day and we had things to discuss. Adult things. We were in the middle of it when suddenly – it’s always suddenly – Detective Munch ran out of his bedroom to ask some innocuous question, for probably the 100th time that day.
And I lost my temper.
My response was completely disproportionate to whatever his supposed offense was – curiosity? hunger? I honestly don’t remember what he wanted – and I herded him back to his room.
He was bewildered and upset; he didn’t know why I’d yelled.
I calmed down and tried to explain. The damage had been done, but I needed to make let him know it wasn’t his fault.
I explained that I was tired, and also a little annoyed that he was still awake. I said Mommy and I needed time to talk, about non-fun things that he’s not interested in. He said he didn’t know that, because of course he didn’t!
How could he? Why should he?
He couldn’t. And he definitely shouldn’t.
He doesn’t need to know Dad is frustrated with his job search and Mom is exhausted from being back at work. He doesn’t need to know that money is tight and the rent is too damn high.
He’s 8; he doesn’t need to know any of that.
But kids are intuitive. They pick up a lot, often without understanding it. They know Dad’s grumpy even if they don’t know why. It’s inevitable. You just have to make sure your stress doesn’t trickle down, that they don’t think they’re to blame.
The best parents aren’t ones who never struggle. Those parents don’t exist; they only lie and pretend, usually online. The best parents are those who admit they make mistakes, admit it’s hard, and keep trying. They find a way to be there for their kids, even under the pressures of real life, adult stuff.
I had a great childhood. I don’t recall my parents being stressed out by anything (besides me and my brothers). But that doesn’t mean they weren’t. Of course they were! We all are! Real life is rough, and they managed to shield us from it as long as they could. To let us be kids.
That’s what I’m trying, and failing, to do. Because once you’re an adult, you quickly realize how precious that carefree time is.
I don’t want to spoil it for my kids.
(This post originally appeared on my Instagram page.)