As a parent I often find myself in a group with other parents. We share horror stories and endure each other’s bragfests, laugh and shake our heads at the new adventures our kids enter into each day. Sometimes, a fellow parent who has kids older than ours listens to our tales, and sagely nods; they’ve seen it before, weathered the storms in the pulsating sea of kids’ emotions and exploits, and they say: “Just wait.”
Or “She’s going to give you trouble.” Or “It gets worse,” or “better,” depending on the snark level of the adviser.
Wait for what? The walls to cave in at the next temper tantrum? My kid’s head to spin at the next outburst? Blood to rain from the heavens, animals to run for the hills, earth to quake and sky to part the next time one of my children tests a limit? What am I waiting for?
In my mind I have seen the dark side taking hold of my children when I’m not looking, or even worse, when I am. Will my kids turn out to be drug addicts? Murderers? Teen parents? Strippers and prostitutes and pimps? Gang bangers? Rapists, arsonists, terrorists, or worse yet, politicians?
Whatever it is, I can guarantee that I am not ready. I was never ready to have children in the first place. I wasn’t ready to become pregnant either of the times I became pregnant. I’m not ready for them to grow up, to experience the things I did, for them to lose one more shred of innocence.
Each day, the sight of my twelve-year-old behemoth of a boy entering the room causes me to stop in my tracks. He is so tall. When did that happen? My daughter, a whisper before ten, resembles me so much that even I marvel at the similarity in photos. The verbal assaults they unleash on each other and sometimes on me ring in my ears; I’ve heard those words before, about thirty years ago, and my blood goes cold. I remember the bad things I’ve done, all the arguing with my parents, the punishments I received. I was not a terrible child, and yet my growing up years were littered with tension. This is going to happen here, too.
These kids have caused me bouts of irrational fear, inordinate amounts of sleeplessness, too many heartbreaks to count, tears, anger, nights of drunkenness, confusion, frustration, sadness, exhaustion, and more than a few gray hairs. What else am I waiting for?
Parenting is hard, y’all. I don’t need people telling me to just wait for more. I know it’s coming. I’m not ready, and I’m scared. I’ve had twelve years of practice, and it is not enough.