Monday, October 23, 2023

The value of selective memory in parenting

I was on Twitter ("X," whatever) recently and came across this tweet from a young woman named Emily whose content I always find engaging and thought provoking. This is what she said:

"ok do neurotypical parents not find a toddler saying “MAMA!!!!! PICK UP!!!” ten thousand times overstimulating???what if there’s a baby crying at the same time? and you’re also hungry? And Bluey is blaring in the background? are some people feeling totally calm in this scenario?"

Most who commented on the tweet said exactly what I wanted to say: "Oh gosh, believe me, you're not alone. Every parent feels like that. It comes with the territory and is absolutely normal. Trust me, Emily, you're doing great!"

There was one comment from a mom of five who said that, in those situations, rather than stressing out, she revels in the chaos and is always calm. It may have been a well-intended response, but it came across as a little self-righteous. We parents of larger families are sometimes really good at saying unhelpful things like this, and as a rule, it's usually best simply to ignore us.

Anyway, Emily's plight reminded me how parents are so adept at filtering out the bad parts of parenting and retaining only the good stuff in their memories. Terry and I had plenty of times when the whole experience of raising offspring seemed impossible and we cursed our combined fertility.

Parenting is hard. It's supposed to be hard. You're charged with caring for these small, helpless creatures and keeping them alive while trying to mold them into civilized human beings. There is nothing easy about that, and being overwhelmed is just about the most natural reaction I can think of.

It is, in some ways, remarkable that anyone ever chooses to have a second child. The drain of raising just one rugrat is enough to make any sane person swear off the whole experience.

Yet we do it all the time. Mothers who endure pregnancy and birth routinely opt to do it again. And again. And in cases like my wife, throw in a couple more "agains."

The only explanation for this is that the rewards of parenting far outweigh the frustrations. And by that I mean the long-term rewards, because there will be stretches in your parenting journey in the midst of which it will be difficult to rationalize why you got yourself into it all in the first place.

The only thing I can say to young parents is something they already know, at least in their logical brains, which is that eventually it gets somewhat easier. And the little ones really do grow up. And somehow, perhaps unbelievably, there will come a day when you miss the chaos.

That includes you, Emily. Even if you don't realize it, those three kids are incredibly blessed to have you as a mom.

(NOTE: Today is my daughter Chloe's birthday. She is somehow 27 years old and still one of the most amazing people I know. Happy birthday to our second-born!)

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