Parenting

Parents, you have it so good right now

After reading Rob Lowe's tear-inducing Slate article on sending his son off to college, a middle years mom wants new parents to know how good they've got it.

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Photo: iStockphoto

Parents, you have it so good right now. You might not know it yet, but you do.

Maybe you’re mired in poop and spit-up, living in a sleepless haze of ponytails and yoga pants and not knowing where you end and the baby begins. You spend what little free time you have on blogs or Googling diaper rashes and vaccines or binge-watching Game of Thrones when you should be doing laundry or sleeping.

Perhaps you are laying awake after being woken at some ungodly hour and stressing about using jarred baby food vs. homemade organic. Or you gave up on breastfeeding and you’re not sure if you did the right thing, and OMG does this mean my kid will have allergies? You really don’t want to pick those Cheerios up off the floor again. The game of throwing them off the high chair was cute for a minute, but COME ON!

Maybe you’re exhausted from chasing a toddler, feeling like you’re on a constant suicide watch for a human who feels no fear and is constantly putting himself in harm’s way. You can’t imagine yet another day of Thomas and Friends on repeat and knowing the difference between Thomas and Percy and Henry, or that you prefer Ringo Starr’s narration to George Carlin’s, but not as much as you love Alec Baldwin’s version. (Though it really depends on the day.)

You could be dealing with a serious princess phase and you’re wondering if this is affecting your daughter’s self-image. Will she grow up and always be on a “diet” like you were? Is it Cinderella’s fault? You’ve been made to watch The Little Mermaid 18 times in a single weekend involving the stomach flu, and you find yourself saying, “Yes, Ariel’s pretty and has a nice voice, but do you think it was smart of her to change her body for a man?” Or the Frozen soundtrack has been on repeat so many times that you find yourself singing it when the kids aren’t even around. Goddammit why can’t I just “let it go”?

Confession: All the above thoughts have gone through my own head. All the experiences listed happened to me (except it wasn’t Game of Thrones, it was The Hills—judge away).

The other night I posted the following on Facebook: He’s nine so I still crawl in with him sometimes, only for a few minutes of whispers and snuggles, because a faint odour has started under his arms (his most ticklish spot) and peach fuzz has sprouted on his upper lip and soon I will not be allowed to crawl in next to the hulking bit of man-boy he will become. 

Waking up 90 minutes later with a sore hip and his arm around my neck is a delicious feeling I will miss deeply and far too soon.

Because OMG he’s growing up and it’s all going so fast and soon he won’t want me to hold him! Will it be all texting (or worse! Sexting!) and house parties with a 1000 people and door slamming and missing curfew?

I was told it would go so fast. We’re all told that from the moment we conceive or adopt and announce that lo, we shall be parents. But the speed at which time flies when a small human is introduced into your life is not something that can be gauged until, well, it actually happens to you.

As soon as I posted that little private moment on Facebook, I got a great comment from my friend Erica. “My three-year-old son insisted on wearing his Hot Wheels underwear backwards today so he could see the car. Seems they change fast and I should appreciate these moments. Thanks Nadine.” And then what I did for Erica, Rob Lowe did for me.

Slate published an adapted excerpt of Rob Lowe’s memoir, Love Life, and it was soon shared, oh, 22,000 times on Facebook, so chances are you may have seen it. If not, go read it now (bring tissues!), I’ll wait here.

There are so many sweet diamonds in Lowe’s post about his eldest son Matthew going off to college and leaving the nest. A dad admitting that he spent the days leading up to the inevitable departure crying his eyes out, well that’s not something we read everyday, and coming from a big star it feels all the more revealing.

As he describes Matthew saying goodbye to his younger brother, Johnowen, Lowe says, “I am a boy again as I wonder: What will become of my two closest friends?”

Parents-to-be, parents of newborns and toddlers—there is beauty on the horizon. There is a point when you realize you’ve created the exact humans you’ve always wanted to hang out with. They are funny and they get your jokes. They think you are the greatest “cooker” of all time. They don’t need anything wiped (tears, faces, butts) as often. You don’t spend your days trying to coordinate around naptime (OK, the big kid version of naptime is swimming lessons, but stay with me). You can leave the house with little more than your keys and wallet and you will all survive.

In return you get to explore the world together and define that world on your own terms. The world doesn’t have to be much bigger than your own backyard (though it helps to know that there’s more out there beyond the fence). I remember listening to a nurse at an Ontario Early Years drop-in say, “Right now you are putting money in the bank. You are investing and not seeing much return on that investment. But after the first year it will start to pay off.” The parent-child relationship isn’t a blue-chip stock, but a bond that matures slowly over time. You will reap the dividends in spades, new parents. First a smile, then a “Dada,” followed by an “I love you,” and eventually, “I depend on you. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.” (Which was whispered to me last night.) Don’t be so hasty and wish away the small years. It’s two decades of dedicated service, really. Your end goal as a parent, if you do it right, is loss.
In my favourite part of the Slate piece, Rob Lowe writes,

I’m surprised at how little we say to each other, and how good that feels. There is nothing we are withholding and I know that our ‘being current’ with each other, as the shrinks would say, is a result of years spent in each other’s company. Not just dinner or good-nights or drop-offs; it’s time coaching his teams, being in the stands, on fishing boats, in the water surfing or diving, watching stupid television, being home on nights when he is with his friends and talking smack with them, standing up to and getting in the face of teachers, parents, other kids or anyone who so much as thought about treating him badly.

We put in the time together; we built this thing we have of com­fort and love. And now, as we both prepare to let go of each other, it is paying off.

There is beauty on my horizon, too. The impending teenagerhood is not all one big kiss-off to mom and dad (as my friends with older kids were quick to point out). There are many years to savour before anyone leaves home to (hopefully) go off to college or university. I have it so good right now, and so do you.
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