As I move along this lovely, sometimes tumultuous path we call "parenting" it strikes me how much of what I do lives in a world of opposites. How so much of it co-exists together, sometimes in harmony, oftentimes not, but co-exists nonetheless. This is the Yin and Yang of parenting. Allow me to explain. First, it starts off with the idea that you have been entrusted this tiny little bundle of joy and it is YOUR responsibility to keep them safe. And that's what you want to do, you'd LOVE to keep them safe. But guess what? You're not going to be able to. You're going to have to send them out into the world alone some day. And there will be broken hearts, and hurt feelings, and skinned knees, and boys that just got their drivers licenses that want to take your daughter someplace, and parties, and beer, and dorm rooms, and OH MY GOD SO MUCH STUFF. All that stuff that happened to you, it's going to happen to them. Who KNOWS what will happen. But as much as you want to keep them in a little bubble filled with goldfish crackers and Angelina Ballerina, you will have to let them go. You will at once want to fiercely protect them with every fiber of your being but will have to let them go. And sometimes, make them go (usually to school).
It's also true for how you feel you are doing as a parent. Some days I'm feeding the kids organic smoothies packed with kale and wheatgrass (and they actually ingest them without force) and we are on time to EVERYTHING and they are clean and polite and are wearing clothing with no stains on it and I think to myself "Man, I have got this parenting thing down!" Then, there are other days. Days where I am standing in the middle of Target with a toddler doing the stiff legged full on laying on the floor tantrum, a child with a portion of their hair matted together from the ice pop that dripped on it the night before (I think it was the night before) and I am pretty certain if I don't have a ginormous iced coffee in .2 seconds I will just abandon ship and go huddle in a corner of the ladies room looking at photos of puppies on Instagram on my iPhone thinking to myself "WHAT AM I DOING?!". Those days. Those days happen to the same person. To the same mom. To me.
Vacations away from the kids are a great Yin and Yang example. Even if it's just a day or two, once you know you are going you are like YES! I get to escape! This is my time! A countdown clock starts and you tick off the days till your departure. You laugh in the face of dirty diapers or sibling squabbles because soon you will be sans children. You plan what books you're going to read, what meals you're going eat, just how long you will sleep. Maybe you'll take a bath AND read a book at the same time, then eat, THEN SLEEP! It will be the most incredible, refreshing, relaxing time in your life. Until you leave. And you realize you miss the kids. And that's all you talk about for the beginning part of the trip. You find yourself noticing things during the course of the trip that the kids would just love doing and maybe you should just bring them along next time, right?
That's the big Yin and Yang of parenting for me. I want to spend as much time with the kids as I can, I love them more than anything in the whole world. And yet, I need a break too sometimes. I need quiet. I need to get work done. I need to put laundry away and just have a second to think. And when I have that time, I still think of them. You can have one of those hellish days where everyone is just in a rank mood. No food is palatable, no distraction is worthy, you just slog through the day till you finally arrive, on your knees, to the motherland...BEDTIME. And even THAT is a hurdle to overcome some nights. Get those teeth brushed, go potty, get pajamas on, go potty again, get a drink of water, okay try to go potty one last time, read books, check for monsters, read one more book, answer about sixty five questions pertaining to the story in said book, kiss foreheads, NOW GO TO SLEEP.
You slump in your own bed, wishing there was a small fridge in your bedroom that held only perfectly chilled wine, and in that one moment of release you miss those kids. You have that little tug of missing them, but also feeling happy they are snug in their beds.
Maybe the ultimate Yin and Yang is sending them off to college. Here you are, wiping butts and packing lunches, brushing out knotty hair and making birthday cupcakes, telling them to do their homework/put on a hat/brush their teeth/take their vitamins/don't ride on the backs of motorcycles, driving them ALL OVER THE PLACE, shelling out for their every need, worrying endlessly about them, exhausting yourself to do what they need you to do for YEARS, and then one day, they just move out. Poof, they spread their little wings and fly off to start their own lives, still not totally appreciative of all the work you have put into making them human beings. It's a give, and it's a take.
And a week from today, as I put my daughter on the bus for the first day of kindergarten, and wave goodbye to Finn for the first day of second grade, I will be SO excited for them to start this new year. I will be so happy to have a somewhat quiet house back during the day and will be beyond thrilled to not have to be the Entertainment Director every single day of the week. Part of me will be like THANK GOD THEY ARE IN SCHOOL AGAIN HOW DID I GET THROUGH THE SUMMER?! But I will also cry. I will wait till the bus pulls away so they can't see me. I will walk in through the garage door, close it behind me, and dissolve into tears. It might be brief, but it might be a little long. Because my little girl lost her first tooth and is growing up too fast. And my big boy is already in second grade. And my baby is no longer a baby anymore. And I will miss them when they leave.