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Joan Rivers Taught Me the Two Things I Need to Survive Parenthood

A Lesson on Parenting from Joan Rivers

Update: Joan Rivers died September 4, 2014, at the age of 81. Our hearts go out to her friends and family.

“My mom is a typical mother.” — Joan Rivers’ daughter, Melissa

I have been a complete wreck for the last few weeks. I’m usually practical about many things, but for whatever reason I allowed my anxiety about my son starting kindergarten to take over my brain.

My friends have put up with a lot and to their credit, not a single one of them shook me by my shoulders and told me to cut it out. There was no slap to the cheek like Cher in Moonstruck, no Joan Rivers’ style tug at my elbow with a, “Can we talk?

Perhaps there should have been!

Being the parent of a 5-year-old requires tough, thick skin. When it comes to helping people develop thick skin, Joan Rivers practically taught the Master Class. Rivers’ biting and intelligent humor has been legendary for decades, but it is her policing of the fashion on the red carpet most of us associate her with.

On August 28th, the 81-year-old comedian was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital after she stopped breathing during a minor throat procedure. After spending days in the ICU on life support, her daughter, Melissa Rivers, just confirmed today that her mother was “moved out of intensive care and into a private room where she is being kept comfortable.”

In an in-depth New York Magazine interview, Jonathan Van Meter was able to reveal a side of Rivers many have never seen:

“One of the great misconceptions about Rivers is that she is mean-spirited and heartless — that there is nothing more to her than her comedy or her red-carpet patter. To the celebrities who are on the receiving end of some of her sharpest material she can seem cruel, but as a civilian she is surprisingly sensitive, someone who cries as easily as she laughs.”

I’ve watched and chuckled at Rivers’ red carpet commentary for years and have always been amazed by the armor and thick skin of those with the mic thrust upon them. This kind of “roll with it” mentality is something that would certainly serve parents well.

Change is not something I court or crave, but I need to adapt in order to develop tough skin. When things are consistent and routine, I am so happy and calm. This is great to know about myself, but pretty crummy in terms of dealing with being a parent when every day is different and new. The school lunch I perfected making on Monday is not welcome on Tuesday. The trick that got my son to nap over the weekend never worked again. His favorite color changes daily, his favorite snack changes weekly, and snuggle time has infinite variables.

Parenting is non-stop change and adaptation and tripping up and blurting out and brutal honesty. The thicker your skin, the smoother it may be to stave off chaos.

You know what Joan Rivers says about the chaos? “If you laugh at it, you can deal with it.”

This is what she has done. This is what she helps others do. This is why when my son walked into the kitchen and saw me packing up his lunch and then exclaimed, “GRAPES?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? UGGGHHHH!” I laughed. I laughed pretty hard.

Our thoughts are with Joan and her family.

Image Credit: Joan Rivers’ Instagram

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