I’m sitting in the park watching my 4-year-old son running joyously around on the grass, the glow on a face nearly cracked in half by an infectious grin, causing my own face to split into a smile. He runs up several times to kiss me for no reason and tell me he loves me, and I congratulate myself on raising such a beautiful child.
I am clearly an amazing parent.
Ten minutes later he is face-down on the grass, screaming as I attempt to cajole him to the car so we can head home and I can get started making dinner. His dinner. People are looking. His arms flail wildly and one hand accidentally smacks my cheek bone. My instant reaction to being struck in the face is anger.
“We are leaving. Now!” I pick him up and haul him to the car as my other two children trail behind in awe. When we get to the car, I load my son forcibly into his car seat.
“I HATE YOU!” he shouts while crossing his arms over his little chest, then sticks out his lower lip so far nearby pigeons consider landing on it.
This is parenting. It’s having your children completely fill up your soul with pure love because they are the most life-fulfilling, wondrous things that ever happened to you. And then within minutes — seconds even — you absolutely want to die, you cannot take another second, and you can’t fathom how you made it through the day, let alone do it day after day. You want to tear your ears from your head and punch yourself in the face until you pass out because it’s all so hard, this parenting thing.
It’s OK to feel like that. We all feel like that a lot of the time. Parenting is insanely difficult on every level. What I’m finally realizing is that those low moments are important. Learning how to respond to someone in the heat of the moment, when something is immensely challenging, is when we truly define who we are and teach our children to face life with equanimity and grace. And, just like life, we need those lows to appreciate those sweet parenting highs, because it’s those moments that show us a measure of how successful we are at guiding these little people through life.
It’s OK if you borderline dislike your own children sometimes. It’s completely natural to feel that way when someone smacks your face and tells you that they hate you. And seriously, how can you like someone who just pooped on your carpet and won’t let you enjoy your dinner for three minutes after a long day of work and kid-wrangling?
Go with the flow. Do your best. In the end, they won’t remember us losing it on them every now and again during park play or dinnertime, what they will remember is you taking them to the park in the first place and you cooking them that dinner that they hated.