Surviving the Little Years

I wrote this post when my son was six months old, but it’s still a good reminder now that he’s three. The reason for the screaming may be different, but the emotions are very similar.

Having a baby does things to the relationship with your partner that are both good and bad. There are some magical moments. There are also some really awful ones. A couple of nights ago there was a heated discussion that led to a really good conversation. It really made me think about why I was so angry about his response to my feelings. This post is sort of the end result. Its a little raw, but in staying true to my motto of keeping it honest, would you expect anything less?

“This too, shall pass.”

Four little words that can be used for so many situations. But that time when your friend is up to her neck in screaming infant and running amuck toddler is NOT one of those situations. It’s falling on deaf ears. Mostly deaf from the screaming infant. But not hearing you is the point I’m trying to make. So many of us say this, it’s almost an immediate reaction to when a friend or family member is going through a rough patch in life. Sometimes we say it out of genuine encouragement, other times we say it as a quick way to change the subject because we don’t actually know how to respond to their cries for help.

One of my favorite movie scenes ever is from Garden State. Zach Braff and Natalie Portman have just met and in Braff’s brilliant way of creating moments out of awkward, Portman’s character turns to Braff’s and sees the depth of his feelings in that moment and says “You’re in it, aren’t you?” I remember this scene often as a parent of an infant. That scene had a huge impact on me as a barely twenty-something, but I’ve understood it differently at different times in my life. Back then it was a deep and brooding understanding of experiencing life and death and change. Now, being a stay at home parent, it takes on a whole new meaning.

You’re in it, aren’t you?

There are many, many days when I look and the mirror and ask, you’re in it, aren’t you? You’re living every single moment from one breath to the next. And in one moment it can be so freaking hard to see the next, very different (maybe better, maybe not) moment up ahead. The point is you’re so in it that nothing else can be seen or heard or spoken. The sound of your baby crying in your ear while you hold them is deafening. The frustration of getting them to do what you know they need, but won’t, is mind-numbing. And for every well-intentioned person in your life who wants to tell you, “This too shall pass” in hopes of making you feel better, it doesn’t. Not ever. Not once has that phrase made us feel better when we’re knee deep (or neck deep) “in it.” And as soon as I experienced it myself, I stopped saying it to those I love too.

Sometimes its just hard. Sometimes it just sucks. And sometimes we need to stand on a hill and scream it at the top of our lungs because that is all there is left to do. Or lock ourselves in the bathroom with the Cadbury Mini Eggs. Sometimes that works too.

Furthermore, and probably what cuts the deepest, is that sometimes when someone says those dreaded words, “it won’t always be like this” or “this too shall pass” or “this is just a season” is that it implies that we don’t know that and/or need to be reminded, and if we’re just reminded then that will change our perspective on the immediate situation. I can tell you right now from experience, it doesn’t.

Later on, when the screaming has stopped, when they’re finally asleep, when they’re smiling and happy once again, then and only then can we grasp the concept that whatever has caused us great pain and frustration will and must eventually come to an end.

So the next time your friend or family member, who’s a mom, is venting because she’s “in it” and you say, “hang in there, it won’t last forever” and she responds with a despondent “I know”? It’s really because we actually do know, except we really can’t hear it at that moment. We’re not venting because we’ve lost perspective. It’s quite the opposite actually. We feel like we have enough perspective to last us a lifetime at this point. We’re venting because we need release. We need listening ears. We need someone who will say, “I know, I remember, it sucked, it makes you question everything.”

You’re not the only one.

These days what we show others of parenting is often done on social media. Gummy smiles on Instagram (guilty), funny stories of parenthood as our Facebook status (guilty). But sometimes its a very false impression of what our life is really like as parents. Not every single day is great. Not every single day is bad, either. Don’t be afraid to talk about the not-so-perfect days. Others may need to hear your experiences to know they’re not the only ones.

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