Parenting Post (Iceberg)! Right Ahead!
So having a kid is like all of a sudden being stranded on a very small island, with a couple of crazy inmates, and maybe one other sane person. Maybe at first, there’s a few others (parents or siblings) to ooh and aah over the baby inmate, but soon enough you’re there with your partner saying “How in the hell are we going to do this? I didn’t even get an instruction manual?” I remember leaving the hospital thinking that I can’t believe they’re letting us go home with this baby; we have NOOO idea what we’re doing. But it’s just the two of you, on the island, figuring shit out, like Tom Hanks in Castaway.
..and maybe there is more than one inmate. And what happens at the island is you have to leave, on a lifeboat, to try and get more supplies, leaving your partner to guard the inmates. And most of us, eventually, have to have the shoe on the other foot and see our partner go out to fish and find supplies on their own lifeboat, while we’re left with the inmates. So we switch off to some degree. Sometimes we all get to be together, but the inmates are always being taken care of. At various times, other shipwrecked sailors wash ashore and help with the inmates so we can both go off to fish or swim, and the inmates learn new knowledge from the sailors. See, it does actually take different types to keep the inmates in check and maybe make them worthwhile citizens one day.
That’s enough of my ham-handed attempt at literary allegory. Like many of you, Holly and I are working parents, which mean we do our best to juggle a rigorous working schedule, that includes travel for both of us, with what is really important: our kids. It’s not easy. We often both feel like we’re carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders, are both unappreciated, and some weeks are literally just trying to hold our personal shit together. The kids take a high priority, which means we will try to get them to swim team, get them three homemade squares a day (can’t like the SAD school lunches), give them the love and support they need, while at the same time being hard-ass enough to make sure they eat their vegetables, do their homework, brush their teeth, wipe their ass, put on clean underwear (yeah, that’s sometimes an issue at our house) and get to bed at a reasonable hour. Parents are like the president: most of us age very rapidly during our tenure.
We need to both rely on each other, as well as rely on others. We moved from a very average school district to an excellent school district (public for both), and I can say that all the teachers did a great job with our kids, the best of their abilities given their situation. We rely on these teachers to play a major role with helping to raise our kids, and they probably don’t get enough credit for what they do. I have a hard time handling two well-behaved kids most Sundays, and they do it every day with 10x as many. Three cheers for the teachers!
We also rely on our parents; the kids’ grandparents, to help when we can’t be there due to work or sometimes social obligations. This is both an important relationship and a great learning opportunity. I remember spending weeks during the summer on my Grandparents’ farm, and as a city boy, it was great. LoudBoy and Birdsnest (our 6 and 8 year old respectively), love spending time with the grandparents (three versions: Holly’s mom, Holly’s Dad and Step-Mom and my parents who are still together) as each brings something different to the table (but they all bring “Da Love” in high volumes, though in different ways there too).
But when you come down to it, you are mostly on an island. And you crave when your partner comes back from their errand on the raft. Our schedules are crazy right now, we’re like two air-traffic controllers trying to make sure the planes don’t crash. “So Monday I’m in Central Midwest City, and have to stay over. Tuesday night you have your entertainment/education class before you leave at 5 am (and return at 8 pm) on Wednesday. Thursday I have to head three hours for an all day deal so I’ll be doing what you did on Tuesday.” Our lives are very much like that, true story. Someone is always there to get kids up, fed, and out the door in the mornings and picked up after school, but is not easy.
While my wife Holly and I can both play any number of roles, on an average week, I’m the engine that keeps the balls in the air – comes with my STEM background. Kids up, fed, lunches – more than my share of day-to-day housework; work, homework, to practice, ready for bed. But what I lack is “softness” such as empathy and sympathy, snuggles and boo-boo kissing. I know how to problem solve, and fix that boo-boo, but empathy from me is like blood from a turnip. So the inmates on the island get different treatments and experiences with each guard, and in the end, the get all the experiences they need to be a productive member of society. Somehow, through good genes, good parenting, good teaching, or some combination of that, both LoudBoy and Birdsnest are both in the upper-90’s in testing, are very sweet, tenacious, behave (most of the time [except with each other]), and are generally great all American kids. We seriously are so blessed with our offspring.
Isn’t that all we’re hoping for at the end of the day anyway? For the inmates to one day move out and us to get off that island we’re trapped on for 18 years? At the same time, when that happens, I expect my heart to ache… while the days run together, the years seem to go by faster and faster… in the blink of an eye you go from diaper changes to tying the tie for senior prom. Hopefully, your co-guard partner still likes you at the end of it all, when you finally get off the island 😉 I know that item is just as important to me as raising two great adults, and in some ways, is more important as your kids will be with you maybe a total of 18-20 years while your spouse will be a part of your island for up to 60-65 (for most of us that’s maxing out). Invest in both (raising kids and raising a good marriage), as they both pay out, but one word of wisdom in growing and maintaining (material) wealth is “Don’t Get Divorced!” [Sometimes mental wealth is a different story though] Peace.