There have been a lot of moments in parenthood when I stop and and say to myself, I shouldn’t have done that. Parenthood is tough especially when I don’t even know how to be an adult most days. The scary thing about parenthood though is more than half the time, I’m just winging it. Raising children is really just one long laundry list of trials and errors and sometimes those errors really bite me in the ass. I’m regretting my decision to show you the movie Home Alone because for reasons unbeknownst to me, you are deeply moved by the Kevin McCallister character and this is not boding well for me. You are inspired by this character and in your eyes, he is a God. You saunter around the house with anything that even remotely looks like a rifle and have resorted to calling your father and myself a cheapskate. It was wonderfully humiliating this past holiday season when you greeted everyone with a, Merry Christmas ya’ filthy animal. I don’t know if it’s you reciting the dialogue or the scene reenactments or some combination of both but you’re starting to look like him now and that’s downright concerning. I’m really terrified how far you plan to take this Home Alone obsession. I’m beginning to walk upstairs with a twitch for fear that you’ve somehow rigged the house and a paint can is going to come flying at me. I can already feel my anxiety levels rising.
Despite your love towards a demon child who was left behind by his family and was forced to go it alone against a savage world, you’ve also taken notice of another person who brings me hope that maybe you’re not psychotic. Your class discussed Martin Luther King Jr., quite a bit last week and it was refreshing to hear less talk about wishing their family would disappear and more talk about what it means to be a good person. Every day after school, you would eagerly share with me all the new facts you learned about “Dr. Marfin Lufer King Jr.” You went on and on about how he changed the rules and allowed all kids of all colors to stay together at one school. After telling me all the stories you heard, you would immediately start drawing him and believe me when I tell you, you were very concerned how he was depicted in your art. I found sheets and sheets of paper of attempted MLK portraits and when I asked you what was wrong with them, you told me you didn’t like how his hair looked. Sure, that was MLK’s striking feature.
You’re well into your basketball season and I think it has been a very humbling experience for you thus far. Compared to baseball which you picked up right away, basketball is a lot more challenging for you. Granted, you haven’t had a lot of experience and your short stature certainly doesn’t help things. You’re definitely not the aggressor on the team and instead observe out of fear of having the whistle blown at you by the referee. You are still incredibly fast though and understand hustle which will take you far. You’re also starting to understand the importance of assisting, often finding the one person on the team with amazing aim and making sure he gets the ball. You’re very timid during the games, which is surprising given how aggressive you are with other sports but I can also see you observing and processing what is happening in front of you. You have an awesome coach who does a tremendous job at teaching you and your teammates about the sport and you seem to be genuinely interested and not just for the snack afterwards. It’s really all I could ask for out of youth sports. I mean, come on, we both know you’ll probably top out around 5’6″ anyway.
This past Christmas, I had the pleasure of giving you the bug book I had been working on since last spring. You are terrified of bugs. Not just, eww a bug but HELP! HELP! THERE IS A GNAT IN THE CAR, AHHHHHH! I have actually witnessed you rip off a shirt at a public park and run away with arms flailing in the air because a ladybug landed on you. We had a problem. Despite countless talks and reassurances that the bugs won’t hurt you, you were still debilitated by your fear. I promised you that I would make a book, telling the story of a bug who wasn’t scary at all. In fact, this bug was just like you and enjoyed all the same things that you do. I know the book would never rid you of your fear entirely but if it could take the edge off and maybe associate a happy thought with a bug, then we’re heading in the right direction.
I never intended the project to take as long as it did or maybe I was just naive in understanding how much work was involved. You enjoy books that rhyme so I took this into account when I wrote it as well and made sure to include all of your favorite things including a stuffed animal, baseball and of course, soft serve ice cream. I spent a lot of evenings working on it and with the help of your dad, was able to digitize all my prints and upload them to an online publishing service called Blurb who then produced the book. I really never anticipated it taking seven months so when the project finally was completed right before Christmas, I decided just to give it to you as a Christmas gift. It wasn’t until you unwrapped it and asked me to read it to you that the importance of this project really hit me. It was truly special reading to you a book that was made specifically for you and the weight of that really brought tears to my eyes. I even included pages in the back of the book for you to draw your own bug and watching you trying to replicate the bug in the book is really awesome to see. How authors and illustrators crank out books is something I’ll never understand because my goodness, that took a lot of creative juice and the addition of a few more grey hairs. I’m thinking Olivia probably won’t be getting a book of her own. At least not until I forget how much work I put into it. My memory sucks so that will probably be next month sometime.
Parenting has been exhausting lately and not for the reasons you would expect: driving you around to all the extracurricular activities, sleepless nights, sibling rivalry. There’s a mental fatigue that I’m experiencing that is very different from the exhaustion you feel with a newborn or even a toddler. As you and your sister get older, your vocabulary, personal relationships, problems, all become a little more sophisticated and complicated. You no longer act defiant because you’re a two year old who needs a nap. There are times you’re defiant because you can and you enjoy finding reasons to be angry with me. You know my answer is no to certain things and yet, you ask them after school because you have an audience and for you, it’s enjoyable to throw fits and watch me attempt to be a responsible adult in front of other parents who are judging me at that moment.
You test me constantly and that is exhausting. I can’t ignore you because you have no shame and will turn on the theatrics if anyone is within earshot. I am not an overly social person but you are and this creates some conflict when you ask eight of your friends if they can come to your house after school without asking me first and I have to explain to them why they cannot while you stomp off screaming at me, YOU ALWAYS SAY NO BECAUSE YOU THINK I’LL BRING GUNS!! Not only are you a vivid storyteller but you’re also a compulsive liar. We really should take our show on the road. I have never been more tired nor have I ever questioned my ability to raise you and your sister responsibly more than I do now. There are moments when I think, oh my goodness, my children hate me. I’m raising two humans who truly hate me and I still have to feed them and love them unconditionally. The crazy thing, no matter how much we fight, the amount of crap I take from you and your sister, I do love you unconditionally and for someone like myself who likes to hold a good grudge, that is surprising.
Parenthood is hard. It’s not just dealing with tantrums and overly tired babies. A parent has to help these tiny sociopaths understand these emotions that they can’t make sense of on their own and I have to somehow teach you how to cope while taking the brunt of what you’re vomiting at me. I don’t remember seeing any of this in the congratulatory pamphlets distributed by my OB/GYN. Perhaps this is common knowledge veteran parents don’t speak of for fear that nobody will have a child again or because it’s fun to watch new parents squirm. Yes, experiencing this now with you, I will find pure joy in watching you experience it with your own offspring. I plan to sit front row with a giant bottle of wine and a fun straw because that will be revenge served on it’s finest dish.