When Parenthood Keeps you up at Night

Staring out from the garage side door at the moonlit clouds in the night sky, relief flooded my body. My garage also houses the home gym so some of this relief was attributed to the rush of endorphins released from a good workout. But the rest is because my seven year old was finally able to get a reprieve from his coughing and fall asleep. It was almost midnight, and I was determined to get a workout in that i had been putting off all day.

A quick lesson for folks who aren't yet parents: There is a high probability that your child or children will become afflicted with some annual chronic sickness that resists all efforts known to humankind to be eradicated. This annoyance will keep you up at night (and them,) and will disappear without any good reason, just the way it showed up. Hopefully a passing illness is all it ever turns out to be.

This is a personal revelation, but it leads me to my next thought: Why do people always tell parents to find time for ourselves? The truth is, even after they are out of diapers, your 'self' takes a back burner to whatever cough, lice outbreak, forgotten lunch or potty accident comes up.

This much I know:

-When my child has a dry winter cough that comes like clockwork every November, it will inevitably end with a crescendo of coughing and a finale where he blows chunks of phlegm and whatever he ate for dinner all over his down comforter, his stuffed animals and of course, himself.

-That if you've been doing this for any length of time, you'll mildly curse the fact that you'll be doing laundry at whatever time it is (usually between 11pm and 2 am) but be counting your blessings that this finale probably means this winter's cough is finally coming to an end.

-You will be grateful this wasn't something worse, knowing there are far too many kids with heartbreaking ailments that will shorten or dramatically alter their lives. You will be grateful for this with the same relief you might feel had the child just survived a real brush with death.

-If you are a stay-at-home Dad with a girl in the household, you will eventually learn how to apply makeup and braid hair (the jury is still out on braiding hair, and for the record, the makeup artist received compliments for his work. ) You will do this even when you find the smell of makeup nauseating; and you will smile and complement her on how beautiful she is the whole time.

-Canned fruit = a year-round vegetable substitute (hold the syrup) and...

-Roasted yams will always be eaten when sprinkled with a dash of brown sugar and cinnamon and...

-"Greens" is a dirty word few young children dare to speak.

I also know that I watch out for my kids like a hawk and that when they are out of my sight for a few seconds my heart rate starts to go up. That I will hold their hands in public every chance I get and even when they are teenagers I will be paranoid enough to insist they stay close enough for me to spot them.

The truth is the 'self' is the last thing on most parent's minds when their child is sick, scared, hurt or hungry. We are undeniably intertwined with our kids and would gladly put aside everything we have ever wanted or dreamed about for their happiness and well-being.

This doesn't apply solely to the perfect parents of the world, either. Even if they are only a fantasy. For all those parents who think they yell, snap or nag too much; or who feel they don't spend enough time with their kids because of work or school, take heart. With some exceptions, all those emotions or time spent at work only confirm the fact that your kids mean everything to you.

For every time you've shouted because the kids won't stop bickering, or become upset because you joked to your little one that you wanted a cup of coffee and she took you literally (breaking the coffee carafe,) know this: You're not alone. Detestable behavior aside, sometimes standing your ground and continuing to try is enough to qualify you as a good parent.

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