The Dark Side Of Parenting
What The Parenting Books Leave Out
Five years ago, I received one of the greatest gifts any person ever gets - the gift of a child. Every parent will say that the day their child was born was one of the happiest of their lives - and it is the truth. As parents, we take on the amazing role of shaping a child's life. And boy, do we prepare! Carseats, bottles, playpens, high chairs...name it and we have bought it, received it, built it, sanitized it and set it out in wait for baby's arrival. We read books on what to expect while we're expecting, during the first year, during the toddler years.... And all of the information is valuable and pertinent. But it leaves something out. What to expect...from ourselves, when things aren't going as well as we had planned.
No one tells you that when you bring this child home, that there will be times when he or she will drive you to distraction. It is never mentioned that there will be times when you will, indeed, need to walk away...that you will face down a demon within yourself and be challenged to know - and act - when you have reached your limit. We've all cringed at the horrors of child abuse and shaken baby syndrome. The reaction is generally one of disgust - how could anyone be such a monster, do such a horrible thing to a defenseless child? And it is disgusting and horrible...and lurking in the shadows of the happiest homes we know of, even our own. I remember a couple of times when I myself, sleep deprived and edgy, needed to put my crying son into his crib and walk out of the room for a few moments. I needed to clear my head of the frustration I was feeling and approach the situation again from a calmer standpoint. And I realized that this was where it was - that moment that meant life and death for some children. It sounds so terrible - and at first, I thought it meant that I was terrible also. But then, I realized what was actually going on. I was being a parent...a human, feeling parent who had been fortunate to realize that the fact that I was now a mother did not mean that I had inherited a cape and a unitard with a big "S" on my chest. I was still human. And in my humanity, I had been driven to my breaking point. Thankfully, I - like most parents out there - recognized my own humanity and was able to do the right thing for my son. However - something else no one tells you - it wouldn't be the last time I faced down that demon. As children grow, they continue to test you and your limitations, so that they can learn which are their own. And as they reach two and three years old, you will find yourself battling with them. Because in as much as we help shape who and what our children will become as they get older, they are still born as individuals. Like it or not, these little people are born with their very own personalities and their very own ideas. The thing to remember is this: they are getting to know you, just as you are getting to know them. Your relationship with your child, is just that - a relationship. As with all relationships, there are bumps in the road when your personalities and/or opinions clash. The other thing to remember is that while you and your child are getting to know each other, your child is working double time, as he or she must also get to know his or her self. So as a parent who is aware of this, I don't mind cutting my son some slack from time to time.
On the flip side of all this, is something else the books don't tell you. They try, but words don't seem to do justice to this one - as best as I can say it: in your child, you are granted a soul mate. This little person not only loves you unconditionally, but will bend over backwards to feel the same from you. No matter how many awards or accolades one may receive, no one will ever love and idolize you as much as your child. And so, the more secure they are in your love for them, the more able your relationship with them is to develop. And the only thing better than the love you receive from your child, is the love you give them. Perhaps it's presumptuous to assume that all parents feel this way, but it would be tragic not to. On my own personal journey, I can say with certainty, that I never knew as much about love - or how much I was able to love - until my little boy taught me. So that is in turn, I suppose, the bright side of parenting. Luckily - it outlasts, and way outshines, the dark.