Being a Parent Will Kill You (and Other Truths We Never Talk About)
I am writing this from my bedroom — trapped.
Like a character in a movie. Or Jim Gaffigan when he talks about being outnumbered. This is my SOS letter to you, The Column Reader, saying: “Send carrier pigeons. Send string cheese snacks. Send Supernanny. Send help.”
I am trapped in the most “Rear Window” sort of way because I procreated. Years ago. And now, the zombies outside my door are children. And I have to say, I’m not sure how much longer I can last.
I woke up this morning to my daughters fighting again. All they do is fight (“Sisters in a Pandemic” should be the next “World War Z“), and normally I guide them through, but today, something snapped. And not in the Roxie Hart sort of way. (No children were harmed in the making of this column.) But yes, my gams are as quality as Roxie’s.
Instead of gearing up for battle and playing therapist, I told them I wouldn’t participate in this at 9 a.m., and didn’t appreciate the selfish sister showdown. Then, I went into my bedroom and locked the door. Like they would have done at 5 years old.
And here I sit. I was hoping it would provide a “Whoa, Mom just got home from surgery, so maybe we should cool it on the mean preteen bit for a while” wake-up call, or even the “Whoa, Mom overreacts, too?” sort of memo kids need now and again. Or at the very least, when embers and hormones start flying, I can protect my delicate bone structure. But I’m not sure any of the above will be achieved.
They will either tear each other apart with their vicious “You don’t look good in that color anyway” rhetoric, or I will die here unappreciated, but having made a really great dramatic exit.
And this is the life of a parent. A mom who works from home and is, for the most part, sojourned at home, like a sitting duck waiting for someone to throw stale bread their way. (We only use nonviolent metaphors here.) My kids don’t care. Kids don’t care because they’re kids. They’re genetically programmed to only think about themselves and how everything else compares with them (or at least how their sister does). Like adults, but shorter.
I’m writing this because sometimes there is a misconception that when a parent is sick or dealing with life-and-death issues regularly, the gig is somehow less. As if family members fly in from across the world to help us get humans to activities or be there for us after a slice-and-dice (sometimes they do). Or that we and our family and friends somehow have a deeper understanding of life and love and duck analogies.
We don’t. We are just people, doing people things, like other people. For me and many others dealing with long-term illness, once the fanfare of the first few surgeries wears off and it becomes a habit, parenting is what parenting is. And I like it that way.
I don’t even hear from anyone other than my siblings and best friends after major events. I’m not sure if it’s because I write so openly online that others forget I’m still a scared person who once created two scared people, and we’re all trying to figure out how to survive. Or, maybe it’s because I do this so frequently that we all assume it’s easier, that I’ve got it on lock. Although to be fair, I am currently locked in my own bedroom, so it’s safe to say some things (like my epic maturity skills) are on lock.
It can be exhausting to never get a hall pass for having just had surgery or for being sick while also being a full-time, fully alone parent who doesn’t want to referee a 9 a.m. “Real Housewives” reenactment. (We are home-schoolers, so the hall pass reference is fairly literal.)
“If I die one day, and you two are still behaving like this to each other,” I finally told them, stepping out of the room and prepping for shrapnel, “you will have destroyed the only thing in this life that I care about: you two.” (Oh yes. I pulled out the guilt guns.)
In the end, parenting is what parenting is. We asked for this. No one is coming to save me, and no one cares if I’m sick or not (especially not my children), and …
That is exactly what I signed up for.
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