They tell you all sorts of things about being a parent before you become one, while you are becoming one, and after you are one. They tell you, with a grin (!), that you won’t sleep for months on-end when that little bundle moves in. And you nod back with appreciation, while saying to yourself, how bad can it be, really? And then, after two weeks of sleep deprivation, you hit a wall so hard you can hardly see straight. It didn’t matter how much warning they gave you. It was, in fact, that bad and even worse. How could all those parents who went ahead of you still have the capability of putting a sentence together, let alone smile?
They tell you about the terrible twos (which are really the terrible 18 months-all-the-way-up-until-age-fours). Again, you nod and smile and say to yourself, not my little peanut! And then one day, there you are in the grocery store while the nut is on his back in the middle of the produce section screaming louder than an ambulance siren. And you are conflicted by the desire to sit down on the floor and scream along with him or to walk away and pretend that you have never seen a child, let alone had one of your own.
And then they tell you about the joys of middle school, with all those hormones, cliques, and learning struggles. Right, right, right. How bad can it be? Uh huh.
No matter what, at every stage, that huge, overwhelming, all-encompassing parental beast inside of you wants to make it better, to do it for them, to prevent the pain you know will come. But they have told you that you can’t, you have to let them live their lives. And yet again, they are right. You can only hope beyond hope that they will survive. That they will come home and soak in a healing bath of love and comfort, to be able to face the next thing.
They also say that this feeling of wanting to make it better for your child never really goes away. And now, as my own child is growing toward adulthood, I know that they are right. This parent beast within will never leave. My baby now stands at 5’11” and is approaching our societal age of adulthood. Even as he faces more and more of life’s difficulties, I must step back and become more of a spectator.
Although I still would love to wind him in bubble wrap and keep him safe, I will be the one cheering from the sidelines, “Go, Peanut, Go”!