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Struggling: When Parenting is Crazy-Making

Published on: December 30, 2013

hiresI am thinking about love lately. I am remembering those heady, all-encompassing days of new love. When he is all you can think about and that flutter in your gut dances each time you see him. When your mind is stuffed with thoughts of that person and your breath seems hooked to every remembrance of them.

We know that, as time presses on, the breathlessness and the immense, everyday weight of that love changes and it becomes something you can live with in a different, fuller but somehow lighter way.

Oddly, I am not thinking about this kind of love in any relation to my marriage or my husband. (Sorry, honey.) Nor am I thinking about it in any relation to any other man in my life. (You’re welcome, honey.) I am thinking about it in relation to parenting right now.

Why? Because I feel like I am in it. I am in it, man, and I’m having a hard time getting any sense of perspective. My brain is stuffed and my breathing feels hooked to each worry. Each thought. My little guy and I are struggling a bit and that kind of parenting is really intense. Each time something happens, my mind fills with a new drip, drop of worry. I am dying for a long-range view.

I would love to have a peek at him when he walks into his college dorm or to see him hanging out with solid friends who love and care about him. I want to know that someday he’ll find his niche. I would like to be able to stand on the lip of a hill far away and see him as an adult and know that he made it and that he’s fine.

But today, I am struggling. I won’t get into the details because I want to respect the kid at least a little bit. Things are intense right now because I have to decide soon if he’s ready for kindergarten or not. I feel like there’s not a lot of room these days for a squirmy, crazy, challenging boy who has little to no interest in letters, numbers, art or sitting in class.

I also think some of the intensity of my feelings is brought on by the talk of leaning in and the Steubenville rape case. Am I wasting my life and letting down my feminist self by staying at home?

If I am staying at home and I am a feminist, I had damn well better raise two boys who are kind and respectful and gentle in this world. Isn’t that an important feminist job? But, will they be successful men in this world if they lose that crazy, aggressive, rough and tumble boy side?

Am I just not really a great mom of boys because I’m uncomfortable with craziness? Am I too apologetic to raise a wild 4-year-old and let him just be the awesome, crazy kid that he was meant to be?

You see what I mean? I can feel my pulse race as I wrote the last two paragraphs. The lump in my throat telling me I’m close to tears is nudging its way up. I wish I could just look ahead and feel a tiny sense that I am doing this right and that I am doing this well and that it wasn’t a waste. Just because he and I are struggling a bit right now doesn’t mean that we will always be struggling.

Despite my worries, I have faith that I will raise a kind, gentle and happy man who will be just fine.

I have to take a breath and work on the small things. The tiny steps that we are taking to get him there. So that’s where we are. For now, I am in it. Today, parenting him feels heavy. But it won’t always be this all-encompassing. I have to have faith in myself, in him and in our love.

We have a long walk to walk together and we will get there. I hope that parenting him and loving him will soon feel more like something that I can live with in a different, fuller but somehow lighter way.

stephanieolson1Stephanie Olson is a mother of two boys who lives and writes in Seattle. She believes her golden rule in parenting “Just wipe it off on your pants!” will be her epitaph someday. It has gotten us through pretty well thus far! Read more of Stephanie's work on her blog, Ma Swell Vie.

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