Hindsight Parenting: The Bumpy Inconsistent Emotional Journey of Parenthood
I am a teacher; have been for 23 years. If you don’t know, a teacher’s clock is different than other adults. For us, this week is the end of the “year.” June is when the last chords play on a song that has it all; soft parts, loud parts, fast, heart-racing tempos and slow, feet-dragging beats. In June, I am pensive and melancholy because of the ending…the missing of students and parents and colleagues with which you spend most of your day. In June, I am reflective. I look back and take stock.
My “year” started in September.
My daughter went to kindergarten.
My eldest went away to college.
My 18 year old went to jail.
In September, I had a three-tiered sadness that welled up and weighed me down. First was a longing-sadness that wished for my girl to slow down, to stay little, and to hold my hand fiercely and not let go. That kind of sadness whispered “there she goes” every morning as she mustered the courage to cross her classroom threshold.
There was also a regretful-sadness. This kind of sadness hung on for that college boy of mine. It questioned, “Had I run out of time? Did I do enough?” It whispered daily, “Too late. Too late. I know you’re a different kind of mama now but he’s grown. It’s too late.” I missed him horribly.
And then, of course, there was the agonizing-sadness for my sweet lost son locked away with a very uncertain future. This sadness wasn’t quiet. It screamed. It irritated. It blamed. It stuck and pricked me like an itchy blanket of glass shards. It told me daily, hourly, and by the second, “You didn’t do enough. If you only did this…if you only did that…he wouldn’t be where he is today.”
And while I’d like to think that the gamut of my experiences last September was completely unlike any other mama out there, I know better. I know, while reading this mamas and papas, you will shake your heads with agreement when I tell you that even though there was this aching sadness last September, there was also great and utter unfettered joy.
There was the proud-beaming kind of happiness for that little girl who’d come home each and every day to tell us how much she loved her teacher. My heart smiled its biggest smile every afternoon as she squealed and ran toward me breathless with tales of her day.
There was also a sweet satisfied happiness that celebrated the ease at which my college son had adjusted. I smiled and hung on to each text from him and reveled that he was indeed doing IT. He was taking risks. He was soaking in the learning and developing new passions. He was on his way.
There was even a contentment in my 18 year old’s predicament. For the first time in a long time…perhaps years…I was able to sleep knowing that he was safe from the addictions that dogged him, plagued him, and ran him into the ground.
Today, as I pondered my year, it solidified an idea I had that parenting was truly a flood of experiences. Over the last ten months, my heart was full and it was empty. I was full of rage and full of thanks. Sometimes I sang and other times I was silent. I laughed and I screamed. I worried but I was also calm. I tried and I gave up. I tried again and gave up once more. I found a reason. I lost heart. I prayed and I cursed. I laughed and I cried. Sometimes both at the same time.
But mamas and papas, that’s parenting, isn’t it? What other experience in the world can one human being undergo all the highs and the lows that life has to offer all in one month? Heck, who am I kidding? We can experience life’s complete spectrum in one day, or even in one hour. Parents, we buckle ourselves in everyday in order to survive that bumpy inconsistent emotional journey. When we open our eyes each morning we have no idea of the trials and triumphs our children will meet that could send us reeling or make us feel like flying. And sometimes, like my September, we can reel and fly all at once. What a ride.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with over 20 years experience, a mom to two grown boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, and wife to the love of her life. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. Logan writes a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around on the fifth Monday of any month.