The Seven Daily “Feels” of Parenting
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
People often ask me why I’m so moody. They sometimes automatically attribute it to cancer being my zodiac sign. “All you cancers are so crabby,” they’ll say. But I wish these assumptive people could spend one full day with me, from sunrise to sunset and beyond. I think it would be abundantly clear that my mood swings have far less to do with the path of the sun and far more to do with the path of the son. Let’s break it down.
The way I see it, every single day is an emotional rollercoaster for us parents. And I’m not talking broadly. I’m not saying some days you’re happy about it and some days you’re miserable. I’m saying that we’re all of these things. Every. Single. Day.
It all starts in the morning, of course. Your eyes peel open, and instantly you get your first “feel” of the day: gratefulness. Grateful you’re still alive and grateful you have a child (or more than one child) to care for. You’re almost certainly some kind of tired, but you are alive and not committed to an asylum. Considering the hell parenting can put you through, this is a marked achievement.
But it doesn’t last very long, does it, the gratefulness? In less than five minutes, your children are both awake. Despite your best efforts, they’re grown completely intolerable. One is refusing to eat, while the other is trying to eat an entire sleeve of chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. Suddenly, the second feel overcomes you: anger. Before you know it, you’re shouting at them. All you can think of is the look on the face of the school principal as you usher the kids in 15 minutes late, or your boss as you try to tip-toe past her cube at 9:30. It’s hard to believe less than 10 minutes earlier, you were internally beaming about how angelic they were.
As you reluctantly scamper to the front door of your child’s school, a chill comes over you as you can’t help but be reminded of the atrocities that have happened in our nation’s schools over the past few years. Your stomach turns as you leave your precious children in their respective classrooms. You’ve given up control. And you’re feeling fear. For me, this has been the most difficult of the feels to overcome. I likely speak for most parents when I say that, accepting that I can’t always protect my child has potentially been my biggest parental obstacle.
I will obviously never fully understand the sorrow of walking away from my child for the first time after a maternity leave. But I will say that I feel sadness when leaving my children. Every day. Any parent would understand, but when you’re not with them, you feel like you’re missing a part of yourself. It’s like you’ve cut off a body part and left it home while you’ve gone to work. I often sit at my desk, wondering what my boys are doing at exactly that moment. And it’s right around that time when their school emails out a series of photos of them reading a new book, or learning about a musical instrument. I send my kids to Apple Montessori. Yes, it costs more than I’d like and yes, they absolutely love it there. By default, so do I. And it’s in that moment when I start feeling an enormous sense of pride. I see my kids being social far earlier than I ever was a child. I see them expressing a willingness to learn, again, far earlier than I ever did as a child. It almost makes me forget that I was sad to leave them there that same day….or the cost of their tuition bill.
So, you’re feeling awesome again about this whole parenting thing, when you arrive home from work, arms stretched out wide for a hug. Yet, you’re met with indifference. Your child is currently fixated on the plastic covering of a DVD case, and nothing else matters. He callously mutters a dismissive remark, asking you to leave them alone. You’re back to sad again, with an anger kicker. And during dinner, the feels come in full force. You’re proud they’re eating broccoli, you’re angry when they jump out of their chairs and spill their drinks, and you’re certainly grateful that the day is almost over and you’ve made it through the “feels gauntlet.”
Later that night, after the teeth have been brushed and the stories have been read, you’ll tuck them into their cribs or beds. Maybe you’ll even climb in next to them, assuming they’re in at least a toddler bed. Then, that hug that eluded you earlier catches you completely off guard. Your child’s face shoved into your neck and their hand resting peacefully on your chest, something new comes over you: serenity. In that moment, no stress nor worry can steal your high, as you are officially convinced you’re doing a stellar job at being a parent. And you probably are.
As you cautiously close the bedroom door behind you, a Batman sticker still stuck to your cheek, knee sore from when you rammed it into the sofa leg while wrestling, the final feel of the day hits you. Despite every struggle (some seeming insurmountable), you rest assured that you’re persevering and raising one hell of a kid. Defiantly standing strong against the anger and sadness, you’re left with an undeniable feeling of joy. And that’s ultimately what drives me to be the best version of myself every day – to reach the final “feel” as my head hits the pillow.
Cheers to all you parents out there, whether you related to this piece or not.
Check out the debut of my new video blog titled “Parental Guidance” when you get a chance! In this edition, I take questions submitted to me via iPhone and answer them on video. Come on, everyone, see if my face matches my writing!
Feel free to add a comment below and add your very own “daily feels.”
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* “Question Mark” photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com