People always tell new parents “enjoy this time.” But this time — the changing life roles and the massive responsibility of raising humans and the juggling work and sleepiness nights and never being able to have an adult conversation or a minute to your own thoughts — is it OK to not enjoy it sometimes?
Oh my! The Elderly Aunt wishes so very much, my dear, that you were close enough to hug. The answer to your question is, heavens to Betsy, yes! I mean, I ask you: Do other people really make you feel obliged to enjoy snot or vomit (or worse!) or temper tantrums or reading “The Cat in the Hat” for the 75th time? If so, shame on them!
Sometimes I think a lot of us — not, of course, the Elderly Aunt— allow our lives to be poisoned with self-doubt engendered by other people’s bozo and unrealistic expectations of how we should behave. Only a sadist would try to guilt-trip a young parent because she/he doesn’t find something to celebrate in every minute of childrearing.
Of course, what you’re experiencing might be nothing more than inadvertent fallout from some oldsters’ rose-colored memories of their own childrearing experiences. Indeed, the Elderly Aunt, herself, has many acquaintances who enjoy looking back at raising their children more than the Elderly Aunt remembers their enjoying the actual process of raising them. Why, the Elderly Aunt, herself —who is much too self-disciplined to rosy-up any of her past struggles—distinctly remembers lobbing a stick of butter in some long-ago kitchen when a small flock of preschoolers demanded she sort out yet another pressing preschooler problem.
So my dear, please, give yourself a break! Childrearing, in the Elderly Aunt’s opinion, screws up everything we want to do with our lives besides rearing children. Unless, that is, you are the extremely rare human being who enjoys feeling irritated, over-tired, mentally fragmented and faking a patience you don’t possess. In which case, the Elderly Aunt suspects you are a bit too nutty to even consider having children in the first place.
The Elderly Aunt by no means wishes to give the impression that simply acknowledging the raising of children is hair-raisingly difficult gives you carte-blanche to collapse into a puddle of self-centeredness and self-indulgence. While the occasional (and, hopefully, discreet and non-violent) melt-down is inevitable, the Elderly Aunt encourages you to do your best to swab snotty noses cheerfully, offer comforting words while cleaning up vomit, change disgusting diapers and/or training pants with a smile, and recite “The Cat in the Hat” from memory with great animation while turning the pages for your attentive tot. Your children are not to blame for being children. You really should not break bad on your impressively intelligent 2-year-old for only operating at the mental level of, say, a 3-and-a-half-year-old. Instead, the Elderly Aunt advises you to lob a little butter and carry on.
Last but never least, the Elderly Aunt does not feel able to bid you adieu without vouchsafing a few words of encouragement to all readers who are currently engaged in sharing space with the chronically immature — i.e. to all parents of dependent children.
Modest as always, the Elderly Aunt does not claim to know everything. However, no one can go around the block as many times as she has without amassing buckets of experiences and learning a great deal. One thing she’s learned is that no one ever accomplishes much while holding her/himself to impossibly high standards. And with this in mind, the Elderly Aunt encourages all well-meaning parents out there to get real! Give yourself permission to kick back, let the non-essentials slide a bit, and enjoy the day — and your children — as much of as possible.
And by the way, gentle reader, the Elderly Aunt has construed this question as asking about parental self-management. She has many, many other tips to offer about the management of children that she would be happy to impart should they be of interest.
The Elderly Aunt offers her thoughtful responses to your questions about this wild ride we call life on the second and fourth Monday of each month. To get the Elderly Aunt’s advice on an issue that’s been intriguing or bugging you, email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Elderly Aunt question.” (Just please don’t ask detailed financial questions).