When my oldest trained for her life-saving course, they required her to tread water for long minutes, and when her legs wearied with the strain of her own body weight, they handed her something heavy to hold above her head and tread some more. Jim Gaffigan likens this experience to parenting multiple children. Imagine you’re drowning, he says, then someone hands you a baby.
We’re treading water here, attempting to balance a full schedule (code for over-committed), work/life balance (doesn’t exist), and teenagers who think we’re the stupidest people alive (as evidenced by their repeated attempts to deceive and defy us). I tread water, and my own sanity weighs heavy in two tired arms stretched above my head.
I can do change and I can do hard and I can do parenting, but I do it with the grace of a drunk trying to stand upright on a moving bus. I take huge gulps of air, dip under the water, flail about, and try my best to keep a tight grip on reality. I find myself daydreaming of skipping ahead through the hard parts, or escaping into a glass of wine and a good book for the next ten years. I contemplate vague-booking, but settle instead for vague-blogging.
Can we all agree that regardless of the age or stage, parenting is hard as hell? It’s treading water with weary limbs when you feel too tired to keep going. After a particularly rough week with one of her children, a friend asked, “Is this really my life?” And to her I say, yes, this is your life. It’s the life of every parent, every wild and wonderful moment of it.
During one of my particularly long tirades about people in my house who lie straight to my face and think they can get away with it, my husband turned to me in bed and said “We have to take the good with the bad, babe. This is part of it.” He then rolled over and snored his way to sleep. I sniffled for an hour in the dark. Apparently, “the bad” has the opposite effect on husbands. But he’s right. It is good and bad, calm and rough seas. It is me holding up grace in one hand and truth in the other, treading like mad in the middle. My children will learn the hard way, as each generation learned before them.
This really is my life, and it’s likely yours too. I strap the light weight of hope to my chest as I tread, and I drown out the fear and exhaustion with these words from Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”