I am one of those comically bumbling parents who lead with entertaining anecdotes. These stories make up more than 1/2 of the blog contents thus far. Can you blame me? Humor unites us as human beings– parents and non-parents alike.
Well, a recent article has finally exposed parenting for what it really is. It turns out that we are more than just custodians of the destruction forged by our wee ones. Lo and behold: we love our kids. A lot. Check out “I Really Love My Daughter, but I’m Not Supposed to Talk About That” by Jennie Yabroff as featured in the Washington Post blog. Here is an excerpt that I especially like:
Much of the daily routine of caring for a small person is low-stakes. My daughter and I share a bagel. At the pet store she tells the fish she is happy to see them again. The only way to transform these mundane events into anecdotes, which can then be strung together into a narrative, is to neuroticize them. So I emphasize frustration, embroider calamity. Our daughter sticking her hand in the tank to “pet” the fish, then scooping her wet hands into the bin of bird food while I shriek at her to stop, agitating the rabbits, which start banging in their cages . . . now we’re getting close to a story.
I tell this story to my husband when he comes home at night, hoping to make him laugh. I tell this story to underscore how hard this job is, how poorly I am executing it, how utterly I am at the mercy of a three-foot tyrant in sparkly tights. I tell it to reassure him that I am still the sarcastic, ironic person he married, that motherhood has not made me soft-headed and moon-eyed, liable to weep at a Diapers.com commercial (though I do). I tell it to practice what I will say to the other moms at Saturday morning gymnastics, where we stand around with our puffy eyes and takeout coffees, trading polished complaints about our ungrateful, ill-tempered little monsters, additions to the canon of stories of parenthood as the worst thing that can happen to a minimally self-aware person other than not having kids at all.
The joy of parenthood is not a story; it has no plot. It is a series of moments, unspoken. At the park, a father swoops up his son and kisses the top of his head in a single, flowing gesture. At the pizza place, a mother and daughter share an after-school slice, the daughter wiggling on her chair, waving her hands, the mother listening, smiling. Glimpsing these moments, I wonder what other, secret joys these parents are hiding, what furtive raptures they harbor. I wonder if they, too, sometimes wish there were more words to bridge the public story of being exasperated by your offspring to the point of defenestration, and the profoundly intimate experience of having a tiny pair of hands reach inside your ribs and wrench your heart open like a stuck window. I haven’t yet found a way to ask. I haven’t yet found a story to tell of this: On the way home from the pet store, my daughter held my hand for three whole blocks, not just the intersections. The top of her head still smells like honey.