Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Ultimate Challenge

Raising good human beings is challenging.

Children will spill a creamy waterfall of milk from the table to the floor, and then will accuse younger siblings, best friends and pets of the mess. They'll booby-trap your house with Legos, dagger-armed action figures and inhumanely (and unrealistically) pointy cars and then laugh when you step on them, yelling your expletives in code. They'll covet their neighbor's toy, then rip it from their hands and claim they had it first. They'll smack or pinch a sibling who so much as looks at 'em. They'll play dodge ball with bricks and pick-up sticks with knives.

Okay, I exaggerate. My boys played dodge ball with whiffle balls, and they still hurt each other. When something is spilled in this house (once every 4 1/2 seconds), responsibility is usually admitted upon interrogation but no corrective action is taken until parent threatens or laminate floor warps. And full-out-and-out-war between siblings occurs only when my youngest daughter invades her older brother's room or when Mama is writing or reading.

But paper piles have been scattered, toys dumped and books tossed about in tantrums over the tiniest things like not being allowed to get the mail or eat donuts for lunch. And we found our precious wee ones could lie boldly by age 2 with no formal training. Even our most even-tempered, calmest child, our Ana, said the funniest things when she was blessed with a little sister. She came up to me after peering at her baby sis in the crib, her big brown eyes wide and innocent, and said, "Mama, if I hit the baby, like this, that wouldn't be good, would it?"

"No, no, it wouldn't," I assured her, shocked. "We never want to hurt the baby. Never. We have to be gentle."

She nodded her head sagely, but then came back not long after and asked, "If I threw this at the baby..."

"No!" I reiterated.

But the most challenging thing about raising kids isn't the jealousy, brutality or fibbing. It's that they make a hard job radically more difficult by robbing their parents of that basic necessity of life and brain function: sleep.

Now, don't get me wrong. Of course we love the little buggers. It would be nice to remember why, but our brains can only retain information for an average of two minutes. Sometimes less.

If you are not a parent or you're a new one, you may well believe that your sleep will someday be normal again post-kids, and I must say....oh, excuse me....haha...cabn't tyupe weel for laugfhingy...ho!ho!

Where was I? Ah, yes. Normal sleep. Nevermore, quoth the Raven.  Nevermore!

Yes, you may not find yourself sleeping in recliners or on Elmo couches as I have, or getting up every hour to nurse on demand. But you will assuredly get to the point where 7am qualifies as a luxurious, miraculous sleep-in if you have not been rudely awakened more than once. You will spend restless nights watching over an ill child, giving lukewarm baths and medicine to bring down fever, administering fluids post-vomiting or diarrhea, and washing sheets. You will wake at 5:30 to the sound of that glass you left by the living room chair shattering or the more startling 12am revelation of, "Mama? Papa? I wet the bed again..." You'll rock fussy babies, sing to demanding toddlers, and spend seemingly hours trying to shoo your adolescent to bed.

On top of all this you will be haunted for years by the midnight visitor. This little schemer just lives in your bed half the night, waking you every 10 minutes, instead of wasting energy creating havoc from his/her own room. He/she will sprawl in the middle of your queen-sized bed and allot you a mere two inches to either side. Your poor husband will routinely curl up in a fetal position on a single square foot of sheet, sheltering his manhood from wild, unpredictable assault by little limbs. And I have found that if this invader is male, he will rip his fingers through his mother's hair at least fifty times an hour to coax himself into Neverland. Why little boys do this, I can't say, unless it's retribution for the male-pattern baldness they expect to inherit from their maternal grandfather.

I've spent a good deal of time trying to build the best contraption and devise the perfect plan to keep this nocturnal, parent-seeking creature out. I'm this far from throwing out the baby gate and gentle incentives and instead attaching a rubber mallet to a spring on a steel door.

But don't be discouraged. I'm here to tell you that if you persevere through the thick fog of uncertainty, the dark clouds of frustration, and the deluge of angst and guilt from pint-sized tyrants on a mere five-six hours of sleep a night you can - yes, you - raise fine upstanding people. You may not know it until they enter school, but if you persist in teaching your little rascals morals and civilized behavior between cat naps, one day you'll hear their teachers say, "I just love your child! She's so kind/helpful/respectful/sweet."

And on the drive back home you'll think to yourself, "We did it!" Then you'll promptly forget what you did.

After all, the drive took longer than two minutes.


  1. This? Is SO TRUE!!!!

    But it does feel so good when someone says we're doing something right because so often it feels like we're not.

    1. Don't I know it, Jennie! My house seems like a war zone most mornings before school, so it's wonderful to get encouragement from the people who interact with them in the "real world". And mama guilt is epic.

      Thanks for coming by! I'm honored.

  2. Well said! Parenting little ones can be so stressful. The saddest part is that once you get past all this, you look back & would give anything to have those days back. Each stage of their life is momentous - enjoy them to the fullest. I just know you're a wonderful mom, Hillary!
    Blessings! <><

    1. Oh, I know those days are coming when I'll smile at every babe and little one and wish I could hold my own babies again. I do try to remember that as often as I can. Thank you so much, Renita! Love,


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