Having kids is a hodgepodge of ups and downs, encompassing the full spectrum of human emotion. And among those moments are the ones that make you squirm inside, like a salted slug. Those moments where you have to let go of the reins or do something contrary to the norm, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you. And you’ll face plenty of those moments during your kids’ childhood — parenting experiences like these:
1. Watching them onstage.
Remember back before you had kids, when you went to karaoke night sometimes? Remember how you were always embarrassed for the people who seemed to think they were great, but were actually more bullfrog and less Beyoncé? It’s kind of like that when your kids are onstage, whether it’s for a school concert or a talent show or a performance in a play. You tense up, praying that the outcome is good and that they don’t flub their lines or visibly adjust their junk or pick their nose the entire time.
2. Waking them up in the morning.
From infancy, you’ve held fast to one universal rule: Let them sleep at all costs. But there will come a time when they’ve got an early appointment or something, and though they’re usually up at the crack of dawn, they’ll be sleeping soundly, like (Silent! Quiet! Calm!) little angels. That’s when you’ve got to break the rule and rouse them from their sweet slumber, even though you really, reeeeeally wish you didn’t have to. And it’s downright painful, especially considering how grumpy they can be afterward.
3. Getting asked awkward questions.
You’re feeling great, minding your own business, when — wham! — out of the blue, you get a random inquiry like, “Mommy? What’s erectile dysfunction?” That’s when you try to be cool and casual about it, even though you’re dying a little inside.
4. Watching them learn to do something on their own.
It’s good for kids to do things themselves because they’ll never learn otherwise. But overseeing the process — and trying to stay hands-off so they can master it on their own – is an exercise in emotional turmoil. Egg shells in the bowl, flour all over the counter, the way they miss foot-wide strips of carpet when they vacuum — you might have to let them learn, but it won’t be a pleasant process.
5. Watching all your kids get into one vehicle.
Whether you’ve got an “only” or are approaching brood status, loading 100% of your offspring into the same vehicle and watching it drive away can be nerve-wracking. Yeah, you may be excited that they’re all heading to grandma’s/camp/school and you can finally enjoy a moment’s peace, but there will be that nagging little voice in the back of your head saying, “What if there’s a horrible accident and the unspeakable happens and I lose my entire family OMG!!!” (This might not apply to non-anxious parents, but I wouldn’t know since I’m apparently not one.)
6. Letting them express their own style.
My 4-year-old son’s absolute favorite shoes are a pair of sparkly, purple and pink “My Little Pony” Crocs. Do I let him wear them in public? Of course, because I want him to wear things that he loves and to feel proud to be himself. But I’d be lying if I said the amount of side-eye he gets from people doesn’t make me feel icky inside. When you’ve got a kid with “different” tastes, it’s hard to suck it up and watch people silently judge.
7. Hearing them say something embarrassing.
Kids say the darndest things — loudly. Things like, “That man has a big belly!” or “That lady smells funny,” or “Guess what! I farted!” Whether you try to laugh it off or apologize profusely, your internal reaction will be the same: embarrassment forever.
8. Watching them open a gift.
You try your best to teach your kids manners and gratitude, but will they actually use them when they rip open the gift from Aunt Margaret that turns out to be a pair of hand-knit socks? All you can do is widen your eyes at them and hope they get the meaning, which is you’d better act like this is the best present you’ve ever received or else.
9. Watching them do something physically risky.
Raising kids presents you with a constant struggle: Do you hover in hopes of keeping them safe, or do you stand back and let them learn from experience? We all attempt to strike a reasonable balance, but sometimes standing back means holding your breath and trying not to panic (at least not visibly) as they jump off the highest diving board or climb higher and higher on the rock wall.
10. Watching the first social phone call.
Your kid brings home a friend’s phone number from school and wants to call her up for a chat. It’s so cute — until you realize that talking on the phone is actually a social skill, one that they may not be prepared for, judging by the amount of silence on their end and the awkward repeats of, “What are you doing? … What did you say? … What?” You want to go all Cyrano de Bergerac and whisper to them what to say, but you just wince inwardly and let them make their phone call. Ugh.
I swear, moments like these are responsible for 99% of the gray hairs on my head, which is cringeworthy in and of itself.