I Don’t Know How I Got Through It, But You Will Too

by Gavin Lodge
kzenon / iStock

Last night, a good friend texted, “I hate everything and everyone.”

We aren’t in regular contact, but we trade messages when we’ve reached the ends of our ropes. She has a 5-year-old and a 9-month-old.

She continued, “Am I a bad parent if I want to give my children away? The oldest one does not stop whining. Ever. And the youngest doesn’t stop crying. I may have to commit myself.”

I responded, “Yes. You’re a bad parent. And you’re on the bad parent bus with me as the driver. And let’s face it—do you really wanna be on a good-parenting bus with someone who can’t say a bad thing about their kids?”

Her husband was home watching TV with their older son; the baby was in the crib (crying). I told her, “Go scream into a pillow. Go outside and lie on the sidewalk and stare at the sky. Go. You have the right. Have a drink. You’ve earned it.”

Then texting started to feel silly, so I called her and said, “Vent. Vent away.”

“I’m so sick of it,” she unloaded. “And I know we just have to get through this stage and things will be easier when the baby’s a year old, and I’d just forgotten how tough it can be, but the older one is just so whiny all the goddamn time and I feel like I’m short-changing both of them, and…”

I listened and thought, “Wow. I remember everything she’s talking about, and I think I’m on the other side.”

We laughed and I talked about my coping mechanisms: blogging, self-flagellation, and I admit, an occasional cigarette—it just felt so good to do something so bad for a few solitary minutes after my kids went to bed (and after 4 puffs I felt nauseous, anyway. No fear of addiction, here).

While talking with my friend, I was astounded that, for once, I was the listener instead of the venter (despite the fact that sometimes I wake up in the morning calculating the minutes until bedtime). I even had the cliché thought: “It was so hard, but I can’t even remember why. It’s a blur.”

Oh, but then I did remember something specific—tearless crying. That encompassed 18 months of hell, for me.

She went on, “I know it’ll get easier soon.”

All I could think was: “If by ‘soon’ you mean 18 months, then yes, it will get better soon.”

She’s just about to enter the age when my youngest grew into the hell of “Dear Lord, when will the whining agony end? Did I kick a puppy in a prior life to merit this?”

I know the difficulty isn’t over for me. But the irrationality of non-communicative toddler years is over. And talking to my friend, I had the realization that I might actually be on the other side.

Things do get (slightly) easier—just like people told me a year ago—and just like I said to my friend on the phone, “It’s funny. Of all our friends, you’re the closest ‘behind’ me on the path, so I get it. Call and vent to me any time. It’s still fresh in my mind.”

“I know. Thanks. I will. I know it’ll all get better soon.”

No, it won’t. Hee-hee.

Parenting is (slightly) more manageable now. But, it’s still herding cats and repeating myself 17 times, and negotiating with an irrational (manipulative, stubborn, irascible, adorable) 2½-year-old.

It’s still rolling my eyes and losing my temper when “no” results in immediate histrionics from my 4-year-old.

It’s still lost sleep and crying over a damn pacifier (toddler tears, not daddy’s).

But it is easier now.

I dreamed this day would come, but reality hit me when I was the listener, not the venter. It hit me when I heard someone else lament their asshole baby, and I responded, “I know. I get it. I’ve been there. I don’t know how I got through it, but you will too.”

The view is different from this side.

And the future still looks daunting.

I think I’ll go have a drink. I’m earning it.