something you learn to do rather quickly after becoming a parent is so seek out and find other parents and confide in them all of your heart aches and wondering (how old was your son when he started crawling? how long after that did he walk? does your daughter nap? mine neither! what solids do you feed him? i can’t figure out how to get her to eat anything. what tricks do you use? are you going crazy? me too!). it is amazing, where before, it could be said to be difficult to just walk up to another grown adult in a random setting and begin a conversation, now it is as natural as wearing a coat in winter, a necessary tool of survival. in some ways, a child is the perfect conversation piece. better than commenting on the weather. better than feigning dropping something to get someone’s attention and see if they will help you pick up all of your dropped parcels like they always do in the movies. would this actually work in real life? i dunno. maybe i’ll try it sometime and let you know.
i have never made friends so fast since elementary school. remember when making friends was as easy as sitting next to someone during a fire drill? you thought those days were over, but lo! here they are again. parent-style.
however, for as easy as it is to arrange a play-date with another parent and spill out your guts to them over coffee and baked goods, parenting, at it’s core, is quintessentially an isolating experience. now, i hear you scoffing and ex-ing out, out there, people, writing me off as a pessimistic droner who always sees the glass half empty. while this may be true, i should probably be written off as such, see the truth in my sentiments. even though, as someone who always found it difficult to make friends as an adult, and, truth be told, even as a kid, i have been enjoying myself immensely in making all of these new connections with all sorts of people, at the end of the day, ruth is similar to other kids in lots of ways, and i have similar ideas and values to a lot of the people (parents) i talk with and see on a regular basis, but ruth is ruth and i am me. have i lost you in that run-on? i was trying to shake you. did it work? just kidding. i hope i still have you. even though my run-on may be difficult to follow, or impossible, i hope that my meaning is not altogether lost. ruth is unique and offers unique challenges to greg and i, her parents, and we know her the best, at this point, of anyone else on earth. we understand her the best, we know her moods, the beginning buds of her soon-to-be flourishing feelings and personality, we have seen her evolve from a balled-up infant. we have watched her body unfold and grow. we know her gait, her exact eye color, how it deepens when she has a dark storm behind her eyes, the shape of her mouth, which i could trace with my mind’s eye in the dark, the timbre of her voice, her laugh, and her cries. she is our daughter. perhaps we know her secrets in a way no one else ever will, because she comes from us, each of us can identify our different weaknesses in her, our deepest faults, our tempers, our sensitivity, and our joyfulness. we can trace it all back to ourselves and each other. which brings me to my second point. i am me (and greg is greg). i may be similar to other parents in a lot of ways, but i am me, i have my particular challenges and strengths that can be quite different from other peoples’. and i have my very own parenting style, which is really a sort of ever-evolving organic synergy between who ruth is, who i am, and our different moods and situations we find ourselves in.
i have found, especially as ruth is getting older, that i have less of an answer whenever another parent asks me something like, “what do you do about temper tantrums?” or something like that. i usually manage to muster something up, but it is really whatever i did with her last temper tantrum, which could be quite different from what i did with the one before that. often, i find myself saying something like, “i dunno. what do you do?” a lot of times, i will see them scrambling in a similar manner to find something to say. the truth is, parenting is not a concrete code. that’s why there is no instruction manual that comes with it, as people are so fond of asking. everyone is pretty much making it up as they go.
so, my point. finally, you are thinking. when all is said and done, we are all parents and we know what each other is going through better than anyone else. we can commiserate like gang-busters when we have a free second, about how hard it is, the things we struggle with, the things we try that fail, our deepest worries about our children. we can compare their ages, height and eye color. we can talk about how similar they are in certain ways, or how different. we can make play dates and talk about preschools and dance classes and soccer and karate until the sun goes down. but then, we each leave with our particular child or children, to our home, and for the rest of the time, we are on our own. i’m raising my kid(s) and inventing my family and you are raising and inventing yours.
no man is an island, that’s what they say. but i kind of think we are all like that. leading our own lives, coping with our own personal demons, and, in the end, we each have to answer to ourselves. but, hopefully, we spend a lot of time building bridges with other islands, which is hard work, to be sure, but it keeps us fit, keeps our heart healthy, our muscles taut. these wooden bridges take a lot of maintenance, weathering storms of different kinds, wind and water, but, in the end, are worthwhile endeavors, one of life’s greatest joys.