If you are Facebook friends with someone who has young kids, parenthood probably looks like an adorable adventure. There are cute pictures of little ones dressed up as superheroes, princesses, superhero princesses, doctors, pirates, and apparel that would normally be described as "drunk hobo" if it weren't on a kid. These parents share stories about the precocious and unintentionally hilarious things their offspring say; the wise-beyond-their years nuggets of humanity that come out of the mouth of babes.
It's all a front. I mean, I do it too. But it's a front.
Don't get me wrong. Those things happen. They are true. Parenthood is often an adorable adventure. The part less frequently seen on Facebook looks a little bit more like Lord of the Flies except instead of a bunch of adolescents chasing after a bespectacled peer with asthma, it's little kids chasing after...well, everything. Each other. Dogs. Parents. Toys. Food.
It's madness. Our two boys are presently in a season in which they either love each other or are at absolute war. There is no in-between.
The other day, they were playing with their superheroes in the living room. In the cases in which they have the same superhero, the hero calls the other "brother" because that's their main frame of reference for relationships. They were playing happily together. As I walked out of the room, I heard the youngest say, "Hey, Batman Brother, do you want to stop the Joker?" It was beautiful and adorable. One of those scenes that makes the parent heart melt.
Approximately 90 seconds later, as I was getting dinner ready in the kitchen, I heard a blood-curdling scream. I whipped around the corner to find one kid sitting on top of the other delivering flat-handed haymakers. I ran in, pulled one off the other, and then went into simultaneously disciplining one while making sure that the other was okay while also being pretty sure that the victim did something to provoke the attacker.
It can be exhausting. And when scenes like that happen in public, forget about it. It makes me feel like an absolute failure sometimes. If we can get through a Wednesday night at church without some sort of meltdown happening, I will probably go running through the streets of Spartanburg like George Bailey.
All of which is to say: Parenting is stupid difficult sometimes. Facebook and social media where people only show the good side of things can skew our expectations on how things really are. And so when you're wonderful, but still-learning and still-growing kids go out into that world and mess up, it piles on to an already high stress situation of trying to raise a decent human being. I wish someone at some point said to me, "There are going to be days when being a parent will absolutely drain you. You'll just collapse on the couch. You will believe that it is the most important thing you do and you are royally screwing up. You will sometimes feel like anyone with eyes and ears are judging you."
And yet...this evening we got home and our boys found these silly hats their grandparents gave them for Christmas years ago and pretended they were a dog and a duck. I sat on the couch with Liam right before EA took him up to bed and he rested his face against mine; so still and peaceful. I laid in bed with Jim—a mountain of stuffed animals crumbling around my feet—and read him a bedtime story as he fell asleep on my shoulder. So in lieu of him saying his prayers, I prayed for him as his little chest rose and fell.
Parenting is stupid difficult, but I'll take that stupid difficulty for my two sons. I love them; more than I can convey with a million blog posts. Even when they are driving me up the wall and boxing me into writer's block and depriving me of sleep, I still love them. And I get to have those moments each day in which I get to see just how awesome, funny, smart, loving, and caring they are. As a parent you have to wade through frustration, humiliation, and the occasional cracking up. It's tons of stuff parents don't post on Facebook, but, for my boys, I'll take that trade-off everyday.