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Stories, observations, and reflections from a life of raising boys

The Wild Ride of Parenthood

Jenifer DeMattia

This whole life, the American dream, can truly feel like a roller coaster. You have these moments of epic joy and a gratitude for living that hits you right before you plummet to the point where you feel a little nauseous and wonder what the hell you were thinking even getting on the ride in the first place. 

Of course, I was elated about my new role as a mom following the birth of my son. But just as I learned about marriage, I quickly discovered that parenthood was not like living on a fluffy cloud of happiness all the time. 

During the first few months, I ached for the daylight. As the sun went down I began brewing the pot of coffee I would need to get me through the night. Sometimes I would silently cry as I rocked by boy back to sleep in the darkness. You truly enter a new realm of existence as you attempt to settle a distraught baby at 1a.m...2a.m...3a.m..Repeat. I still get flashbacks of the anguish I felt after feeding my baby for an hour, just to have him puke it all up on the carpet. Sometimes I just felt like I had nothing left. Completely drained.  Mentally, physically, and literally. 

As my son grew taller, it wasn’t his stomach that was hard to feed - it was his hunger to control the universe that drained me. Tantrums like I’d never seen. Emotional explosions left me standing right in the middle of the minefield…paralyzed by the fear that I was completely fucking it all up. And with adding another child, perhaps I had doubled my chances of screwing up humans. Parenting is like a merry-go-round. Up and down. Up and down, round and round…repeat. 

This is horrible, right? So depressing. 

But that’s the crazy part; it’s really truly not and I really can’t explain why. The only way I can express it in words is by saying that over the weekend I stayed in my basement for two hours with my five-year-old son hunting “Creepers” and wearing goggles while Gangnam Style played on repeat in the background at his request. I never thought I would ever be spending my existence doing such a thing. I have done some of the weirdest stuff with my boys. I have re-opened the vault in my brain where I locked away my imagination and it is now overflowing. 

Sometimes I try to recall the “me” without kids and wonder what I used to think about. What did I do with all that spare time? I have no clue, but I know now that my time is always taken up, moving at incredible speed, and much more precious than I can ever recall. They call time the thief that steals your life – but I think it’s my children who are the culprits. They have literally taken everything from me…

My children have taken my ego and made things just things, nothing more and nothing less. They made me a bold protector and have taken away my soft-spoken voice. They have shown me great independence and therefore taken away the shadows I used to hide in. They have stolen my excuses. They have taken my anger, and my judgment of others. They have stolen all my reasons not to pursue my dreams. They have stifled my stubbornness, and taken away my desire to keep things clean all the time.

And they took every reason I had not to travel the unknown roads.

I sing “You Are My Sunshine” to my two-year-old because it makes him smile. And I can’t sing. If anyone else heard it they would cringe – but not him.

Just like that he took away my reason not to sing.

They make countless mistakes and they learn. There goes my theory that I’m screwing it all up. How can you learn if you don’t? You have to get it all wrong to get it all right, and it will be all right. 

Today I had plans, but my son is sick. So the plan quickly changed as usual. Life is a shell game. Everything shifts and slides, moves around until sometimes you have no idea where the reward is hiding. But for me, the reward always comes in its own way. The adventure of raising children has no end point. There is no one highlight or goal. Only to raise these kids to be okay adults who may have kids of their own one day. Then, maybe only then, they will have the life they created for themselves stolen away, and slowly discover that the parts where they feel a little nauseous…those were the times that made them.

Up and down. Round and round. Repeat.