Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Three is the new too many

Individually, and sometimes in pairs, they are beautiful and charming, but collectively they are overwhelming and parenting three kids often feels like they are taking turns lining up to punch me in the … um, you know.

Today even went well! Nobody swore, screaming was limited to actual physical injuries and not high volume judgments on our parenting, some people ate breakfast. Altogether a good morning.

But then Charlie was sleeping off some nightmares so didn't come down right away and I was sleep deprived so kind of punchy. Almost got into it with Sam but didn't, and he and Mary got out the door without incident. I overheard her even getting part of his story about some altercation - so a red letter day.

The thing with kids - and it was almost as true when it was one as now that it's three - is that you live in an almost perpetual state of triage. Who's bleeding? Is it arterial? Who is or was defecating? Do I need to involve myself? Why are you screaming? Why am I screaming? etc.

From a distance, when they have all been successfully institutionalized for the day, it's often funny. It's often brutally stressful too when the demands are too great and our failings seem too insurmountable.

It has definitely put us on our heels, conflicts that start with the kids can easily spill into spousal fights and simmering unresolved tensions - but you keep going.

Parenting has really taught me to approach each day like the Eastern Front. "The Russians are coming, we're all going to die!" "Yes the Russians are coming, but our orders are to hold the line." Better to die with our boots on, making a go of it, than run from the challenge.

We are far from perfect parents - kids reveal weaknesses of character and blindspots you never knew you had. Added to the ones you were always well aware of and incapable of dealing with, it can be a bit depressing. But on the good days, and even on the slightly less awful days, it's something else. The biggest challenge I've ever faced, many days more stressful than anything I've ever experienced, but worth it.

A wise man once said "If it was easy, everybody would be doing it." and sure, given there are 7 or 8 billion of us, everyone IS doing it - but what each parent that is trying is doing is to attempt the improbable - to fight against the inevitable heat death of the universe, to overcome thermodynamics and the tendency to entropy in all things - to help these beautiful little creatures as best we can, and then hopefully predecease them, preferably suddenly, after some string of blissfully harmonious family dinners and other adventures, having reflected adequately on our place in the world and our immense satisfaction with it.

Or in a fiery pinto flying off a cliff.

Just not in a knife fight with one of the kids, while their mother cheers them on.

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