Being a parent on the internet usually requires you to fall into one of two categories.
You can be the person who sees beauty everywhere in your children, who writes them long letters, who basks in the wonder of their faces and their voices.
Or you can be the person who uses humor as an escape from the mundane drudgery of parenting, the cleaning, the whining, the repetition.
I am not really either of these parents, though I tend to lean towards the latter instead of the former. But as my circles expand and I see more of the former in my internet circles, it can lead to some soul searching, for better and for worse.
Why don’t I find that kind of beauty in my children everyday? Why don’t I want to write a long post about the magical moments in one of their childish traits like curiosity? Why don’t we have the kind of relationship where my children are overcome with joy and hugs when they see me after time away?
I struggled with these questions a lot early in my parenting life, but then those questions got all swept aside when I found out my child had Autism. That seemed to explain it.
I’m not sure it explains it anymore. My children are children, and despite their differences, they are social and emotional beings. They are beautiful and sensitive and just as worthy of spare essays celebrating their uniqueness.
It’s me. I’m the difference. And I think I’ve always known that but it was nice to believe it wasn’t when I was at some of my lowest points as a parent.
When the kids came to my house after a few days at their dad’s, I thought to myself, Try to see the magic in them, try to see it just a few times each day.
It’s a nice mantra, but it didn’t really change anything. Maybe some of my smiles or my hugs were a few seconds longer? It didn’t change my outlook or open up any new meaning.
Usually as a parent, the best I can manage is trying to be optimistic and positive. “Trying” is the important word, because it usually only takes a day or two for me to lose that outlook completely. Many weeks, by the time I get them ready on their last morning with me, it feels like a relief that I will have a little time to myself.
You may be thinking that it’s single parenting that’s part of the issue. And who knows? Maybe it is. I can’t really say. I’ve never had a real parenting partner, but plenty of people who are married are in that situation. When you’re both working and things are crazy or when one of you is working and division of labor is uneven. It’s just part of it. No, it’s me. And it would be me even if I was in a beatific marriage with a perfect co-parenting partner. The other stuff just affects where my mood falls on the scale from “This is pretty nice,” to “I am ready to be done.”
I wish I found parenting more inspiring and magical and joyful. I really do. And I know that even the people who write long, beautiful stories about wonder in their child’s eyes also experience the drudgery and annoyance and all that. But I only get to hang out on their end of the spectrum in small, short moments.
I worry that my kids miss out. Would their lives be better if I was more excited about who they are right now and what’s happening in their minds? Maybe? I try to make up for my lack of whimsy by making sure we have our fair share of memory-making activities. But I admit this is also to help me keep order and break up the day.
But then again, my children aren’t whimsical by nature. I get the feeling that kind of person would be frustrated by my kids a lot more than I am. Honestly, I usually feel like my kids and I are pretty well-suited to each other. They tend to be independent, which was my preference as a kid and is definitely my preference as a parent. When they seek out play and magic, they usually seek out each other and I’m happy not to stand in the way of that.
I just stopped writing because Tessa walked over and asked to sit in my lap. I saved my draft, hoisted her up, and sat with her for a while. I didn’t feel any great sense of joy or peace or wonder. But it was nice. And there’s no reason why that can’t be enough.