A year ago, at this time of night, my wife and I realized that her contractions were more than Braxton-Tricks. That moment marked the first of many sleep starved nights. Yet now I sit sipping a cold stout as my son slides into a tranquil sleep. A year is a crazy thing.
My wife and I have been parents for a whole year. How we survived this year is one of the greatest anomalies of my life.
My first public post about my son was called “My Newborn is an @$$hole.” A lovely intro to my experience in parenthood. I knew well before posting it that I would catch flack for speaking negatively about my experience. I knew that people would have all kinds of suggestions about what I could have said instead of what I did say.
As a writer, though, I have tried to live by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words about honesty:
“Speak what you think today in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today.”
My frustrations and struggles with having a hyper-colicky were real. They were hard. And feeling like my son was an asshole was real. And admitting it was hard. I do not take back what I wrote because it was my truth. To revise that truth — to “soften it” for others –would be to deny my reality and perpetuate this bull crap idea of perfect parenting and pure thinking. I don’t even fear the idea that my son, years from now, may read what I wrote. Hell, reading that post might be birth control requirement number eight hundred and seven.
But, in remaining loyal to Emerson’s words, it’s time for today’s hard words — words that contradict everything I said “yesterday”:
My son is one of the greatest things that ever entered my life.
There were moments, even in those challenging colicky months, when I was optimistic I would say those words. But, more often there were moments when that hope was starving. There were moments when I didn’t know if my patience was long enough, if my relationship was solid enough, if I was strong enough to survive parenting a child who screamed and cried for twelve plus hours a day, every day.
There were times when I stood helpless, my wife in tears as she asked why she felt like life was punishing her, as I wondered that very question. Those days were dark. Bleak. Cold. Those days were.
Today, I watched my son scramble across the floor, curiously jamming a spatula into furniture. I heard him squeal with contagious laughter in the bathtub, shoving foam toys into my mouth just so I could spit them out. I rocked him in my arms, his cheek on my heart, watching his eyes drift to sleep. We clapped. We babbled. We high-fived.
Less than a year ago none of that seemed like it would ever happen.
The purpose of my first post was more than venting; I don’t write to vent. I write to share. I wrote that post as an offering of my truth to every other parent who was going through what we were. I wrote it so that others could relate to that creeping and honest anger that comes with having a colicky kid. I wrote it to acknowledge a hard reality of parenting that I wish someone had told me so I didn’t feel alone.
And again I write to offer my truth, one year in the making:
It gets better.
Somewhere there is a parent who is going through hell with his or her kid. If you are that parent, know that it is okay to feel like having a colicky child is horrendous, that it is okay to feel like your kid is an asshole.
But, I also long for that parent to hold onto hope. There will be days that make it all worth it — every tear, every scream, every “What-the-f#$%-are-we-doing!?”
Those days might not come for what seems like eternity. But they will come. They may be smothered between tougher days and longer weeks of anguish. But they will come.
I am not naive enough to think that we are smooth sailing now. We still go through crappy phases, when our frayed colic-nerves jolt like parenting PTSD. We know that many challenges lie ahead, some that will feel worse than a few months of hardcore colic.
But this year has taught me that behind the darkest clouds the sun still exists. Always cling to hope because it exists for a reason.