Today I took Eva to my doctor’s appointment. I wasn’t too concerned with her being with but near the end of our 45 minute wait for my doctor (which he was very apologetic for) her willingness to obey me was paper thin. After the 4th time of her grabbing the thing I told her not to, going being the table I told her not to, and chucking Show White across the room at me, I got down on one knee, gently but firmly took her by the shoulders and said, “Eva, honey, why are you being naughty right now?” She looked me in the eye and casually said: “Because I want to play with you!”
I laughed and felt my stress melt away. Then we had a Snow-White-Throwing-Contest, which Dr. Lincoln won (jk).
My kid stresses me out sometimes. There. I said it.
The moments are few and far between, but they happen. I think it can feel so intense at times because it’s really strong emotions on both ends of the spectrum. The love I have for her in contrast to the stress she can cause me are all meshed and intertwined in a giant ball of really potent feelings of anxiety and happiness all at the same time.
And without a doubt, the good far outweighs the bad. Usually any moment of stress is eclipsed by the countless moments of love and laughter I have with her. The love I have for her is even confusing sometimes because I can’t even understand why it’s so much and being a dad has grown my patience and mercy and empathy and so much more.
But as often as we have moments of rainbows and flowers and the universe being pink, she still stresses me out.
And I feel like this isn’t something modern parents talk about a lot. People always look at new parents with a huge, open-mouth smile and bright, expectant eyes as they enthusiastically say: “So…how do you like being a dad!?!?!?!” Of course, my response has to match or surpass their enthusiasm and, at worst, must be be 99.9989% positive. But there have been many times when I’m asked this questions coming from a day full of poop under my finger nails, tantrums at the frozen yogurt place, and a 45 second nap.
I remember when Eva was only a few months old, there were a few times when she was fed, changed, and swaddled, but would scream her head off for hours with no apparent reasons. During these kind of moments, I would have to put her down for a few minutes while I took a lap around the living room to calm down and build up my patience again. I remember thinking for the first time: I get how people would shake their baby. Obviously I’m not endorsing it and I can’t imagine the pain that people have gone through because of a completely innocent or well-intentioned mistake. But as a parent, I know the sense of just wanted her to be happy but when I’ve done everything that should make her happy but she was still so violently not happy (combined with my lack of sleep, not having left the house in two weeks, and having vomit on every wearable t-shirt), my fuse was pretty short.
One of my new favorite entertainers is Louis CK. His stand-up material and TV show frequently talk about some raunchy subjects, but overall I find his comedy fresh and real. His show is like a modern-day Seinfeld and more than any other comedian I’ve heard, Louis seems to be the most authentic to himself. He doesn’t put on any kind of act or persona, but is just being himself and talking about his life in genuine, hilarious ways.
I especially love when he talks about being a dad to his two daughters. He seems like a great dad and a lot of his philosophy of parenting I tend to agree with (teaching them to adjust when life doesn’t go the way we plan, learning to solve problems on their own, being intentional about talking and having fun together, etc.). Mostly though, I love that he doesn’t shy away from talking honestly about the less-than-perfect aspects of having kids.
During one of the stand-up segments of his show (Episode 2:1), he talks about the paradox of the extremely good and and bad things having kids can make him feel:
“Any parent who is honest will tell you, you live with that ambivalence. You look at the face of your beautiful, lovely child and you think two things at the exact same time: ‘I love this kid so much that it ‘s changed my whole life. I love other people more because of how much I love her. I love people that died years ago more. My love has traveled time because of how completely I love her and she loves me back. She’s completely given value to life that didn’t exist before…and I regret every decision that led to her birth’. That’s how it feels.” – Louis CK
Okay, so I don’t necessarily regret every decision that led to my daughter’s birth, but I love that he’s not afraid to admit that it’s really difficult to be a parent sometimes. And that’s okay! Parenting is one of the most difficult things to do and I think parent’s should be allowed to say that. Whether it’s the stress of an infant, toddler, awkward and/or rebellious teenager, or very poor decision-making, the stress of being a parent is very real. And we don’t need to be afraid to admit that! For an interesting perspective on modern parenting, check out Jennifer Senior’s TED talk entitled: “For parents, happiness is a very high bar.”
“Being a parent is wanting to hug and strangle your kid at the same time” – Bill Watterson (via Calvin’s dad)
So, if you’re a parent, it doesn’t make you a horrible or even slightly-less-good parent to admit when you had a frustrating day with your kid or that you’re totally stressed by them. If anything, that’s the healthy way to purge those feelings by expressing them honestly to be blessed by some encouragement or just a listening ear. Galatians 6:2 tells us that by sharing each other’s burdens means we’re obeying the law of Christ. Parents always joke about the stress of young kids once their kids are older, but I think it’d be healthy if we could laugh/cry about it when it’s actually happening too. God got ticked at His kids, which makes me think it’s okay for me to have a rough day as a dad now a then. And instead of pretending like everything is perfect, I’d rather admit I’m worn thin and seek to do better tomorrow when by beautiful baby girl becomes, what Linds and I lovingly call: Cray-Va (pictured below).