Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Saving Private Missy

Y’know, I had no idea that 1 + 1 = so much extra stress. Honestly. No shit. Really. No clue.
Mojo and I talked about how we thought that raising two kids would be different from one, about potential adoption issues ranging from emotional distance through food hoarding to medical problems. There’s an old Army saying: everything you do in war is simple, but in war the simplest things are fiendishly hard. We thought we had this child-rearing thing pretty well dealt with. We had a great little boy, a little high-maintenance but overall a super little guy; we’d done the baby-toddler-preschool route, balanced work and childcare, developed a logistical support plan, figured out how to move under direct kid-assault by using the traditional parent techniques of mutual support and covering fire. We saw ourselves as real old sweats, hardened veterans of the Kinderkrieg, in great shape to hit the beach and begin Operation Orphan Freedom.
Christ on a pogo stick: were we wrong! The simple addition of one little person has us scrambling for cover, feeling like we’re caught in the open by counterparent fire heavier and more accurate than we feared in our worst pre-adoption moments. As advertised, even the simplest task – mealtime, grocery shopping, playtime, bedtime - is fiendishly hard.
And hardest of all, we don’t get much time to just stop and feel simple, undemanding love for our little peeps. We’re so busy feeding, clothing, playing with and caring for them that they are often just, well, just another job to be done. A job that undoes itself every night and has to be re-done all over the next day. It’s the soldiers’ nightmare: the hill that has to be retaken time after time, the river you assault across only to find another identical river just beyond…and another…and another.
You tell yourself that you’re the best parent you can be, that you may not be perfect but that you’re struggling ahead under fire towards your goal: a solid family with happy, confident kids. That the exhaustion you feel at the end of the day, the lack of real personal time to do the things you vaguely remember enjoying before kid arrival, is the casualty of the fight you’re waging to be good parents and to raise good kids. You tell yourself that a family isn’t a contest, that nobody “wins” or “does better” than anyone else.But it’s hard not to compare yourself to other parents. Our friends Millicent and Floyd came back from China with their little girl Nola about the same time we did. Here’s Millie’s conclusion to their blogoventurous account of the journey. Writes well, doesn’t she? It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Aren’t they a terrific little family? I stopped by the other day to say hi and was knocked sideways by Nola’s fabulous “windmill-Bud-carton-slam”. The girl is a marvel. Her dad is just great, cold and all, and her mom is just as outstanding as we all knew she’d be. And Millie puts it so well; “Life is just so very sweet.”
I am so filled with happiness for them I could bite myself. But as I write this in the back of my mind the bitter cold little voice asks “So why isn’t your life so very sweet, giacomo? How come you come back home every night praying that you won’t open the door to screaming children and an overwhelmed wife? How come your weekends seem like an 18 hour day for straight wages at the KinderMart? How come for every sweet loving moment there seems like two moments where you are not the loving daddy but combined cop/chef/referee/janitor/rodeo child-roping cowboy?I don’t have a good answer for my little cold voice except that parenting, like war, has tough times as well as easy ones. That while when you're in luck parenting is a joy and a delight; but that it is also duty, a duty to your kids who can't go forward without you. And that sometimes duty is heavier than a mountain.
But who knew that such a little girl could weigh so much?


walternatives said...

No assvice from this childless reader but I want you to know that I appreciate your candor. Hang tough, soldiers. And keep the bar stocked so you can have a well-deserved nightcap (or 3) after the kids are bedded.

thinking of y'all...

Millicent said...

Ah hell Chief...you know as well as I do that those updates are like Christmas updates. You focus on the positive. You don't talk about how Joey did prison time, you talk about the great volunteer work he did (and leave out the part where he was wearing an orange jumpsuit). You get the picture.

Floyd and I are thrilled to have Thor in our lives for so many reasons, but we are new to this game and we are incredibly challenged. More challenged than I can write about at this stage. I feel fragile and I cry often.

Just remember...appearances can be deceiving.