Monday, August 17, 2015

Parenthood: Week 114 – Loving The Child You Have

Accepting the people we love and embracing every facet of who they are is tough

It’s not uncommon for spouses to complain about their partners and voice that they wish they would do more housework or be less controlling. Most people complain about their parents wishing that they were less stubborn or watched less Fox News.

These thoughts don’t come from ugly or derogative feelings. When you spend so much of your life with someone, there is bound to be things that you don’t like about the people that you love. Because love isn’t about enjoying every facet of someone’s personality, it’s about accepting things you don’t like about someone and loving despite these minor annoyances.

This acceptance is a process that takes time and patience. Sometimes we can voice what we dislike and our partners can change but most of the time we keep these thoughts inside. Because it’s the person who is being annoyed who is responsible for accepting their partner. It’s not the partner’s job to change themselves to fit their partner’s expectations.

We are okay with talking about how we wish our partners, friends and parents could be different, but most of us would never voice wishes that our children were different.

When you bring a child into this world, you are supposed to accept them and love them unconditionally. Like developing the love of our partners, this is really difficult. Many, many, many parents struggle at this (check out this blog post if you want to understand the challenge of unconditional love). There’s the dad who wishes that his newborn who refuses to sleep, slept as well as his niece. There’s the mom who struggles to manage a reckless toddler at a playground yearning to have a child who will play more calmly. And then there are the parents who sit watching other kids walk, while their child of the same age struggles to crawl.

It’s this horrible, unspeakable thing to voice these feelings, to say that you wish you could change something about your child. But this is a feeling that most parents feel at some point in time, because parenting is so goddamn hard and there always seems to be some other parent with a kid out there who’s is not dealing with the same frustrations and struggles you and your child are facing.

There’s a fear that if we voice and validate these feelings than somehow our child will pick up on them and they we feel that we love them less. However, like any feelings, if we don’t voice and validate them, we will never learn to deal with these feelings. If we never let ourselves feel these doubts about our children, we will never accept them and learn to move past them. By not dealing with these feelings and processing them, they will come out to our kids in ways that we don't expect.

In the same way that you should be mindful of who you complain about your husband to, you need to be very careful to whom and how you voice your frustrations about your child and how you wish he or she was different.

One reason people laugh when Louie C.K. or Jim Gaffigan make jokes about how much of a pain it is to be a parent is because voicing these complaints so publicly is shocking. Parenting is supposed to be this wonderful, blissful experience and if it sucks at times, then you are doing something wrong. I can’t stand parents who do nothing but complain about their kids but I think we can reach a better balance.

It’s hard to love an infant who keeps you up all night. It’s hard to love a toddler who seems to be having melt downs every five minutes and it’s hard to love a teenager who won’t give you anything but attitude.

Loving your child is an active process that is most difficult when it is most necessary.

Now if your wish came true and your kid was different.  If she was better at sports and was easier to manage, you wouldn't love her as much.  It's the work during the worse of times that builds the bonds of love that we enjoy in the best of times.  Learn to embrace the frustrations, and tribulations of parenthood, because it's theses moments that help us learn to love the child that we have.

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