I received a video in a text from my wife. In it, my 4-year-old daughter tried to get my 18-month-old daughter to say “Grandma and Grandpa” phonetically and accurately. When she nailed it, my wife and eldest daughter cheered. It was a small, but important victory for a kid learning new words every day, and whose actual Grandma and Grandpa will be flying into town for a visit this upcoming Friday.
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The video ended with my eldest putting up the sign language version of “I love you” with both hands and shouting, “Double love you!” It’s the first time I’ve seen her do that and it made me laugh out loud.
It was just what I needed to get my day started. Then I saw a Facebook post of a friend of mine on my news feed that brought me back down to earth.
His post, from the night before, said the following: “Called 911 on a couple this morning. They were pushing and screaming at each other while a baby in a stroller was two feet away from the busy street. After a full day, I still feel sick thinking about the problems that child will have in life because of her parents.”
I often forget that for many, parenting isn’t seen as a gift or a blessing, and it makes me sad. Now I’m not one to judge right off the bat. Couples fight, I get it, and it’s really hard not to argue in front of the kids, even though we all should try to make that the goal. But in public, while possibly putting your kids in danger because of it? That’s just ridiculous, and like my friend stated, simply an example of the possible many struggles that kid will have to encounter for years to come.
I was lucky. Growing up I had a great family structure. To this day we all — siblings and parents — still get together to talk about our lives around a table with laughs, tears, hugs and yes, sometimes beer. Some kids won’t ever experience the love I was given. It’s my job to make sure my kids do.
And so I work at it, with my wife, on a daily basis. It’s not easy, trust me. Just read my friend’s other post that day as an example: “When your child is sick, life is utter chaos. Schedules go out the window. Appointments are made and then changed. Work appointments are changed and then unmade. Parents get stressed out of their minds. Mix in the possibility of a sibling getting sick and/or parents catching the bug, and it is not fun. Advice for those thinking about having children and wanting to keep any sort of independence — do not have children!”
He was joking, by the way. He and his wife are great parents, and like me, he’s often telling people how lucky he is to have landed such a great family.
But his emotions are valid. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Life comes to a screeching halt with kids. Your plans go out the window. Your life becomes theirs, and whatever they need is your top — or only — priority. While I envy people without kids who go out every weekend, or who plan a spur of the moment vacation to the beach, I remember that I have something that many pray they one day can — and some never will. It’ll take a little more time, planning and money for me to make it to that same beach, but when I do, I’ll get to watch my youngest run up to the water, feel it cold on her feet and run back to us screaming with glee. I’ll get to watch my eldest build a sand castle better than I can nowadays, and marvel at her imagination as she tells me the story of the families living within it.
We tried to take our own family photo last weekend with a tripod and the four of us in a park. We failed miserably. Every time I got up to set the timer, my 18-month-old broke her pose to get up and follow. I had 10 seconds to sit us all down and hope all four of us were looking at the camera, smiling and not blinking. After about 50 tries, and lots of whining, we went home to look at the photos on a bigger screen. There were actually a couple of perfect poses by us all! Sadly, after all of that, the shadows from branches of the tree covered half of our faces in every photo. It made every one virtually unusable, and there was no way we were taking those cranky kids back out to try again.
I laugh today at the memory. Every little thing is such a challenge with kids, but if you see it as an adventure, one you’re lucky to be on, you can have the time of your life.
So cherish your kids. They are not here by accident, no matter how they actually arrived on the scene. They are your present and future, and will be what you leave as your legacy when you’re gone. In a nutshell, your kids are the world.
Patrick Ibarra is the managing editor of the Mountain Democrat.