The parenthood juggle is real
Columnist Jessie Veeder writes that life is harder with kids, but that's how it's supposed to be.
WATFORD CITY, N.D. — We have to wake up early to make it to town before 8:20 a.m. when they lock the doors of the elementary school, forcing you and your child to make the walk of shame to the front office and sign in as a tardy kid. We have to wake up early because, after pulling them out from under the covers, it takes my children at least an hour of coaxing and back rubbing and sweet talking turned to hollering “open your eyeballs!” for my dear darling daughters to be convinced that it’s time to start another day.
Before kids, mornings were my slow roll into creativity, the time I would take to myself to sip coffee, reflect and come up with something to ponder for publication. I never missed a deadline.
These days I’m sweating before 7 a.m., and it’s not because I got myself into a morning workout routine. By the time we’re all up, dressed, fed, brushed, clothed, snacked, packed and buckled into the car, I’ve played the part of lawyer, cook, zookeeper, stylist, housekeeper, secretary, barista, chauffeur and, depending on what kind of morning the 4-year-old is having, therapist, all in an hour and a half’s time.
I’m sitting down now, in the calm after the storm, and I desperately want to be profound, but honestly I’m just happy I remembered I had a deadline in the first place. After 10 years of submitting a weekly column, it’s only now begun to surprise me.
The juggle is real, people, and the only thing I’ve mastered in this working parent game is the art of doing my makeup in the visor mirror of my car between preschool drop off and my impending appearance in public. And no, I have not figured out where that weird smell is coming from in the backseat.
Speaking of cars, here’s a thing I’ve actually done and I’m not too proud to confess. Because maybe that’s why I showed up here today, not with anything deep, but to make you feel better about yourself. I have actually driven myself home from work, the kids safe inside with my husband, turned off the ignition and fell plumb asleep at the wheel. I don’t know how long I was there, but no one knew I was there, so no one came looking.
Last weekend my husband and I decided to paint the old shop, a project that has been on my list all year. In the time it took to coach my daughters through the difference between painting-the-shop-clothes, school clothes and cowgirl clothes my husband could have had half of it done already. I made a wager that it would take Rosie, our four-year-old, exactly two seconds before she had herself covered in red paint and wondered if we should see if grandma wanted to babysit for this part. And while I was right about the timing of the red paint, what I didn’t account for was the amount that would end up on the dog.
But the girls were happy to help. They dug in and painted every inch of the shop they could reach before Rosie started presenting all of the reasons she should be allowed to run the spray paint gun and Edie asked to use the 24-foot ladder. My dear sister showed up with the cousins to offer up a jump on their trampoline and they were off, leaving a trail of red paint in their wake and me alone to supervise my husband on that 24 foot-ladder.
So many things are harder with kids around. I am just going to say it plain as can be here. But then I’m going to say: of course they are. They’re supposed to be. I have to remind myself of that every once in a while.
It. Is. Supposed. To. Be. Harder.
If the goal is to raise capable, compassionate people then the lessons have to be taught in the day to day. In the encouragements and the apologies and the patience shown in letting them do things like pouring their own cereal in the morning when the very adult version of you is screaming inside for all the Cocoa Pebbles now scattered across the kitchen floor. And the time it’s going to take for her to go get a broom and sweep it up and on and on because have you ever read, “If you give a moose a muffin?”
Yes, if I want to raise a kid that understands how to make an old building look like new again, I guess it’s up to us to show them that it’s work. And it’s fun. And it’s a mess. But we can do it. And there will be some fighting. And early mornings. And sometimes you will pop right out of bed and get there early and other times you’ll be the tardy kid and no one’s perfect, you just have to try your best and sometimes your best is catching a power nap in the car alone. And that’s just fine too.
Just always use your manners. Please.
OK, how’s that for profound on a deadline?
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Greetings from the ranch in western North Dakota and thank you so much for reading. If you're interested in more stories and reflections on rural living, its characters, heartbreaks, triumphs, absurdity and what it means to live, love and parent in the middle of nowhere, check out more of my Coming Home columns below. As always, I love to hear from you! Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.