Sometimes the guilt of it all can feel like walking around with a hiker’s backpack.
You’re never prepared for the disruption of parenting. No amount of acquired knowledge outside of lived experience can adequately describe the impact a child will have. Trust me, I’ve read the books. Parenting is an all-consuming, never-ending labor of love. It’s also equal parts joyful and boring, motivating and tedious, and thrilling yet somehow monotonous all at the same time.
My youngest wants to be a writer, and you’d think it would fill my heart with joy. If I’m honest, it did, at first, but after a few writing sessions together where she has to read me each sentence straight after writing it, I have begun planting the seed that perhaps what she really wants to be is a game developer like her father.
My eldest devours books. It’s a beautiful thing to see and we definitely encourage it, even gifting her a second-hand kindle so she can read in the dark before bed. She, too, likes to write stories, but her tales are darker, featuring protagonists who feel unseen and unappreciated. Her stories always lead to deeper conversations between us, and more research on parenting for me when we’re done.
I read this science fiction, short story once about this mother who was attempting to juggle parenting whilst chasing her dreams. The specifics of her aspirations were unimportant, and so I’ve forgotten them, but what was interesting and made the story memorable was the fact that she could push a button on her babies to pause them into some kind of temporary stasis. You see, the premise was she didn’t want to miss out on her children’s life. In fact, she wanted just the opposite, but with a finite amount of hours in the day, the constant care they require combined with the dreams she couldn’t relinquish and still remain whole and sane… well, she found herself pushing the button more frequently at first, and then for longer durations as time went by.
I read this story years before having children, but I think it’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to understanding what it meant to be a parent without actually being one. The writer was able to capture the absolute love she had for her children while at the same time conveying her need to achieve something of meaning and value—as she defined it—wholly independent of anyone or anything else.
I wish I remembered the author’s name or even the title of the story. I am convinced she was a mother because it takes experience to create such a tale. Oh the places her mind must have gone to imagine that reality.
Instead of pausing my children, I give them the freedom to play independently. I feed them. I break up a few fights. I’m sure I shout. A lot. But I also dole out a fair bit of hugs and I love you’s. Just before bed, I help my eldest with the three things she did well so she can complete her daily entry in her Happiness Journal. I also sit with my youngest as she reads to me. It’s been rewarding watching her discover stories her sister fell in love with a couple of years ago.
It’s a juggling act, this pursuit of personal aspirations while parenting. Perhaps, instead of accepting that balls will drop from time-to-time, I just need to have less of them in the air.