I was scrolling through Facebook this morning and saw someone share a blog post titled "my worst nightmare as a parent." The comments were laden with "LOL" and overtly smiling emojis, so I became intrigued. I mean, nightmares don't seem very funny to me. As I read, I felt my blood start to boil just a little. This was a blog post about a toddler who insisted upon waking up every two hours during the night for one whole week. It's the worst nightmare I could imagine, explained the exasperated author as she went on to describe the level of sleep deprivation that she was facing. This is all coming off the heels of another similarly titled blog post I read a few days ago in which that author's idea of a worst nightmare was her child jumping in mud puddles at the park and getting dirt all over her new shoes and her dress. That author asked readers for advice on how to get her toddler to be more conscious about appearance and avoiding mud puddles. Certainly they couldn't run to the grocery store after playing if the child had mud caked on their feet. Before that came a shared post about a mother who didn't even remember what a "break from her kids" felt like.
The thing is, I was an attached parent before I lost Wylie. The only difference is then everyone just thought I was weird. They made jokes about me needing to "cut the cord" and do things for myself because apparently by putting my everything into Ethan, I was doing the parenting thing wrong. Now, people have decided to cut me a little slack in the sarcasm department. They blame my attachment on having lost a child. Maybe my perspective has changed a little bit (Oh? You want a break from your child? Let me fill you in on what a lifetime, eternal break from your child feels like, you...you...okay, you get the point) but my parenting style hasn't really changed. Ethan screamed his way into the world and I began questioning the detachment that has swept up our society as a whole. I mean, by the time Ethan turned one people were asking me if I'd enrolled him in school yet. As Ethan's similarly aged pals are enrolled in VPK and now await their first year of school, my family now sits even further on the front lines of criticism. I've got to give my husband credit. He's not as seasoned as I am in this. His freak flag didn't start flying until Ethan came along.
I mean, these are children. Is it really the job of a four year old to remain conscious of mud puddles and work diligently at keeping themselves clean on the playground? Did anyone really sign up for parenthood with the expectations to sleep soundly during the night and present themselves at the grocery store with well-coiffed hair and clean, ironed clothing? I mean, sleep deprivation is no joke and parenting is the most intense, challenging job on the planet but these are your babies, for crying out loud. They need you right now. Realize that they won't need you for long. One day, they won't want to jump in puddles or dig holes in the sand or laugh as their new khaki shorts sop up the dirty water at the bottom of a slide. One day, they won't want to show their faces in public with chocolate mouths or sticky watermelon fingers or remnants of a great day of play stained on their knees and soles. One day, your children will wake up in the night, turn on their light and read a book until they fall back asleep. They won't need you. They won't require your arms and the feel of your heartbeat against their cheek. But right now, they need these things.
I'm not sure if our time in the baby having phase is numbered. I'm not sure if this is that transitional period from baby having to child raising or if I'm going to pull a stunt like my mother and pop out a baby when Ethan is gearing up for middle school. Uncertainty terrifies me (oh, what an understatement that is) but it also gives me some added perspective. It all passes. Every day that I witness Ethan jumping in mud puddles or asking to hold my hand -- whether at three in the afternoon or three in the morning -- I realize how grateful I am for the opportunity to watch him grow and love him, comfort him and nurture him anytime that he needs me. I've lived a nightmare worse than sleepless nights and dirty clothing. The ability to run my hands through my son's hair at night hours past his bedtime is the fuel that keeps the world spinning.