Monday, February 6, 2012

Parenting 101

Parenting a child might just be the hardest job on the face of the earth. Okay, it may not rank with those jobs Benjy watches on TV ("The World's Dirtiest Jobs"??) in terms of ickiness  -- although, on the other hand, I think we've all had poop under our fingernails at one point or another -- but man, is it challenging.

Especially if your kid is a moving target.

What you do on Monday when your kid is smiling and functional is completely different than what you will do on Tuesday when she is knocking her head against the wall/searching for knives/Googling the phrase "help I want to die." And chances are, no one will be there to advise you in the midst of the head-banging. You will have to run on instinct. Or pray for divine guidance (although in my experience this route takes too long and is better undertaken in an "emotion recollected in tranquility" sort of mode ;).

I wish someone had published a book on how to REALLY do this job. (I know, there are a million of them out there, but what good are they when things change by the hour?) I would make said book my next writing project except it would take forever to compose because it would be in constant revision. What I mean by this is that my store of parenting knowledge is in constant flux. When Benjy evolves in some new way, my brilliant parenting notions -- for example, oh, you've got to be matter-of-fact when he's curled up in a ball and unresponsive -- are shot to hell. Because all of a sudden, matter-of-factness drives him over to the knife block.

You can read all the parenting books you want, but when the chips are down it's still you and your kid. No one will take that burden, and that privilege, away from you.

I feel somewhat like a deer, always on alert, always listening for some chilling change in the environment -- a new sound, a sudden breeze, a scent. I have to listen, and watch, and sense my environment for changes in Benjy's emotional state. Can I take a few moments and enter receipts into our finance spreadsheet? Can I write a little? Clean the kitchen? Or do I need to be parked right beside Ben on the couch, bodies in contact, to feel if his is clenched, or shaking. To sense if he is going down.

Now, don't get me wrong. I know that parenting is hard for just about anyone. You take a fourteen-year-old girl and her hormones, and you've got a parenting nightmare. Make it a boy and it's double trouble. Homework issues, bullying, weight issues, you name it. It's all a challenge, with or without a disability thrown in.

But you know what? Sometimes we get it gloriously right. Almost every one of us.

It feels great when that happens, even if our trenchant insight is only valid for one hour.

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