Scary stories from a lovely place
I could count on multiple hands the amount of times I’ve been told that I needed more willpower in dealing with my children. It’s my own fault. I too easily open myself up to the advice of mere acquaintances, when really, when it comes to parenting, it should only be close confidantes whose pearls of wisdom are considered.
According to some people I have spoken to, what’s lacking from my parenting is willpower. On matters of sleeping through the night, going to sleep without cuddling, breastfeeding and general ‘clinginess’ it seems that I’m not tough enough. Too soft. Too weak. I don’t have the willpower to sort out my kids.
Tonight I was up with my second born until 9:30pm, a whole 2.5 hours past his usual bedtime (and we got up before daybreak). So we read The Gruffalo over and over. We played with porcelain elephants. We ate dark chocolate (and I drank red wine). And my fellow caregiver wasn’t home until late tonight. Oh man it’s been a sucky day. Sickness. Tears. Tantrums. Too much role playing of the Fat Controller. Not enough ‘me time’. Nothing for my brain. Nothing for my body (except chocolate, but that is for my soul – and I had to share it). The house is covered in train tracks, crumbs, coloured matchsticks and dishes in various stages of cleanliness. Grim.
My kids have pushed me past the edge of reason in every possible way. Every certainty I had about my parenting before they were born is no more. They have taken just about every ounce of independence, solitude and career aspiration I ever had. They make up for it in sporadic, but heady doses of sweetness. It pains me to say it, but it’s worth it. All the sleep I have lost (A LOT). All the physical pain I have felt. All the frustration I have borne. A few tender smiles and funny whispers in one evening and they’ve earned their keep.
And so, when people tell me that all I’m lacking is a little willpower it rankles me, just a bit. Because it’s not weakness to let them get up when they won’t go to sleep. Or get up in the cold five times a night to help them go back to sleep. Or wear sports bras for three years so breastfeeding is convenient. Those things don’t demonstrate weakness. They demonstrate willpower, tired, bored, determined willpower.
But it’s all willpower isn’t it. Just deciding to have kids, to lose the wonderful duality of marriage and add a third (or fourth, or fifth, or more!) member, to resign oneself to the physical labour of growing a person, birthing it and raising it, all of this takes willpower. To stare down the barrel of infertility or illness and refuse to lose hope. To sacrifice dreams, holidays, eating out; in order to make other good dreams. To stay up all night or to enforce sleep. To work, to support, to cultivate, in order to care for children.
All of it takes bloody willpower.