“You look so angry all the time now,” my wife said. “What’s wrong?”
We were on a family walk amidst the long shadows of a lovely evening. There were two beautiful, life-full children in the stroller, a gorgeous wife on my arm, even a gentle breeze blowing through what used to be my hair. Yeah, what could I possibly be mad about? Was I mad? I actually had to think about it.
“No, I’m not angry,” I finally decided. “I think I just look this way now.”
Parenting is kind of like being in one of those car crushers. You ever seen one of those? You watch the windshield implode, the windows burst out, steel bend and flatten. And just when you think it can’t possibly get any more compact, it just keeps going and going until you’re left with like a Pepsi can. And then somebody kicks that can.
Okay, I’m being overly dramatic, whiny even. But words like tired and exhausted are so lacking, almost downright insulting to this actual, persistent feeling I call The Fog. The Fog makes it hard to concentrate, easy to watch TV. Hard to have conversations, yet easy to talk to yourself. It makes planning anything that requires motored transportation an ordeal, and carrying it out nearly epic.
And yes, it’s hard to smile. Not out of lack of want or joy; it’s just physically hard to smile. Lots of precious energy I might need later for blinking or swallowing.
Life doesn’t stop. Bub doesn’t stop. Ever. He’s up at 7:00 every morning, beckoning us with UP UP UP! from his crib. And even when Bub does stop for a nap, Peanut will start throwing her baby fat around. I mean, BOTH parents are home right now, and it’s this hard. I can’t think about when my wife goes back to work. Not because I don’t want to strategize, but because I just don’t have the energy. Maybe it’s better that way.
One night after a particularly rugged rainy day of meltdowns and insubordination, we were sitting at dinner. I went on a long, self-pitying diatribe while Bub quietly munched on some grapes. Oh, I was feeling insecure as a parent and I want our kids to be happy and not joyless depressos and we think we’re doing a good job, but who knows? You don’t really know for many, many years. And you don’t exactly get a lot of constructive feedback from your subjects, even though ironically, this affects them the most, and blah blah blah, and Bub, what do you think, anyway—are Mommy and Daddy doing a good job?
“Yes, Daddy,” he said, without missing a beat. And that was the easiest smile I’ve mustered in weeks.