Unless you've been sitting in a solitary cell at Guantamano Bay with a burlap sack over your head, you've read Momastery's viral blog post "Don't Carpe Diem". It has tugged heartstrings and tweaked the old "feelings buttons" on hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of readers all around this lovely big globe of ours. Mine included...I loved it, and it brought back some emotions that I thought had been put away with the Wiggles VHS tapes and the Stride Rite shoes and the strollers.
But, being the cynical Eeyore that I am, as I read it, I kept thinking, "Good Lord woman. Come cry to me when the kid peeing in the corner is peeing onto a pregnancy test stick or into a cup at the drug testing center."
Because yes, I think we can all agree that parenting little kids is a complete mind f*ck somedays (see, I'm still kind of uncomfortable dropping the eff bomb but you get the idea). Being surrounded by a platoon of tiny dictators who have limited vocabularies and even more limited bowel/bladder control IS exhausting and, at the time, I thought getting through that phase of life would make me Queen Mom or at least the Jane Goodall of parenting.
Here's the rub: those sweet little monsters grow up. And there will come a day when you would not only WELCOME some well-meaning old biddy coming up to you, you will beg her for reassurance that you too will make it to the ripe old age of 50 or 60 without killing someone.
I used to roll my eyes at the women who'd offer me a little mom-sympathy at the Target checkout, the women who were at Target, all alone, and weren't grabbing employees to tell them in a frantic, high pitched voice that "OMG I CAN'T FIND MY SON HE'S ABOUT 3 FEET TALL, REDDISH BLONDE HAIR AND IS WEARING A BUZZ LIGHTYEAR T-SHIRT" (note to past self? HE'S IN THE LEGO AISLE).
Now I realize that those women were not looking at me with any sort of condescending "enjoy these moments, dearie" feelings, they were actually staring through me and silently freaking out over the giant technicolor T-rex that was eating the cash register and the cashier behind me. Because at that precise moment in time, her Xanax-chardonnay cocktail had just kicked in and bitch was tripping. You know why she was mixing pharmaceuticals and booze? BECAUSE SHE HAD TEENAGERS. And she wasn't a senior citizen, either, but most likely in her mid-to-late 40's. You think you look haggard at the age of 30 because Axel or Simone kept you up all night asking "where does shoe go when I flush it?" try staying up all night at the age of 44 because Alex or Maddie kept you up waiting for the guy at the impound lot to find your car.
Don't get me wrong: teenagers are not demons, they are not Satan's minions sent here to slowly turn the female population into sleepwalking, alcoholic zombies. Most, if not all of them, possess surprisingly human-like attributes ranging from actual feelings to what can look like responsibility. I have four kids, three of whom are teenagers. And I know there's a God because only one of mine has crossed the line from mind-effing to actually removing the brain matter from my skull and using it like playdough. The other ones, so far, have only managed to turn me into a weeping, self-doubting banshee who sometimes screams out phrases like "THERE WILL COME A DAY WHEN YOU WILL MISS ME!!". But they're only 14 and 16, plus I have one who is only 11 and is just now starting to show his horns. So there is still plenty of time for fun.
And lest you are thinking to yourself, "Geez, Jenny. Get a grip. They're healthy, they're alive, you should be grateful you have them. Get over it!"...believe me, there are flashes of love in there. Really. Sometimes hours of love, or like 45 minutes at a time. Those moments are what keep me from going completely over the edge. I used to think that getting my kids through high school would be my crowning achievement, but now I realize that if I get all of them to the age of 18 without one or all of us ending up either in jail or a mental institution, I will go all Mary Tyler Moore in downtown Minneapolis and twirl around in a circle while tossing my freaking beret up in the air and screaming "I'M GONNA MAKE IT AFTER ALLLLL!".
Being the parent to a teen is challenging, but I know some of my friends have fewer challenges than others. For some of these moms and dads, their biggest frustration is that "Chrissy is really getting behind in answering her acceptance letters! Grrrrr!" or "Bobby really has to learn time management!!! You can't feed the homeless, mentor underprivileged youth and be captain of the fencing team...at least not all in one day! UGHHH!". And you know what? I am so happy for my friends, and even for complete strangers, who have teenagers like that. Seriously.
But my reality, and the reality of countless other mommies and daddies out there, is different.
I used to get myself through public tantrums and outbursts by telling myself, "He's really smart. The smart ones get frustrated more easily, that's all. He's super smart." And now I get myself through particularly trying teenage moments by telling myself, "He's really smart. I heard the smart ones can usually avoid getting raped in prison. He's really smart."
I remember how upset I'd get when I'd find stinky old sippy cups of milk under the couch, or when a Hot Wheels car would get stuck in the toilet or when I'd come into a room and find a toddler surrounded by yards of video tape. I'd clean up the mess and sigh and wonder when the day would come when my kids could get their own glass of milk, or wipe their own butts or clean their own rooms.
Now I find towels that are so encrusted with something so unspeakable that I could use them as lumber, toilets that get clogged with bowel movements so big I'm tempted to check them for a pulse and I walk into a room only to find a teenager quickly closing a window on the computer (safe search only works for so long, my friends). Now I wash the towels, plunge the toilet and sanitize the keyboard and wonder when my kids will have teenagers just like them.
But just like the Carpe Diem chick, I do see the light in the darkness. I have some truly beautiful times with these teenagers, and every once in a while I get a glimpse of the adults they will someday become. We've had conversations that have reminded me how smart these kids really are, observations they've made that reveal to me how fabulously wicked their senses of humor are becoming, and moments of poignant clarity that remind me just how insanely hard it was to be a teen.
At the end of the day, I find myself grateful, so very grateful that these teenagers, all three of them, and yes, especially the most frustrating one, are mine. I know there is a reason that God or the Stork or whomever it is that decides which baby will go to which parent gave these brilliant, unique individuals to me. Someone, somewhere, deemed me capable of not only getting these individuals through toddlerhood and childhood intact, but through their teenage years alive.
Am I up for the challenge? So far, the answer is "Yes." Or, if I've had a few glasses of wine, "Yesh."
So, mommies of little kids who are struggling to get through the day and are now measuring time in cool Greek terms, hang in there. I don't want to sound like one of those old coots in Target, but you will get through these times. And you will have a sweet Golden Age from about 9 to 11. Or maybe not.
But you will get through it. And when these kids are teenagers, thanks to Momastery and all the friends who've shared her fabulous blog post, you'll know that Carpe Diem translates to "Seize the Day", not "Seize their necks". This information will serve you well, warriors. It will serve you well, indeed.
P.S. And when I see you at Target, and I call you warrior? Please know that in my head I'm not picturing a fierce, Amazonian sword-and-shield bearing soldier, but rather one of those weary looking African tribeswomen, with paper-thin depleted boobies and a trail of naked kids behind her. And I'm picturing it with love.