lessons from the trenches: love of my life

I have very, very, very smart friends.

Lessons from the Trenches is a series of a few things that I have learned over the last few months from watching and listening to my mom friends in action.

Check out Lessons from the Trenches: Stop Wasting and Lessons from the Trenches: Yelling.

"Your work is not your results."

Friend: Ryan
Friend's Kids: 2 boys, about the same as my two boys, in fact exactly the same as my two boys
Friend's Parenting Vibe: Playful, attentive, rough-and-tumble, tender, protective
Friend's Parenting Spirit Animal: Golden retriever


Ryan is my best friend.


OK, now that THAT elephant is out of the room, I can tell you a little bit about the latest time Ryan blew my mind (as a friend) (not as a lover) (you guys) (stop it) (our parents read this) (and also at least one grandparent) (and none of them know) (so shhhhhh).

Ryan is a full-time parent who works outside of the home. He rolls around with the kids as "slow-motion monster," takes them to the beach on days I have to work, knows just how to cut (or NOT CUT) the pancakes Saturday morning, and has his own little tricks to get Buster to release the toothbrush from his white, white fangs. (You might think you could just put a finger in there to push them open, but I'll tell ya, that's something a brave soul or a drunk only tries ONCE.)

He is an outstanding vice president of parenting. I've written about the co-parenting paradox before, and I stand by what I said - when one parent works full-time outside the home, and one parent works full time on the home, the home-parents wear the crown, for better or worse.

I know I can rely on him to drive our circus caravan when I'm plum tuckered out. But I don't necessarily expect him to choose the route. I assume that I'm going to be the one to make a plan when the sleep shit hits the fan, and I know he'll be totally on board. I don't expect him to originate ideas about our family operations; I am, after all, the witness to the daily operations. Plus, I've got this crown.

We are so comfortable with our roles - me as pre-martyred matriarch, him as level-headed PM who can roll up his sleeves at the work site - that I sometimes forget how capable and insightful he is. I sometimes forget that he sees our children, too, and might have his own thoughts about our family.

(Every time I come back from the eye doctor with a stronger prescription, he tells me the story of when he got his ONE eye exam in his whole life and the eye doctor was like SOOOO impressed and said, "you should be a pilot!" And every time I'm like "AWESOME. WOW. In the event of a zombie apocalypse you can be the one responsible for breaking into Lenscrafters and snatching a lifetime supply of extra-moisturizing disposable contact lenses for your feebley-eyed wife." All this to say the man has VISION. (ba dum!)

I know. That was too many words for a really soft double entendre. Listen, they're not all winners, and this is my blog, not my nobel-prize-winning collection of double entendres. READ IT OR DON'T OKAY.)


The other night, I was telling Ryan a story from the day.

If you're a co-parent, you know how most of these stories go:

"So the kids were doing (something sweet, calm, and innocent) and I thought I'd just go to the (room of the house) and do (something quick and basic that most people get to do without asking permission or doing a full NASA-style go/no-go checklist to confirm that the children are not in possession of knives, poisons, or permanent ink).

Suddenly, I hear this (catastrophic sound), and (one of the kids) comes (running/bolting/slamming/soaring/limping/sobbing/screaming/giggling/gushing blood) into the (room of the house).

'What happened, (kid's nickname)?' I asked him. And HE SAID, '(other kid's name) (weird verbed*) me.'

*weird verbs are verbs that are NOT things you can do to another person. Must be disturbing. Examples include: "gummed," "peeled," "slippered," "forked," and "ordled." Yes, weird verbs can be words you have never heard before that sound vaguely pervy.

So I went back into the (room where it happened) and sure enough, there sat (other kid's name), and babe, you can't even imagine the scene. (Proceed to describe the scene with enough hyperbole that he, like, GETS why the wine is open. May include the words "destroyed" "demolished" "clusterfuck" "shitshow" "hellfire" "apocalyptic" "condemned" and "sociopath.")

Oh, and did I mention that (some other pressing matter that has been hanging over your head all day and is a pain in the fucking ass to deal with, something like a broken chest freezer, or a schizophrenic grandmother who needs more tapioca)?!?!

But I (figure of speech that can only apply to bitches who get shit done - sucked it up, stayed focused, nutted up, breathed in Jesus, etc.) and said to the children (something calm and wise and loving), and they both (made a gesture of affection in my general direction), and for a moment, I was a good parent."

So I was telling Ryan one of those stories, and I'd just hit the ending:

"... and for a moment, I was a good parent."

And he put a finger up in the air to interrupt me.

Now, I don't need to tell you that such a gesture is an act of war in this house, and I had my "saywhatnowmothafucka" eyebrows all hiked up by the time he opened his mouth and said,

"No, Kate. For a moment, the results of your good parenting were ALSO GOOD."

I just wanted to give you a minute to sit with that.

A parent's effort is a victory, even if you lose the game.

Our effort, alone, is an achievement.

I'm trying to figure out when I started to take responsibility for my children's behaviors, or rather, the age at which I began to internalize the bullshit fallacy that my human being report card came daily, hourly even, and there was only one class: Keeping Your Child Quiet and Obedient.

When the kids were babies I never owned their behaviors. For God's sake, what if I thought it was my fault every time my kid barfed a little milkcheese on a play mat? Babies barf milkcheese, yo! That's why mamas roll with diapeys. Don't hate the baby, hate the game.

I didn't think I was a terrible parent when Chicken (6 months old) had a meltdown at the grocery store.

I had an ominous suspicion that I could be a terrible parent when Chicken (18 months old) had a meltdown at the grocery store. But hey, terrible twos, right?

I have no doubt in my mind that I am a terrible parent when Chicken (4 years old) and Buster (2 years old) take turns screaming - LITERALLY SCREAMING at the tops of their lungs - in line to check out at the grocery store, and only stop when their mouths turn up in hysterical giggles under my sweating palms.

How did I get here, shaking my head and pressing my lips together when Chicken pushes a kid down the slide. We've talked about that... but not enough. I need to remember to remind him about pushing every time we come to the playground. If I'd talked to him about that, he wouldn't have done it. Snatching Buster out of the air, mid-plummet onto the coffee table. What were you thinking, letting the kids work themselves up like this right before dinner? What did you think would happen?

When a money manager loses money for his clients, do people assume he's bad at his job, or do they recognize that he deals in chaos, that in his place of business, there is no ceiling, and no floor for that matter?

When a hostage negotiator loses a jumper, do people assume he's bad at his job, or do they understand that he cannot be successful at his work unless a literally insane person decides to regain his sanity? A good day at work includes an actual fucking miracle. If you define success by the choices of the jumper.

When a surgeon loses a patient, do people assume she's bad at her job, or do they understand that a doctor is not a god; even if she can squeeze a heart she cannot force it to keep beating.

When a parent loses a battle with her child, do people assume she's bad at her job, or do they understand... no, they pretty much just assume she's bad at her job. Or, at least, I assume it about myself.

I needed Ryan to point out the difference between my abilities and the children's reception of them.

Some days you pack the lunches, cut the grapes, slather the sunscreen, slip on the shoes, clip the car seats, use your turn signal, and you get to the zoo and the children eat peacock shit pellets and run in opposite directions.

Some days you pack the lunches, cut the grapes, slather the sunscreen, slip on the shoes, clip the car seats, use your turn signal, and you get to the zoo and the children watch the giraffes lope and exclaim, "oh, they're so beautiful!"

Either way, you fucking worked.

Some nights you cook a $28 piece of salmon and the children beg for seconds.

Some nights you cook a $28 piece of salmon and the next day you have to rent a rug cleaner.

Either way, you were a great fucking parent.

You say, "Hitting is not okay," or "I won't let you hit," or "Stop hitting this instant," and the first thousand times you say it, nothing changes. But you were a great fucking parent the whole time. Every time you opened your mouth to say the thing that seemed like it would never work, you were great. Even if the results weren't.

I really needed to hear that, Ryan.



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