The Times When You’re Just Not Feeling It

Being a parent is the most rewarding and wonderful job a person could imagine. It’s both a powerful and fun task that I’m grateful to accept. There’s nothing better than being a mom or dad to a child…

…like 90% of the time.

Don’t let the positive theme here fool you. Life isn’t about positive or negative. It’s about reality. The reality is that there are plenty of times when we, as adults, need to get away from the kids in order to steal a few sobering moments to ourselves. For the most part, they follow us around like paparazzi from room to room with blaring iPads and questions about when they can have ice cream. It’s not like you can watch a real television show in their presence. You never become aware of how kid-unfriendly literally everything you watch on TV is until you have kids.

olivia strawEven trying to get up before them in the morning can backfire. No matter how early I rise to avoid the breakfast chaos for an hour or so, it fails. My feet on the stairs serves as an indication that it’s time for everyone to get out of bed for a 6am House Party. It’s not like they were sleeping anyway. Immediately I’m followed down to the living room and badgered with questions like, “What are we doing today?”

It’s not just about having them around either, but the things they make us do when they are. For example, Olivia loves video games. Playing them? Sure. That’s not what she likes most about them, though. Her favorite thing to do is to watch me play them. Oh, and I don’t get to pick the game. I slouch in my chair and begin to load up the system as if under hypnosis. I’ll sometimes engage her in debate about why she’s making me do it.

How is this fun for you?

Please! I want to watch you play Monkey Island!

You play Monkey Island.

I don’t want to! I want you to play it!

If you don’t want to play it, why are you making me play it?

Please, Daddy!

Have you ever been held hostage by a four foot captor and forced to play Xbox? It’s some bizarre dystopian horror tale straight out of Black Mirror.

I know it’s sweet and I remind myself of that. I repeat the old adages about how they grow up so fast, but it can be maddening. Playing with your kids is great, but when you’re on your fourth Uno game after spending nine hours at work, you want to slam your head into the wall. Especially when game four ends and you’re greeted with an immediate pout followed by:

I’m bored!

The trick is to not say, “I’m sorry, honey. I can’t play another game with you right now because I have to go hurl myself into traffic.”

The worst part? It doesn’t work in reverse. Kids don’t have the internal fear of having us grow up and resent them for rejection. They have no issues turning down a playful invitation with ruthless aggression. Olivia has mastered the art of the polite slap down. It’s simultaneously the rudest and most cordial denial in history. You don’t know whether to give her a pat on the back or huck something at her. It starts with me excitedly suggesting something.

Hey! I have an idea! How about if we take your chicken nuggets and you can do like a dipping sauce taste test. We can see which ones you like the most! We can make a game out of it and get a blind…

…nothanks.

I wrote it like that because she says it like that. Without looking up or even raising her voice above mine to ensure I can hear it, she will speed-say a “nothanks” mid-sentence while I stand there dejected like one of the low bidders on The Price is Right.

My son is no different. As I always say, having autism and being non-verbal doesn’t stop him from doing the exact same things his sister does, although with slight differences. For instance, when Lucas wants my attention, he doesn’t scream my name from across the house or beg me in a whiny voice. No, he takes my hand and leads me directly to his desired treat or activity.

Sounds cute, right? It is. On paper.

In reality, it’s not so cute. Lucas will take my hand no matter what I’m doing. Eating, typing, shaving, cooking, cleaning, pointing, painting….well, you get the idea. Even if I tell him “no”, which is a word he understands, he will let out an annoyed whine and then casually slip his palm into mine at an awkward angle as if we’re the Mega-Powers. I refuse again and the process continues until I lose and he ends up with a bag of Cheese-its.

The bottom line here is that we’re all the same. I’m sure people have read some of my flowery posts about the wonders of parenting while their own children were having tantrums in the next room. Guess what. I’ve written some of these flowery posts about the wonders of parenting while my own children were having tantrums in the next room. Same.

It’s not all puppies and unicorns. Parenting is tough work and that 10% of the time is where we earn our real battle pay. That’s not just how we scare potential teen-parents straight. It’s the truth. In the sea of social media happiness and smiley stories at soccer practice, we can sometimes lose sight of the fact that we all go through it. Never blame yourself for the moments when you don’t feel like playing SuperParent. Just fake it through a few rounds of catch until you can figure out a Netflix escape plan. Iron your cape and recharge your batteries. They’ll be there when you’re ready…asking for ice cream.

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