Being A Parent To A Youngster Is Not For The Faint Of Heart


I think that those of us who do not (or no longer) have children living at home sometimes forget the stress that parents suffer on a day-to-day basis. After all, they are responsible for the care, feeding, education — and actual lives — of the young animals with which they have been “blessed.” (And I use quotation marks because I know that children are a blessing; it’s just that sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.)

Decades later, when the empty-nesters wax nostalgic and start saying, “I wish I was in my 30s again,” it’s because they will have long forgotten the perils of raising rugrats.

They eat anything off the floor; then they choke on it.

They chase after things; even into the street.

They want to pet strange animals; even wild animals.

They lock themselves in; they lock themselves out.

They are highly susceptible to any number of childhood diseases.

And they routinely bludgeon each other with whatever they can reach; with preference given to whatever looks most deadly at the time.

My daughter Jennifer has an 8-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl. Last Saturday, it was so nice outside that the little family spent seven hours in the sunshine, tearing up weeds and preparing the area all along the fence line for planting. It was dirty, messy, muddy work, and Jen was glad to get the kids into the bath.

Jen’s house has a huge spa bathtub that is almost like a swimming pool to the two kids, and they enjoy their time in it together (soon, sadly, this will become more of a singular activity). She put them in at 7 p.m. and, by 7:30 p.m., the boy was back in the living room, watching TV.

But not the girl.

As the minutes dragged on, Jen’s thoughts went from “She six… she’ll be fine” to “Six-year-olds can drown, too,” “What if she slipped and hit her head?” and “What if she had a seizure?” You know, all those fun thoughts that crowd into a parent’s skull when they do get an ounce of “free” time. It’s never free.

So, Jen flew upstairs in a panic, threw open the bathroom door and there was her little girl, floating happily in the bath, blissfully alone, pinky finger in the air as she plucked strawberries from a bowl she’d placed on the edge of the tub.

Without slipping, hitting her head or drowning, the kid had climbed out of the tub, gone downstairs soaking wet, got into the fridge, helped herself to whatever she chose and was now enjoying the fruits of her labor — fruits she had no intention of sharing with her brother.

Not wanting to show undue concern, Jen had to stuff down her raging panic and cheerily say, “How ya doin’? Everything OK?”

Because, in addition to everything else, a parent must never show fear.

They can smell it.