To what can I compare the overwhelming nature of parenting young children?
It’s like being shoved in the deep end when you don’t know how to swim. You may have read books on how to swim. You may have dipped your toe in the water. You may have even played in the shallow end. But suddenly you’re engulfed, your feet can’t find bottom, and you’re swallowing water at an alarming rate.
Through your mind runs a boggling array of emotions and thoughts: Fear, “I can’t swim!”. Panic, “I’m going to drown.”. Elation, “I’m in the deep end!”. Awe, “This is like nothing I’ve ever experienced.”. These thoughts don’t wait in a tidy little line to parade through your head. Oh no, they push and shove, piling on top of one another, falling off the other side, and clambering back to a place of dominance.
Just when you wonder if you’ll survive, your mouth finds air. You gulp it in, still inhaling pool water with every breath, but oh how wonderful that oxygen is. Your heart slows infinitesimally, but it’s just enough for you to realize that you’re doing it. YOU’RE TREADING WATER.
Relief floods your soul until you look up, just in time to see something coming your way. You catch it, but it is heavier than you expected. Instead of keeping it up, it’s pulling you down. You kick faster, struggle harder. There’s no way you’re letting go of this thing, but you just. need. air.
Suddenly, it lightens. You don’t know if it lost weight or if you got stronger, but with renewed energy you once again find the surface. It’s beautiful here. You’ve grown accustomed to the water temperature. You can breathe. You can swim.
Then another thing comes flying your way. This time you’re pulled in opposing directions by the things you carry: Down, left, right, front, back, until you don’t know which way is which and you’re sure that this is it. There’s no way to find Up. You are utterly spent. You’ve reached your limit. You cannot go on.
But your will still battles, until again the load lightens. The pulling lessens and you even find yourself being helped by those things you’re holding onto. Occasionally they drag you under, but they can also act as buoys. You start to work together to stay above the surface.
You know that there will be more moments of going under. More moments of panic and discouragement and being sure you can’t do it.
And you also know there will be many more moments of staying afloat. Of awe and wonder and elation.
And of absolute certainty that being shoved in the deep end without knowing how to swim was the best thing that ever happened to you.