Emily started walking on her own the other day. It was very exciting. We were both in awe of her little toddles from Mama to Daddy and back. Emily is awesome.
Because it was amazing we shared the happy news on Facebook (what else) with a post and a video. There was much cooing by friends and family (and more cooing by her parents), but I also got a lot of sympathy both in comments and in private email. So many people felt so sorry for me, the mother, that you'd have thought I just said Emily had gotten cancer and not achieved a major milestone.
And I get this a lot. Every time Emily starts something new I am certain to get at least one (if not a hundred) of the following responses:
"I feel so sorry for you."
"Just wait. It gets so much worse."
I understand some of this. Parenting is hard. Really hard. With each new achievement comes a brand new challenge. There are lessons to teach everyday. Every time a baby learns a new skill you have to make sure that skill doesn't get them killed. I get it. It is hard. But it's not horrible. A good portion of parenting sucks. But the rewards for sucking is supposed to be witnessing those magical moments - like your child's very first steps. However, instead of my parent friends (people I know only because we are all parenting at the same time) cheering each other on and focusing on the lovely bits of parenting they spend all their time bitching about it. In fact, I am convinced that the object of parent-to-parent conversation is to out complain the other person. You must complain and your complaint must be worse than the other parents or else you lose.
I'm not talking about venting. Venting is good. Venting to people who understand that all that frustration is not actually anger at your kid, but rather heavily disguised love is better. A parent who doesn't vent to other parents once in awhile is likely to vent to the kid - and that is plain unhealthy. What I am talking about is this sadistic need to make sure another parent know that their life is going to suck, hard, and they relish the pain.
Maybe it's just schadenfreude, or maybe it's a desire for others to suffer as they have, either way it annoys the heck out of me. I hate when I mention something, good or bad, about my child and I'm told to "Just wait" as if I don't understand the terror of parenting. As if I'm blind to the fact that I'm helping to raise another human being. Just wait - life is terrible and you don't even know it.
But beyond the "just wait" is the "sorry for you." As in my example my child learned to walk. She took her first steps that will eventually lead to her being able to run, play, climb, and dance. It's an important and really essential skill. And everyone is so sorry it happened. But turn that on its head. If you are sorry she learned to walk what would you be happy for? If she didn't learn to walk? If she never learned to get around on her own without help? Would it be better for me, her mother, to have a child who couldn't grow into a beautiful, healthy individual? And if something horrible did in fact happen? What would you say then? Hey - at least now you don't have to spend all day chasing her through the park.
I hope that as I meet more parents with children younger than mine I can refrain from raining on their parade. I hope that just as I never tell a pregnant woman that pregnancy gets worse I will also never tell a parent to just wait till it gets worse. It'll get different, certainly. Challenging, quite possibly. But not worse.