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Just When I Thought Parenting Got Easier, the Real Hard Part Hit

Photograph by Twenty20

When each of my babies came home with me from the hospital and we tried to gracefully find our rhythm, I remember dressing them and thinking, This is so hard. Their arms and legs folded into their body and I worried each time I was hurting them feeling as though I was never going to be able to do this in less than a half hour.

Trying to nurse them was torture for us both the first few days—I remember crying a lot, especially with my firstborn, from the pain and feeling like I wasn't capable of being a mother who could provide food for her child. And night time was a struggle for years. As soon as babies have a few nights where they sleep for a long stretch, something comes up: a fever, a new tooth, the stomach bug, then before you know it, they are unencumbered toddlers who learn to crawl out of their crib and roam the halls all hours of the night and give their nap time routine the middle finger.

The good news here is practice makes perfect, and with each sleepless night, feeding session, or learning how to calm your child, it doesn't feel so novel. You find your new normal, and while exhausting some days, it somehow gets more manageable. As parents we start to feel like we come into own after a time and what used to gnaw away at our nerves because we're so worried we are messing this whole thing up because you've never done it before, starts to fade.

But in my 13 years of being a mom, I have to admit there is one thing that has not gotten easier: I don't always have the answers for my kids when they ask me tough questions like why someone is bullying them, or why they have to do safety drills at school.

They are curious creatures and need answers in order to feel safe, and I want to be able to tell them the answer without tears pricking in the back of my eyes, but it is an impossible feat.

There is hate and violence in the world and we all want nothing more than to shelter our kids from that—we all want the world to become a more peaceful, loving place for our children. If I had one wish it would be to conform the world so our children don't have to ask why there a hate crimes, mass shootings, inequality, and discrimination, because they do ask, all the time.

They are curious creatures and need answers in order to feel safe, and I want to be able to tell them the answer without tears pricking in the back of my eyes, but it is an impossible feat. This is hard shit to deal with. No child should have to ask these questions, ever.

But unfortunately, that isn't the world we live in. Our reality is we have to address the messy, sad, and heartbreaking facts about our world. And as hard as it may be, we have to keep the lines of communication open with our kids without scaring them. But how do we do that?

I sometimes wonder if I've told them too much. There are times when I've felt like I haven't said enough, and as I am tucking them in at night, I bring up a hard topic again to make sure they are all right and got what they needed. I want to be available to them, but I don't want to push it.

I don't see this aspect of parenting getting easier for anyone—not when their kids enter high school, not when they move out, not ever. Our kids will always be our kids and the only thing we can do is give them all we have—all the love, support, strength, and confidence we can while being as honest as we can.

And to constantly remind them although the world is a messy place, they have the capability to make it better.

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