I read the tweet rant of a parent complaining in a funny way that nobody told them how exhausting it is to cook dinner for their kids every night. This started a conversation about how easy or hard life was for our parents and how much they spoke up about it. I mean, in my country parents never complained. It was also a matter of pride. They didn’t want to present a negative side of their personal life. They didn’t lay out dirty laundry for everyone to see.
On one had that must have been hard. To never feel like they can speak up about their burdens. But my generation seems to overdo it with complying about how hard life is. This negative outlook can squash the little optimism one can muster. And it saddens me as we overlap generations, people coming from behind are downright scared about the hardship of marriage, the hardship of childrearing, the hardship of parenting teens…
I remember tough moments in parenting for my parents, as they tried to navigate the teenage season. My brother was the guinea pig, and I learned from his mistakes about my parent’s intuitive boundaries. I can remember them fighting, I remember them losing their patience with us. But there were plenty days of joy, and calm and mutual respect and understanding. We were navigating blindly, from their very different upbringing to our very different opportunities and freedoms.
I also resented the burden of cooking meals every day. The responsibility of feeding my children every single day, when they develop preferences and express their displeasure wit my choice of healthy food (not often but enough to annoy me). I remember the joy I experienced at a conference when I didn’t have to cook. Or plan the meals. It’s the simple pleasure for a mom. And this is so much more bizare because I enjoy food and I do enjoy cooking… but coming up with new healthy fun meals is hard. Hard for everyone I bet. The repetitive task and responsibility, paired with the repetitive task of brushing their teeth when they find it’s funny to do ballet when you brush their teeth, or they gag, or they giggle and all you want to do is do the job well and efficient.
We do things on a regular basis that my parents didn’t do. Maybe they just chose their battles and chose joy over deathly routine. I mean, we didn’t have an early bed time. We went to bed when we were tired. They didn’t brush our teeth. They didn’t read to us every night nor did they pray with us every night. They didn’t drive us to school nor picked us up. That leaves us with a pot of fresh soup in the fridge we would heat up and eat as needed. It must have been easier from this point of view. Definitely easier. I fight this inner cringe that my life revolves around my kids’ schedule. But we also make great memories and spend quality time. Listening to music together. Talking. Goofing around. My mom didn’t have the opportunity to swim like I do. My dad couldn’t work from home like my husband can. It’s a new era. And there are benefits and there are challenges.
I have a feeling that when my kids are adults they will have more opportunities and at the same time they’ll look back and be baffled at the things we took in stride and didn’t complain about but they’ll find them tedious.
It is a gift and a curse that kids don’t even know how hard life is. It is their turn to play and have fun and be carefree. They discover the world in playful colorful ways, and they will be just fine. With values imparted, with faith built honestly, with empathy and joy, I trust they will turn out to be the good leaders of tomorrow. And because of all the questions they ask, I feel that not much will surprise them. Because they ask about everything. Including about how hard it is to do this or that, as they witness us pick up our end of the deal and fulfill the responsibilities even if they are hard and we may not be excited to do everything we need to do.