When I flew to China a few years ago, the plane was full of mostly English speaking Americans. Yet as soon as we landed, and the one hundred or so odd Americans disappeared into the endless sea of Chinese speaking people, I realized that I was among the minority. I knew no Chinese, couldn’t read the signs, and had no idea of where I was supposed to go, yet I had a connecting flight I had to make in the matter of hours.
Two weeks later, I eventually boarded a different plane and headed back to the states. This plane was filled with mostly Chinese speaking passengers. It wasn’t until we landed in the states and the 100 or so Chinese disappeared into the seas of Americans – did I realize I was no longer a minority. Although I would still answer some questions with my very broken and limited Chinese words.
Parenting, for me, has been much like that. At times it seems that I have been flown in on a plane of other parents, in good company until we land and then I am among the minority and have no idea how to speak the language or where to go. And yet I am expected to make those connecting flights, even though I cant read the signs.
July 18, 2008 is a day that will forever be etched into my mind. The last day I really had to myself. Really, my last day until I got the kids back. The last time I shut the door to an empty bedroom and silently hoped that it would be the last. The days after the 18th are a blur, because as most parents will agree, once you become a parent all useful information is quickly replaced with information like “How to sing the barney song” and other useless information to help through a moment of sheer desperation.
Lately I have been second guessing my choices, and tearing apart every decision I have ever made on behalf of the kids, because really? I must be doing SOMETHING wrong. Everyone else seems to get it right the first time, while it takes me a few (hundred) tries to get it anywhere in the neighborhood of right.
Raising these kids has been much like landing in that foreign land, having no idea how to get to where I am going, only knowing that I need to get there. Others speak the language just fine, yet none are translators. They all buzz past on their busy ways to get to where they are going, and I am left standing clueless and lost surrounded by professionals.
I would like to say that in the past five years, things have gotten easier. But it hasn’t. Mostly I have met other lost passengers, wandering their way through this land called parenthood, and have followed their leads until I can no longer keep up.
These past few weeks have been among the more difficult. Not the most difficult, by any far stretch. But difficult enough to make me stop and wonder. Toss in a few panic attacks, some midnight wake up calls, and well, its been pretty much a disaster zone around here lately. I cant hold anyone else up. And while friends come out of the wood work, expecting me to be there to support them, I have had to tell them I cant. Because I am struggling myself lately.
In a moment of desperation last week I wrote out a list of everything (and everyone) that I was tired of. When I was done, I looked it over and realized that pretty much everything I have fought for these past six, seven, eight years – was on that list. And then I realized how selfish and self-centered and flat out foolish it was.
Five years ago I would have given anything to have these problems, and yet somehow, over the course of five years my focus has shifted. I have started to pay more attention to those around me, and care about what they thought. I have tried to please everyone, instead of focusing on what got me here, and what will get me out.
Eventually, I hope I can find my gate, board that plane, and head back to the states where I am no longer a minority. Maybe someday, but that day is not today. I get tired, I get beat down. I am only human. But instead of getting down on myself for not knowing the language of parenthood, I will keep trying. Another day. And be grateful for what it is. Another day.