Straighten up and fly right

There's an ugly satisfaction in forcing one of your kids to do as you tell them. To start, you're angry.  The little you-know-what is being a real little you-know-what, and has just done something monumentally stupid.  How freaking hard is it to figure out that you don't [insert ridiculous thing here; recommended: dump oatmeal all over the kitchen and dining room; pee on your chair; hit his sibling; wake up the baby]?  It's time to straighten up and fly right, junior.

jaws and kids

You outweigh the kid by a factor of five or more, depending.  If they're really freaking out, that makes it complicated, but it just makes you madder and stronger and less concerned about being gentle.  Getting them to do what they're supposed to - or at least, to come physically under control - well, it's not like you're a cop trying to subdue somebody on Angel Dust.  The kid is done for.

Then what?  Getting them physically rallied is only step one.  After that you've gotta make sure that they actually comply, actually do what it is that they're supposed to do.  Wheedling with them and cooing at them is long past.  This ain't the time for, "hooooon-ey, it's time to [insert correct course of action; essentially boils down to 'quit being such a dumbass']".  Best way at this point is fear: you've already just thrown them around a little.  Now it's time to impress upon them your godlike power to wound them where it counts.

A little lip quiver.  The kid is tough, but you are the parent.  You've seen them cry a million times, basically daily since they were born.  Not gonna stop you.  They needed a little discipline.  Not like you slapped anybody around, just grabbed them by the wrist and hissed at them a little.  You can't let them turn out like that bratty one your best friend from college has.  They need to show a little respect.

Four hours and a glass of Jameson later, you pinch the bridge of your nose.  Part of you has been wanting to apologize to the kid since about two minutes after the encounter.  Part of you is really, honestly struggling with the balancing act of being a good parent versus just being so goddamned tired and stressed and worn thin at how hard you're trying to be a good parent, spouse, employee...

Look into my eyes...

You love this kid.  Love like you never knew was possible.  To say that you love them like they were a part of you is trite and stupid; you don't love your nose like this, not even close.  You love this kid enough to put up with them sobbing into your chest at two in the goddamn morning when they've had a nightmare, and you've got an important meeting the next day and are giving a presentation and have absolutely got to be sharp but here you are anyway and it is exactly the perfect thing for you to be doing right then and there.  You love them enough to wipe the snot off of their noses when they're sick even though they scream at you and writhe like you're trying to pour fire ants up that poor little stuffed-up nose.  You love them enough to really truly get panicked when you see a power cord in their little hands, even though you have never in your life been electrocuted by a power cord nor ever known anybody who so much as got a tiny shock from one, not even that kid in first grade who used to eat glue.

You are not qualified for this.

You are not equipped to love so much, to carry so much responsibility for another person's life on your shoulders.  You did pretty well at wiping butts, and even managed not to drop the kid too many times onto anything hard.  Keeping them alive?  Check.  There have been more close calls than you'd care to think about, but you've pretty much got this one.

But there's this whole other layer on it, because just keeping them on life support is not going to come anywhere close to cutting it.  That kid looks at you sometimes like the whole world could just go crashing into the sun, and it'd just be the two of you sitting out there in space, wrapped up in how much they love you, and you'd be fine.  If pure, raw love were a thing, there'd be nowhere to hold it, no place you could possibly keep all that stuff they are feeling at you.  You're perfect.  Perfect.

But you're not, and sometimes you want to shake them and yell at them and scream into their little ears that they are so fucking stupid to trust you this much.  You are going to hurt them and fail them and disappoint them, because nobody, nobody deserves what they are giving to you.

Well, shut up.  That's called parenthood.

There's no easy answer, not to anything, not anymore.  How many more carrots do they have to eat before they can get dessert?  Who the hell knows?  Where is that written down in a parenting book?  Mostly you just do whatever you've got the energy left to do, and pray that it's good enough.  And that little kid who loves you with such reckless abandon... whatever you've got, they'll love you anyhow.  You can grab them by the arm and hiss at them and make their little lip quiver, and the next morning they'll give you a big hug and tell you how happy they are that they are not a robot, and did you know that spiders are arachnids?

You don't deserve that.  I don't care who you are.  You can't possibly.

But you can try.

Not a one of us has got it figured out, no matter how many letters we've got after our names.  Props to the parents of twelve, but don't assume you know my kid or that he's like any of yours.

But I do know this: you've almost always got two seconds to remember those hugs.

Remember them, and you won't fly too far off course.  Maybe you'll even get it right a little more often.