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The Ugly Truth

I was talking to a friend recently at a baby shower we both attended. While there, we were asked to share some pearls of wisdom with the expectant parents. After the fact, she and I (another invited guest), sat quietly together looking back on those first few days and weeks as new parents. The chaotic, breathless, amazing, terrifying, exhausting moments that literally seem to turn everything you’ve ever known and every way you’ve ever really operated, on its head. I chimed in that what I secretly love the most is finally understanding what my own mother felt when she looked at me graduating college, getting married, giving birth – and with full tears in her eyes exclaimed, “I can’t believe my baby is doing this.” She replied that this is the thing she hates the most about becoming a parent, finally realizing just how much her own parents love her – as deeply as she loves her own children. It’s like an ugly truth I don’t want to see, she said. It’s too painful. I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know that they love me THAT much.

I never really did get it you know. I never understood why my mother would fall into the world’s most sound sleep but still have me wake her when I got home late after being out, scaring the living crap out of her nearly every time I tried to gently let her know I was home safe. As she let out a hair curling scream, looked at me, smiled, and turned over and went back to bed, I thought was she was clinically insane. It was like reliving some really odd disturbing scene in Groundhog Day every time I went out at night.

I never understood why she would insist that I call her when I got home from wherever I had been long after I moved out of the house just to make sure I was safe. Sometimes I forgot to call. And she would always find me, bewildered that she could time her call at the exact moment I walked in the door. I always secretly wondered if she’d hidden a tracking chip on me somewhere without me knowing it.  I thought she was a combination of nuts and psychic and a little goofy.

I never understood why or how she felt compelled to agonize over every decision with me as if it were her own, fearful of the heartbreak or hurt that might come from any next step I made in life.  They were my own choices to be owned regardless of the outcome. But that’s not how she saw it – my hurt was her own heartache. My joy was her private celebration. We were always in it together. She knew that – I didn’t. At least not then anyway. But parent-sight, way more than hindsight is truly 20/20.

So who’s right? Her or me? The answer is probably both. Like most great things in life and particularly parenthood, the best and the worst, the most painful and most loving, the most terrifying and comforting moments and thoughts and feelings are all jumbled together. And you want to compartmentalize it all and keep it wrapped up in safe little boxes, much like our children, but you can’t. And so you must feel it all at the same time, whether you want to look at the truth or not.

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