Parenting Is in the “Problems”
A couple months ago I picked up my daughters from an overnight visit at their dad’s. I could tell as soon as I saw my oldest that something was wrong. It had been very hot that day and she’s very sensitive, so at first I thought she just needed to cool down and rest. We made it halfway down the sidewalk from her dad’s apartment before she started throwing up. Projectile vomiting. All over the sidewalk.
I went back to tell her dad that she was throwing up, and he just looked at me and shrugged. Back outside, I tried to keep her calm while she puked her guts up. I apologized as people walked by and gave me dirty looks. I went to my car to get water bottles to rinse her hands off. I found a plastic bag to give her for the ride home. I waited and waited for her dad to come out of his apartment three units down with a washcloth or a bucket of water to clean the sidewalk or anything really. But he didn’t, and I was pissed.
I seethed inside the whole way home and the rest of the night as she threw up every 20 minutes for the next twelve hours. At one point I was desperate and messaged him asking what she had eaten, wondering if she had food poisoning. His only response was a numbered list. I was up all night holding her hair, changing out bags in puke buckets, doing loads of gross, smelly laundry (she never was any good at hitting the toilet), and having one heck of an argument with him in my head.
Why was I doing this alone?
Why did he get to fill them full of corndogs and Sunny D and hand them off to me to deal with the repercussions?
How come he got to cancel his visits because work was running a little late or his other daughter was sick or he hadn’t gotten to shower yet?
Why did I have to deal with all of the disgusting, tiresome, no-thanks parts of parenting while he got to be the fun one?
But somewhere in the middle of this, my daughter did thank me. In between heaves, but still. She was sick, throwing up, tears running down her face, and she was thanking me for taking care of her, for just being there. She was telling me how much she loved me and how lucky she was to have a mom who takes care of her. And that’s when it hit me.
This is it. This is parenting. It's the daily, monotonous, unglamorous, and sometimes downright gross tasks that seem to go unnoticed that are really important. Sure a day at the zoo is a fun memory, but it’s the sacrifices we make as parents as we catch puke in our hands, peel clothes off a kid with diarrhea, and sleep hanging off the bed because someone had bad dreams (and takes up way more space than their little body seems like it should) that matter and show how much we really love our children.
And when I realized this, I wasn’t mad anymore or frustrated that I was doing this alone. I was profoundly sad that her dad was missing these moments. I was sad that she would never have memories of her father singing her to sleep after a nightmare or sleeping beside her on the bathroom floor. I was sad that he wouldn’t have the opportunity to hear “I love you” between gasps and hurls, and I was so incredibly grateful that I did.