Parenting is harder, and requires more personal endurance than any other contact sport I know of. I'm sure of it.
I don't mean hard in the manner of sustaining the body blow I received two days ago when I routinely emptied Oliver's backpack, eager to read what was written in the communication log so I could know a little bit more about how my guy spent his day only to find instead his first "progress report". The progress report, covered with a cheery little note from his teacher, listed each of the goals in his IEP followed by a code, "ES", describing his progress mid-way through the year. I scanned the page eagerly for the key to tell me what ES meant. ES, it turns out means "Emerging Skill", and that furthermore it is unlikely that he will meet this goal in the current school year. I sat down limply on the floor feeling as though the wind had been knocked right out of me. Later, after Nik had extended his hand to mine helping me off the floor and after I had gotten the kids in bed, I marveled to myself that I could keep breathing at all when everything inside felt so damaged and broken up. But having kids to parent isn't for those without emotional stamina. So we DO keep on breathing, and smiling, and laughing. At first it is just for their sake, but then pretty soon the breathing and smiling and laughing take over and you get so caught up in playing the airplane game -- you know, the one where you lie on your back, balancing your child on your feet high above you and then, on the count of three, eject him into the air so that he lands, bouncing on the bed, giddy and red-faced with laughter -- that you aren't that terrible mess who wanted to just sob into her shoes two hours earlier. In fact, you become that other mother who knows that all the wonderful achievements your child has made in the past few months can't be measured by some shitty piece of paper.
No, when I say that Parenting is a contact sport I mean that in the most physical way. This thought occurred to me yesterday when I again found myself wrestling with a surprisingly strong 10-month old in some vain hope of getting the diaper on straight and secured tightly enough so that it won't fall off 5 mintues later. Satisfied that I had done a reasonable job I watched him crawl away in the vague direction of the one electrical outlet in the house that remains uncovered as I calculated how many more seconds I could sit and rest before having to grab him. During this 3-second lull, Oliver, who has taken a fancy to climbing up on the coffee table and launching himself on me with the complete trust that I will catch him, whether I am looking at him or not, does just that. 40lbs of boy hit me from the side, hurtling me to the ground which luckily enables me to grab Sammy's ankle and drag him backwards just as his little wet fingers are zeroing in on that ever-so-enchanting electrical socket.
And that is just a five minute snap-shot of the game. It goes on and on and on. I haven't completely figured out the rules yet. I keep asking the two little guys but all they've told me is that we haven't even reached half-time yet.