Lies and Other Things People tell you about Parenting
We’ve been parents for sixteen years. More time than some. Much less than many others. We’d never dare call ourselves parenting experts, because parenting is far from an exact science and isn’t a skill you can master. Have you ever heard anyone say, “Parenting? I NAILED it.”? If you have, I’d be double checking with their offspring to see if they share their folks’ point of view.
Before we had kids, the accepted wisdom offered to us by many parents was this: “You better live it up while you can, because once you have kids it’s all over.”
‘Live it up’; a short sentence that simultaneously encourages you to have a great time whilst implying that it’s all downhill from here, so you better have a great time. We heard that a lot. And sure, there are definitely elements of truth contained within that (slightly smug and patronising) piece of advice. Anyone who has kids knows that life is forever changed. But the idea that having children is like giving birth to your own personal army of fun police; that the life you were living pre-kids ceases to exist, was one we were determined to fight against. Blessed with healthy children, we promised ourselves that we wouldn’t let our creative pursuits (we’re both writers and actors) and our sense of adventure evaporate simply because we were going to be parents.
Then we became parents.
Hello day-to-day reality! Goodbye sleep and hello sitting on the floor of the living room, staring wide-eyed at nothing in particular and wondering if that smell was poo or spew or both.
“Feeling creative yet? How’s that sense of adventure holding up?”
Shut up. Leave us alone.
It’s actually the fear that accompanies parenting that can get really overwhelming. The sense of responsibility that descends upon you when you first hold your baby is unbelievably scary. Scarier than sharks, creepy dolls, Trump’s White House briefings and all of Stephen King’s novels combined. Of course, it’s also accompanied by a feeling of love that is equally unparalleled, and it took us a while to come around to the fact that therein lies the rub. It seems totally logical and obvious, but it really did smack us in the face like a real housewife of Beverly Hills. “Oooohhh right! Okay, NOW we get it! We don’t get to feel this love – this burning, unrelenting, unconditional love – without having to deal with a whole bunch of other stuff that isn’t so fun. That’s the contract.” Cue deep feelings of resentment and anger that nobody had explained this to us, followed by the annoying realisation that it’s impossible to explain being a parent to someone who isn’t one, which is why parents generally don’t do it. Most parents wait until you’re pregnant, then say slightly smug, patronising things because they’re the only ones who know what you’re in for and love the fact that you’re about to go through it too so that they can finally speak freely at your next dinner party.
After a couple of weeks spent wallowing in a swamp of self-pity, we made a choice. A simple choice, but one we continue to commit to on a daily basis. It goes a little something like this:
Our kids don’t make the rules and they do not rule our life. Our kids are along for the ride, and we’re driving. When they’re old enough to drive, they can make their own ride. Until then, strap yourselves in! You’re part of our life now. The same life that existed before you rocked up. And don’t think that just because you’ve enriched our life in ways that are too deep for us to even fathom, and taught us the true meaning of love and allowed us to discover a deeper meaning to our existence that we’re going to let you get away with stopping our fun and creativity!
Because our kids weren’t stopping us from doing anything. We were doing that all on our own.
Our lifestyle definitely isn’t for everyone, as we always have about six different creative projects on the go at one time, and usually have no idea what we’ll be doing six-months from now. There were stressful bouts when they were babies and one or both of us were touring with shows, which passed in a whirlwind of planes, taxis, long phone calls, very little sleep, exhilaration, exhaustion and the occasional mini breakdown. But despite the craziness and chaos, we proved that, if nothing else, kids are adaptable and can be dragged all over the country without any long-term damage being done.
It’s not a financially secure or stable life. In fact, it can be incredibly scary and frustrating, but we love it. Over the past sixteen years we’ve continued to create theatre shows, TV shows and books together…and the kids are now, and have always been, a huge and integral part of our creative journey. (see link below) In the sixteen years that we’ve been parents, we’ve never had more fun, or been more creative. And yes, it continues to be the greatest adventure of our lives.
Harris-McLeish family – https://www.facebook.com/Booktopia/videos/2886537884764447/
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