What's the most challenging thing about being a parent?

Filed under: Babies, Toddlers Preschoolers, Development/Milestones: Babies

public displays of childhoodI've been working on my "bio" for a non-profit with which I'm involved, and one question struck me as being particularly hard to answer (me! a writer!): What is the most challenging part of being a caregiver, parent, or grandparent?

I answered it after much thought, because really: isn't that totally dependent on the ages of your children right at that moment? What's hard for me now, will be a distant (even fond) memory when Everett's 10 and his best friend's parents are going through a terribly vitriolic divorce. Or when he's 14 and sneaks out to go to a party, and I open his bedroom door to a pile of clothes under the blankets. Or when he's 17 and we spend weeks arguing over his college choices.

I think, though, that my right now answer is pretty universal for parents of young kids (our non-profit's audience). I think I'd like to call it, public displays of childhood. Here's what I mean:

"For me, the most challenging part of being a mom is that feeling. You know the one, when you're out with your children, and something goes wrong - maybe someone is tired, or hasn't had enough to eat, or is overstimulated, or has a potty accident. And things go from ok to crisis in seconds. Wherever you are, your parenting is in the spotlight, and it's never a good spotlight. There's almost no way to win. If you deal sternly with the situation, spanking or threatening some awful consequence or yelling, you're immediately judged as a quasi-abusive, 'bad' parent. If you deal permissively, giving the child whatever he wants in hopes he'll stop screaming or hitting you or crying or whatever he's doing to act out on his anger, you're going to be seen as - god forbid - a "spoiler."

"I'm sure when my kids are older, I'll have other challenging times, but for now, between the ages of 18 months and 5 years are the worst possible times to be a parent. Your child wears his heart on his sleeve and his frustration in his throat. And he's not afraid to use it."

What about you - what is the hardest thing about being a parent (or grandparent, or caregiver) for you?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.