This article originally appeared in the blog, The Waiting.
There is this interesting phenomena that occurs about six months into your stint as a parent.
You’ll be sitting there, covered in spittup and running on the fumes of a microwaved cup of coffee that you made last Tuesday. You’ll reflect on the fact that you no longer bat an eye at the idea of eliminating your bowels in front of other people, and you’ll cry inside a little. The idea of going to the grocery store in three days sans infant crosses your mind, and your brain throws a modest party consisting of little more than day-old Walmart cupcakes and maybe a can of Tab. Just then the baby will poop again, and you will scorn the day you ever decided to introduce raisins into her diet.
As you sit there, taking in the great kingdom that is parenthood and wondering why you ever elected this lifestyle in the first place, you silently chant the Novena of Infants that some friend of yours who has a kid a couple months older than yours has coached you to invoke during the moments of Deepest Parental Ennui.
It will get easier, it will get easier, it will get easier.
And just when you are halfway through the third movement of the New Parent Rosary and counting the beads as faithfully as a hermit who has survived on foraged raw honey and ditch water for 30 years, you receive a phone call from your strung out sister-in-law, the mother of toddlers. She tells you how her youngest, a three-year-old girl, has just emptied all the dried spices in her kitchen in a large pile in the center of the patio and then elected to poop on the pile, presumably so that everyone else in the household would know that she is Lord of Gingerturd Mountain. Upon being caught, the child ripped off her mother’s glasses and tossed them in the InSinkErator.
"But it gets…easier?” This is all you have to offer.
Your sister-in-law – neigh, everyone else on the entire planet – knows better. And it is at that moment six months into your life as a parent when your sister-in-law invites you into the true coven of parenthood by revealing our most closely-guarded secret.
There is no easier. There is only harder.
This lie of ease is well-intended. Its perpetuation is the only thing keeping sleep-deprived parents of colicky babes alive during their first months of parenthood. We tell new parents life with their child will get easier – that sleep will return, that the social life they knew will return, that breastfeeding will become natural – because we want to believe it ourselves. Much like the legend of Santa to children, we dangle the carrot of easiness in front of the eyes of our newest initiates because it keeps them going another day. That and the fact that the orphanages are full.
But the truth is that it doesn’t get easier. You hear so much about the Terrible Two’s. You see them coming and you train yourself to brace yourself for tantrums that will break the sound barrier and shatter diamonds. But then, about halfway through the two’s, you go in for a refresher course in that lesson you received when your kid was six months. At two-and-a-half, you start to hear whispers that the three’s are about eleventy billion times harder. And once you get to three yourself, you realize that this was not a lie.
You realize this when your own kid erects Gingerturd Mountain in your very own backyard.
You realize this when she asks you why the walls to the bathroom are green and the discussion, replete with why’s, quickly devolves into an existential meditation on the substance of life itself.
You realize this when you start to think seriously about sending your kid to school, and the halls of learning of today bear little resemblance to the schools of your own childhood.
You realize this when your child cries not because she wants a bottle or a diaper change, but because she feels genuine anguish that you will not run the lawnmower in the attic.
It never gets easier. Not at three. Not at four. Not at five. Not at eighteen. It doesn’t get easier, but it gets better.
It gets better when your child learns to sing her own song, both literally and figuratively.
It gets better when she celebrates her triumph of using the potty by herself.
It gets better when she sees a cucumber and a jelly bean in front of her and selects the cucumber because she knows it’s healthier.
It gets better when she yells in your face and slams the door, but then emerges from her room on her own to apologize and give you a hug.
It gets better when you realize – really realize – that all you can really give your kid is you, that your love is worth more than your worry and your psychoses and your (numerous, OMG SO NUMEROUS) imperfections.
So, spoiler alert: there’s going to be a poop pile of some sort in the middle of your backyard for awhile. Better plant some grass seeds and put it to good use.
Emily Austin is writer, social media strategist, and alumna of Christian Brothers University. Her blog, The Waiting, explores life in all its nuances.