My son walked in the door one evening after the daily commute with his 2-year-old daughter, who attends day care near his job. Their arrival signaled the end of my ten-hour shift, and as I prepared to hand off my 7-month-old grandson, I watched my son shift gears, from tired elementary school teacher to tired dad.
Getting in my car and driving away felt good, in that I was free to go back to my “retiree” life, but this babysitting gig reminds me how hard it is to raise kids. When we’re young we think it’s never going to end, and then when we’re old and it’s over, we wonder where the time went, and I think our perspective gets rosier in the rear view mirror. Maybe too rosy.
The adult kids suffer. They’re sleep-deprived, and they don’t have the sanguine approach to life and career that you earn with age. Everything is harder for them, and in spite of my own problems, if I had to do what they’re doing, it’d kill me. Like the “It Gets Better” campaign, I want my kids and all young parents to know it really will even out. And at the risk of pissing them off, here are some coping strategies I’ve learned over the years that might help them feel less pressure and stress: (UPDATE: I realize these comments might reflect on my son, but he’s a sweetheart and wasn’t the impetus for my thoughts. It’s just memory coming back, from my younger years.)
(SECOND UPDATE: I don’t mean to leave out my DIL. Everything my son is doing, she’s doing too, IN ADDITION TO breastfeeding. So she gets the Ginger Rogers Tip-of-the-Hat award for dancing as well as Fred, but in heels and in reverse).
- After a long commute, you shuffle in the door after dealing with tailgaters and other assholes, and for about the first ten minutes you’re in no mood for civil conversation. So Bill and I have learned to tell each other, “I’m still on the freeway,” which is code for leave me the hell alone until I have the energy to behave normally again. If you have little kids, focus on them. They’re entertaining. Leave the big stuff for later.
- You’re more in control of your feelings than you think. If you put on a show for your conscious mind, your subconscious will go along with it. So if somebody asks you, “how was your day?” you answer, “pretty good,” even when you want to say, “IT SUCKED LIKE HELL AND I HATE ALL HUMANITY!!” And not only will your subconscious start to lift your spirits, you won’t have a depressed/pissed off spouse to deal with. (I learned this the hard way, and not until I was about 40.)
- Correlation to the above: music can and will change your mood, for the better or worse, so choose accordingly.
- Fatigue and alcohol will get you in arguments in which you believe, at the time, the Authentic You is speaking. But the next morning, when you feel like a jackass, you realize it was the tired or buzzed you. And now look at the mess you have to clean up.
- Don’t get too hungry. It messes with your head. Have a snack when you start dragging. See Authentic You, above.
Retirees with lots of free time sometimes develop amnesia about What It Feels Like To Work Fulltime and Have No Life. Working people – young or old – must hate hearing us geezers yabber on about finding ourselves, since they barely have time to find a clean pair of socks. So if we forget, and start pondering aloud a need to search for “my true purpose in life” or “finding my passion,” know that you, Young Person, will get your chance. Along with thinning hair and involuntary farting.
What about you, Older Person? Any tips for the kids?