The enlightened amongst you would know this already. As for the rest of you, you're probably too tired to pay attention, but here's the thing: parenting is a trap - and one which you set up and then fall into head first.
Take sleep for instance. One evening you're dog tired -- from work, home, life. You imagine that you will carry your little one to the bedroom and hit that perfect bedtime mark, so you'll have a couple of hours to yourself later. You will dim the lights as you go, shut the door, adjust the curtains so not even a tiny sliver of light from outside can penetrate the temple of peace that you create. Those of you more evolved might set up calming music or play one of those apps with gentle white noise. You are the perfect parent. You've picked up books to read too. You envision that soon you'll settle into bed, tuck your child neatly under the duvet, read a page or two before, eyes heavy with sleep, junior will say something cute before falling asleep mid-sentence. You'll smile, kiss their forehead. You imagine the whole thing like they show in the movies.
Does it really happen that way? Tell me. Be honest.
"If that smug woman from Parent Teacher Meeting can put her kid to bed at 8pm, so can you, goddammit!"
Chances are you hauled/dragged the little one into the bedroom kicking and screaming, because he/she wants two more minutes of TV/video/game/something else. You are determined. If that smug woman from Parent Teacher Meeting can put her kid to bed at 8pm, so can you, goddammit!
As you enter the bedroom, you turn the big light off and turn on the night lamp -- only to be impaled by a shrill scream of protest. The kid knows what you are up to and the kid won't take it lying down. You use your calming voice but you can barely hear yourself. So you use your calming voice a little more loudly. Your adversary smells weakness and ups the pitch of protest. You turn to the one weapon that only you have -- superior physical strength. You hold the kid down on the bed and pull the covers. Two-and-a-half seconds later, two tiny legs come flying out and erupt in bicycle kicks so fast, you can only see a rapid whirr before the duvet is flying halfway to the ceiling.
You employ your Stern Parent Voice. You mention school tomorrow, you talk about lovely dreams awaiting only those-who-sleep, you cajole in your cute kiddie voice, maternal/paternal dripping-with-honey voice, you convince, you coerce, you threaten, you plead, you beg and I know you'll not admit it here, but you also grovel. Grovel like the beggar at the red light. The kid isn't even looking at you.
You try another tack. Wanna read? Story time! Now you've got traction. You go for it. You give a choice between three books. Choice! Hah! You just dug yourself deeper loser. For the next eight minutes, you're engaged in a pointless argument over which book to read. Your opponent pretends to change his/her mind every 30 seconds, so you have to get up and get that other book. At the end of eight minutes you are lying in bed with a total of five books -- all of which will have to be read. Slowly. You start with book number one. You reach page one.
"[Y]ou convince, you coerce, you threaten, you plead, you beg and I know you'll not admit it here, but you also grovel. Grovel like the beggar at the red light."
Questions follow. Why? Where? Who? When? How? By the time you've answered these questions somewhat convincingly, the questioner is sitting up in bed, brows furrowed, eyes bright with hunger for learning. Oh shucks!
You tell yourself that you are doing the right thing. Having a set bedtime and reading to the child, isn't that what all parenting books tell you to do? If you chicken out now, chances are your little genius will never make it to MIT and it'll all be your fault. Guilt is nature's best self-motivation tool. Undeterred, you read books one and two, answering questions with the agility of a Chinese ping pong champion. It's in the middle of book three that your battery starts to run out and your words start to come out all wobbly and slow. The letters in front of you sway in a slow-motion wave. You shake your head and look down at the light of your life, the balm to your soul, your little coochie-woochie-poochie. Yup. Still wide awake.
There's a pause. The kid is looking intently at a picture in the book. The air conditioner is humming gently, warm yellow light melts over everything, easing the rough edges off furniture.
You dig your toes under the duvet and sink a little lower into the bed.
You close your eyes. For just a moment.