Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Parent Disease

I was watching a medical drama the other night with my husband. I listened as the young, beautiful, thin (God, I hate this woman) actress described her patients symptoms, and I realized, my God, I have at least half of those. Fatigue...yes. Mood swings...yes. Hair loss...yes. High stress levels...yes. Insomnia...yes. Heart palpitations...yes. I am not trying to be a hypochondriac here. Disturbing thoughts/paranoia...yes. I begin to wonder if I have some strange and rare disease.

Well folks, the disease I have contracted is not strange nor rare. It affects billions of people everyday. It is called parenthood. Almost all parents suffer from one of the ailments I have listed. Fatigue is an obvious one. How many of us drop into our beds at night completely exhausted? Perhaps you have chased a naked baby around the house after bath time. (What were you thinking with that white carpet anyway?) Perhaps you just worked eight hours, cooked supper, did the dishes, and helped your teenage son with his algebra homework. (You haven't taken an algebra class in over ten years. We all know you are flying by the seat of your pants. Join the club.) Fatigue is normal once you have contracted (or perhaps conceived is more apropos) this disease.

Mood swings, now there is a fun one. One minute you are a snarling, drooling ball of righteous rage and the next you are a puddled mass of contrition begging your sobbing child to stop crying. Mommy didn't mean to yell (even though you did). For mothers, this symptom is exacerbated by a monthly tsunami of hormones that makes us lose our minds. (This is usually when some of us decide to self-medicate. Hello, Mr. Cuervo!) God help anyone who decides to misbehave (our children) or breathe (our spouses).

Hair loss is a direct result of hair pulling. Picture a mother standing over the shards of her crystal champagne flutes (the ones she used at her wedding that no one else, even her husband, is allowed to touch). This mother has her hands in her hair and is in danger of pulling it all out. She does this to prevent herself from exploding. (Known fact: yanking on one's hair can prevent spontaneous combustion. Trust me on this.)
High stress levels are just another part of the game. Really, who wouldn't be stressed? You gave birth to a beautiful baby. You bonded with your child. For almost two years, life is good. Then one day you wake up and your little darling has turned into something you don't recognize. (And you begin to read up on demon possessions.) Hello, Stress, have you met Mr. Cuervo?

Perhaps I should have listed insomnia with fatigue. It is a distressing symptom of parenthood. You are exhausted and you are finally (FINALLY!) in bed. You close your eyes and.... nothing happens. Your body is tired, but your mind will not shut up. Are the kids warm enough? Did I pay the water bill? Is it obvious that I have more hair on the right side of my head than the left? Ugh, my husband is snoring again. That bastard got to sleep right away. I have to remember to buy some of those nose strips for him. It usually takes supreme force of will over yourself (which you are to exhausted to have) to stop these meanderings in your mind. (This is also a time when some choose to self-medicate. A little vino for Mama...)

Heart palpitations usually occur when your child has thumbed his nose at death. Running through a busy parking lot, riding his bike down the slide at the playground, and sticking keys into electrical outlets, just to name a few. (This is why some people have leashes for their children. Embarrassing, but oh so effective.) When your heart threatens to stop, place your head between your knees until your pulse returns to normal. (Or the fear/rage subsides, whichever happens first.)

And finally, disturbing thoughts/paranoia... This is most evident in statements such as: "You're face will stay that way", "Stay close to me, there are people who will steal little kids like you", "You had better not let me catch you doing that again, or else", (and courtesy of my Gram) "If you stick your arm out the window a semi will come by and rip it off". There are so many things to worry about in this world. Drugs, pedophiles,...corn syrup. It is no wonder we are all complete nutcases.

There is no known cure for this disease. The symptoms may ease with time, but never really go away. In my research (I use my kids as guinea pigs.), I have realized the main cause of many of these symptoms. Most of us have no clue what we are doing. We go through our days with our kids praying that we are not screwing them up. Some of us try not to be our parents, which usually a mistake. (You are normal, aren't you? Wait, don't answer that.) We just have to do our best. After all, (at least for me) most children remember the fun times they had with their parents or the times their parents stood by them when they were needed. Our children aren't going to remember the mistakes we make. Don't sweat the small stuff, and let laughter be your medicine.

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