Sometimes the best advice you can give is a cold beer – The Dad Lift
June of 2012 was one of the hottest and driest summers I’ve experienced. Aside from the drought and relentless heat, I was a new father. My son Lincoln came into this world without the desire or apparent need to sleep. I was tired, and my wife was exhausted. You don’t realize that after the long hours of labor with the up and down emotional roller coaster that is brining a new life into this world, you don’t get a break. Although we were tired, stressed, and my left eye twitched uncontrollably, I was on cloud 9, holding my new boy. Now, this is not an article to throw a pity party with the worlds smallest violin playing gently in the background, it’s about realizing that it doesn’t get worse; however, you’d have a hard time believing that.
Tired and twitch eyed I relayed some of my sleepless issues to a friend and father, who had been through it. The response: “Just wait… it gets worse”. What kind of advice is that? Seriously…. that’s all you have? Thanks a lot Tony Robins. Yes, this is what veteran parents seem to tell you along the way to sooth your thoughts….. “it gets worse”.
I began to realize that this combination of words found its way into just about every aspect of raising a kid, being a husband, and just about everything you can find joy in. When my infant son wouldn’t sleep through the night…. “it gets worse”… When my son became mobile and began tearing apart the house…… “it gets worse”… When my three year old began acting out…. “its gets worse”…….. When I couldn’t find time to go to the gym…. “it gets worse”. At every turn, challenge and long day, the common response from other parents was “it gets worse”. Sometimes I would even get a “just wait… it gets worse” when sharing a positive story. For example, “Man, I am so happy my little guy is walking, finally… I was getting worried”….. Response, “Just wait…. now things really get worse”. What is going on here?
I am here to enlighten you. It doesn’t get worse, it gets better. Yes! It really does. I will tell you right now, that everything you experience comes down to your perspective and as you move along the road of parent hood your perspective changes. And this makes for an interesting dynamic. You seem to forget just how hard a certain phase was and the current one seems to be the toughest, and it doesn’t help when you have other parents driving nonsense into your mind. For me, the hardest part was the new-born stage. Why? the lack of sleep and terror of doing something wrong. Each phase has gotten better. Yes, better.
Now, I don’t know why the “it gets worse” attitude leaks its way into our social groups. Maybe its because they always want the “embrace the suck” achievement patch. They want to drill it into their friends that they have it harder, and you are just being a baby. I remember my wife talking to other moms about her fear of giving birth. Out of the woodwork came ladies who wanted to tell their pregnancy horror story, “well, you know when I gave birth to Skyler, my appendix ruptured and my eye-ball popped out of my head”. I felt horrible for my wife as moms told the most awful of pregnancy stories in what was some sick twisted way to “calm” her nerves. If you know someone is afraid to fly are you going to start talking plane crashes. There it is the “embrace the suck” achievement patch.
Maybe its becuase some people just can’t be present and enjoy the moments they have. Maybe they just can’t look at the positive element in each moment. They just focus on the negative. There are actually many who lack the ability to think in this way. Every phase of childhood seems the hardest because it is the current phase. Like Peter in the movie Office Space, “everyday is the worst day of my life”.
I’ve found the mentality changes as you talk to older parents, in particular “empty nesters”. Their advice takes a strange turn. They change their tune from “it gets worse” to “enjoy it while you can”. WHAT?! It’s interesting how the end of an era in your life can make you appreciate that time. It goes quick. One day they’ll be out of your reach. They won’t need you to put them to bed or pour them a cup of milk. And as they walk away from you as adults heading off into the world it’ll all make sense, it doesn’t get worse, it gets better. And at some time in your life you’ll look back and realize that even the hard times were good.
I am not without sin here, the words “it gets worse” have left my mouth. I’ve said it when I was tired and having a rough day. Trust me, they happen. Or when a rookie dad is truly being a baby (6 hours of sleep is plenty Tim, you baby); however, I’ve caught myself being that asshole, and have quickly followed it up with “it gets better” and a few words of encouragement, maybe even a beer.
So, enjoy them guys. Really, enjoy it. I want my sons to slow down, just for a moment more. I’ll take the extra hard nights and long days. I see them getting bigger, changing, and becoming their own individual person. I cannot accept the “it gets worse” approach, I just can’t. Right now is awesome and tomorrow will be even more awesome. I am tired, yes, but I am loving it. I am always on the move and staying still is something I’ve never been good at. If you’re a consistent “it’s gets worse” parent, stop and think. Realize it doesnt get worse, it only gets worse after your awful advice.