I’ve always had an inconvenient sense of humour. It comes from being of a part my family- we don’t handle ‘serious’ as well as we should. If there’s an inappropriate time to make a joke, we will find it, and then be found hiding somewhere laughing until we cry together. It happens at weddings, funerals, meetings with teachers and solicitors- and you don’t want to know how my siblings and I handle hospital visits. To be honest, I accept that flaw in me cheerfully- because the world needs a laugh at times, and I am usually happy to provide it.
I was driving in the car yesterday, on my way to an appointment that I was (unsurprisingly) running late for- and I found myself following a truck emblazoned with their business name. Along the back was written in big, shiny letters – Concrete World.
Now all respect to the people who run this very necessary business but I laughed hysterically at that. All I could think at the time was that it would be the worst amusement park of all time.
You can picture it, can’t you? Children crying, scrapes and bruises everywhere. Call me callous, but the idea tickled me greatly. The next thing that crossed my mind was that my experience of parenthood has been so much the same as that fictional place.
You can see the memes everywhere – parenthood is a shock to the well-ordered mind. It means never going to the toilet alone, playing hide-and-seek just to be able to eat a piece of chocolate, and arguing with a four-year old about not wearing a tutu to bed. For that matter, clearing pieces of Lego out from underneath a sleeping child. Parenthood is just not the amusement park I signed up for; however, like my idea of Concrete world, there is plenty of laughter within it to make up for that.
The newborn stage hits like a tonne of bricks – coming through labour (which has its own set of concrete realities that no one can prepare you for) and being handed that precious baby, suddenly as a couple seeing the mother/father in your partner that you didn’t know existed. The raw beauty and awe of that moment – and then Bam! suddenly the two of you are sleep deprived, and you find yourself pouring coffee into your cereal bowl and accusing each other of blinking too loudly.
Toddlers are like walking blocks of concrete themselves – adorable bringers of destruction wherever they go. The furniture we once took pride in, the china that was irreplaceable – suddenly meet the irresistible force, and we find ourselves shrugging and saying that we never really liked that vase anyway. Toddlers sitting on the floor of the supermarket crying (and occasionally mum too); there is the brick wall that is toilet training – where you honestly find yourself considering keeping them in nappies until they’re driving just to maintain your sanity.
A school age child is a whole other ball-game, I discovered. Home readers, parent teacher interviews, shoe laces and the five-year old shrug of confusion when you ask them how they have managed to lose their fourth jumper this year. To my utter bewilderment, the biggest shock was this discovery (the equivalent of a concrete bouncy castle on the knees): when it came to a conflict between my word or the teacher’s– my darling son would chose the teacher’s over mine! I gave birth to him, for crying out loud!!
You get the picture – our children are a constant source of surprise in our world. For every stage that feels as if it will last forever, another stage is just around the corner, and it will hit us just as hard as the concrete ball pit was last time. There are beautiful as well as horrifying surprises – from little hugs and kisses and Mother’s Day cards to learning moments when you realise how they are growing – either ‘You learned how to tie a tie?’ or ‘Who taught you that bad word??!’
There are moments on top of the mountain when you see a glimpse of the man or woman they will become, and those times where you watch them sleeping in their beds, and wish that time would freeze just for one precious moment.
Parenthood isn’t the amusement park I signed up for – but it is infinitely more precious, more funny and more surprising than I could ever have imagined it could be. I’ve learned to hit the concrete wall and keep moving, to dust myself and my child off, and reassure them that everything is okay, even if my teeth are rattling from the impact. I’ve learned to let go of my preconceived idea and ideals, and to accept the season that I’m in – whether it contains training bras or tantrums, braces, high school crushes or Minecraft arguments with my family.
If you ever feel you’ve been an unwilling tourist of Concrete World too, then, with a completely empathetic grin I welcome you to the club. Every parent since the dawn of time has been in our place and we now realise that we must have been a complete shock to our own parents too. So, I would encourage you to settle in for the ride, strap on some padding and get something to protect that funny bone of yours – I firmly believe that laughter and compassion build resilience in us as parents. You’re going to be fine, I promise you.
All the same, stay away from the concrete roller coaster if you get queasy. It’s really not what it’s cracked up to be…