A few years ago, one of my alterna-dad friends and I were bemoaning how challenging and difficult this whole exercise of single gay adoptive etc. etc. parenting is. And then one of us—I’d like to take credit, because I think it’s brilliant, but I can’t really remember—said, “You know, it’s not really all that hard. It’s just relentless.”
And that is so, so true. Most of what you do as a parent—the driving, the meal prep, the “how was your day?” recitations—are not difficult. Some are mind-numbingly easy to the point of paralysis (folding laundry, anyone?). That’s not what makes parenthood the single most ridiculous pursuit any sane adult could choose. It’s the endless, repetitive, relentless nature of the work.
When you’re a dad, you’re … a dad. Always, round the clock, at home, at work (or working from home, as some of us are lucky enough to do), at the gym, on vacation with your kids, on vacation without your kids. Dad. It just … is. Even when your kids are safely tucked away at school, and you’re having Friday lunch with a friend, there’s always the possibilityof the phone call that says your kid is in trouble, and could you come pick him up right now.
“I’ll need the rest of this wrapped to go, please.”
(Not that this ever happened to me. OK, yes it did.)
I remember once, toward the end of the first year the kids were here, waking up early on a Saturday on a very cold, gray morning. Looking up at the ceiling, and thinking, “Wow. They are going to be here … every single day … for the rest of my life.”
That was deep.
Truth be told, as the kids have gotten older, some of the relentless nature of the deal has let up. I do a ton less driving as they have grown more independent—and after Mark finally got his license, I barely drive at all. Even for things like meals, a lot of summer and weekend dinners are based on the principle, “You guys make it work.” Good thing they know how to cook.
And of course, if all goes well, they won’t be “here” here (as in, under this roof) for all that much longer. But they will always be “here” here—in some portion of my brain, my heart, my hope chest, my anxiety chest—until one of us keels over. Which I tell them needs to be me first, because it would be too sad for me to live without them.
In a way, I feel grateful for relentless. It means that the norm for us is the boring, repetitive stuff of daily life, and the actual crises—which we’ve had as well—are few. By comparison, relentless doesn’t look so bad.