The thing that surprised me the most about parenting, that continues to surprise me on an almost daily basis, is the wild arc of emotions which kids can unleash within an otherwise patient, rational person.
In the car or on a playground, I feel an intense, borderline-paranoid fear that my children will somehow meet danger. I check on them in their sleep, laying my hand on their chests to feel that they are indeed still rising and falling reliably. Yet other times, laying around the house in the evening, wanting to read my book and eat my cookie, or watch The Office and eat my cookie, or even to sit zombie-like and EAT MY COOKIE, I feel frustration that my children's safety requires my constant vigilance. There's Eli, pulling a blanket over his head. There's Addy, careening around the house, narrowly missing sharp edges of furniture at every turn. Can't they just lie still and not need protection from themselves EVERY second? I think.
There is the wonder I feel at my luckiness in having them at all, after reading countless stories of people losing babies and trying so hard to have babies, of having had some small experience with miscarriage and fertility drugs myself, even. I lean down to kiss one of their little blond heads and am overwhelmed by the animal love that the smell of them brings. But then, sometimes within moments of that love-rush, there will follow a feeling of restlessness and resentment at the caged-in monotony that life will small children inevitably brings. And we even get out quite a bit, I would say, compared to lots of parents. We are lucky enough to live around family, and to have a reliable and trustworthy babysitter. It is hardly dire, our situation. But I stiff chafe at its confines, sometimes. Times when the reclusive winter sun is shining and I want to just go, but one baby is sleeping and another has just pooped and I myself still haven't even brushed my hair, and the whole process of going just seems overwhelming and not worth it.
Most of all, there is the surprise of realizing how much anger you can feel at a child, even while awash in the baby-love. Flashes of anger, which are immediately followed by guilt and self-chastisement, of course, but anger nonetheless. When you have done literally everything you can think of, yet for days on end, your baby is fussing and yelling the majority of his waking hours. Those waking hours run through the night, as he gets up sometimes three times to nurse, while still refusing more than a taste of solid food during the day. You begin to take it personally, to think defensively, "Wait, I've DONE my job here, kid. Yours is to sleep and eat and play, not to scream at me furiously all day as though there is something I am not providing."
The guilt about the anger is of course followed by self-doubt about your fitness to be a parent in general, about the wiseness of embarking on this whole scary, IRREVERSIBLE journey of parenting, and feelings of profound pity for your poor, poor children, suffering your incompetence and your frayed nerves.
Then you delve into the Easter basket stash for that lovely legal drug, refined sugar, and the kids do, finally, fall asleep, and everything seems fine and manageable again. But you wonder, how can your baby be six months old already and you are still finding yourself sometimes feeling like you did when you first brought him home from the hospital? How can you still be floundering?