… and the “fun” part is, it’s hard in different ways as time goes by.
When they’re really young, it’s hard because they don’t sleep like adults. For both of my children, this lasted from birth to around 12 months -> forget sleeping through the night, we’re talking about the children sleeping long enough for the adult to get into stage 3 or 4. 11+ months of mental exhaustion is hard.
When they get sick, it’s hard because they don’t understand why they feel like crap. Understanding is key to lessening anxiety, so sick kids are not only physically unwell, they’re mentally off balance and completely stressed out. Since you can’t explain to them why they feel like crap, you’re unable to lessen your anxiety, either.
When they learn how to walk, it’s hard because they want to explore everything, and they get frustrated when they’re not allowed to do so. When they finally get old enough to have enough manual dexterity and self-directed imagination to entertain themselves (about 26 months), you start to think, “Whew! Hard part over! Now it’s cruising time until they get old enough to be sullen.”
Jack has pink eye. In addition to this, he’s been unable to shake a cough, and has a bit of a temperature, and generally feels wretched. He’s almost four, so he’s handling this with pretty good grace (he’s certainly much less cranky than Hannah was when she was going through this combo). The problem is that it turns out that Jack has a thing about his eyes.
Some people have eye things. You probably know what I’m talking about, even if you’re not one of these people. “Eye thing” people will never wear contacts. “Eye thing” people freak out if something comes close to touching their eyes. It’s not just the natural reaction that evolution has provided us to defend your ocular sensing mechanism, it’s a bit more than that. And Jack has it. Which was a total surprise, because he’s a tough cookie – he takes shots at the doctor without being fazed, really.
This means that putting eye drops into his eyes requires a real amount of physical force. It’s the first time in his life that I haven’t been able to use reason, or just a calming voice, or a neat trick, or cajoling, or bribing with something to get him to go along with something that he doesn’t want to do. I can put drops in my own eyes, doesn’t help. Offer a cookie, doesn’t help. Try the command voice, no good. I’m not going to claim that I’m the greatest parent in the world, but I’ve been exposed to an awful lot of children in my life and I flatter myself that I know a ton of ways that you can get them to go along with something. One of them has always worked in the past, now I’m just stumped.
He just can’t help himself -> the minute I tilt his head back to try and put in the drops, no matter how calm he is up to that point and how much groundwork I’ve laid, he FREAKS out. Struggling, kicking, squeezing his eyes shut, screaming like he’s being murdered. I literally had to sit on him last night to get his eyedrops in.
This is the first time that I’ve actually felt like I’m doing something to my child that he’s interpreting as literal torture, and man… it’s the pits.
Sure, he gets over it quickly after the drops are done (he’s young enough to have that astonishing mental recovery that small kids have). Sure, it’s something that has to be done, and whether I like it or not isn’t really relevant -> time to cowboy up, soldier, and give that young man his medicine.
… but even though he recovers pretty fast, *I* don’t have that astonishing mental recovery that small kids have, and that’s hard. Harder than getting no sleep, or losing out on free time, or having less disposable income, or any of the other things that people might think are hard *before* they have kids.