Have you noticed that within a few minutes of turning on the TV, day or night, we are bombarded with advertisements for prescription drugs? While we are grateful that doctors and scientists have given up big portions of their lives to help us feel better, the list of potential side effects can be staggering.
But to parents, some of those side effects sound strangely familiar. The more we listen, the more it seems that many of them are also apt descriptions of the side effects of parenting. I (Linda) went to the website of just two of the prescriptions that I was aware of and calculated. Some of the side effects from those prescription meds match pretty well with the possible side effects of those sometimes wild, weary and worrisome days of raising children.
The lists included more than two dozen effects, such as headaches, trouble sleeping, back pain, heartburn, anxiety, confusion and indigestion.
The last few side effects are some of the most interesting of all: “quick to overreact emotionally, voice changes, irritability” and, best of all, “euphoria.”
Let’s talk about that last one for a minute. It seems that just when you are the most exasperated, especially with little children, they come back with something that makes you feel almost euphoric — like maybe you’ve taught them something after all.
We remember our daughter telling us a story about her oldest son when he was about 5 years old. He was dawdling over his lunch, as always, and she was frustrated, trying to get him to finish his peanut butter and jelly sandwich so she could clean up the lunch.
She said, “Ashton, here is a chocolate chip cookie, which you can have after you finish your sandwich. If you don’t hurry, I’m going to be tempted to eat it myself.” Several minutes later, with Ashton still dawdling, she got a little more impatient and said, “Ashton, I’m am so tempted to eat your chocolate chip cookie!” Undaunted, he replied, “You won’t eat my cookie, Mom. Just believe in yourself!”
Anxiety, irritability, euphoria. We get them all with kids.
Of course, there are problems that are a lot bigger than peanut butter sandwiches and that also produce those side effects listed, including potty training, screaming, bullies, violin lessons and teenagers with minds of their own.
And contrary to what some believe, the problems don’t end when children fly away from the nest. When people ask us how our children, who have now all left home, are doing, we always reply, “They are all just great except the ones who are in crisis this week!”
Those side effects of parenthood hold true when grown children are struggling with homesickness at college, finding the right person to marry, getting a job, losing a job, miscarriages, troubled children of their own and complicated health issues.
But even then there are also periods of euphoria when they do get a job, even if it’s not what they had in mind. There is euphoria when they say they have found the perfect person to marry and don’t want a big reception or they are going to have twins (which, in our case, meant euphoria and, in the parents’ case, meant a lot of unplanned side effects since their other children were almost 5, 3½ and not quite 2).
Those euphoric moments make all the other side effects worth it.