The Beauty and the Pain of Parenting: Learning to Smile and Cry at the Same Time

<strong>                                                                         Emma at the library</strong>
Emma at the library

I woke up early this morning thinking about an upcoming trip that Deb, my wife, is taking with Emma, our three-year-old daughter, to Peru, to visit family, and for Deb's 25th high school reunion.

Emma has been to Peru a few times already and is comfortable at Deb's parents' house. They adore her.

She lives and communicates primarily via her imagination, which is fed by all the books she has read. Lately, it's Peter Rabbit, his bunny siblings, Mr. Tod, the fox, and Jemimah Puddleduck. She whispered to Deb the other day that she is a bunny and not a girl.

There are countless non-sequiturs as well where she'll just bust out a line like "they frowned at the bad" and I know she is thinking about Madeline in Paris and I can riff with her. I speak her language and I'm always trying to understand what she is saying and where it is coming from so that I can enter into her world and connect with her there.

Even though she does speak and understand Spanish, she prefers to speak mostly in English these days and her R's sound like W's, which makes it more challenging for people to understand her.

So, I woke up this morning thinking about her walking around Deb's parents' house talking about Peter Rabbit setting up camp with Squirrel Nutkin in the treetops and no one understanding what she is saying and it made me feel vulnerable and protective of her.

I know that it touches a deep place inside me, which is not just about her experience, but my own experiences as a child. I don't have the impulse to protect her by preventing her from having new and different experiences and I know that it is important for her to have experiences where she is not the center of the universe and people don't understand her like I do. I remember writing something similar when she started nursery school last year.

It is such a precious and sacred time to be living on her frequency and not on the frequency of the rest of the world, feeding her imagination and wonder, immersing herself in other realities. Her imagination is a portal for me as well.  

This scenario encapsulates how the beauty and the pain of parenting are inextricably bound up with each other. It makes my heart smile and my eyes cry. Maybe I'll give my in-laws a crash course in Peter Rabbit before she goes, or...maybe I won't.

David B. Younger, Ph.D is the creator of Love After Kids, for couples that have grown apart since having children. He is a clinical psychologist and couples therapist with a web-based private practice, and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 12-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old toy poodle.

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