Have you ever been on one of those merry-go-rounds you find on a child’s playground? It’s usually a large round platform with rails or handles that you can stand on while one of your friends grabs ahold and runs around and around, spinning the platform ever faster. You hold onto the handle for dear life, laughing (or cringing) as the world whirs by in a massive blur. Once the spinning stops you step off, staggering around as your body adjusts to the much slower movements of the earth below you.
Parenting is a little like that merry go round. Before you step on the platform for the first time you’re not quite sure what to expect, although you have a few ideas. There’s that excitement of a new ride, with the thrill of knowing that you’re doing something new and big and important, that has the potential to be filled with moments of extreme joy. Or, you may get thrown to the ground in a bone rattling heap in the middle of it, but that’s part of the adventure, right?
At first things move fairly smoothly. You twirl around on your platform, gathering momentum slowly but still able to pick out the things you can see as you turn. You have the baby showers, you decorate the nursery, you get all the clothes and the toys and the baby stuff. You can still see the smiling faces of your friends watching you ride, and you wave and smile as you move past them again and again. The baby is born and you feel that joy that you rarely experience at any other time in your life.
As your accomplice pushes the rails harder and harder, that platform spins faster and faster. Suddenly you’re confronted with sleepless nights, smelly diapers, mommy wars over breast feeding and dirty laundry that goes on for days. But it’s still peppered with those moments of beauty – the first smile, the first belly laugh, the first word. The faces of your friends fly past, no longer clear and distinct, but still there for you.
Faster the merry-go-round turns, taking you with it. You’re no longer quite sure this was a good idea, but you’re in it for the long haul, so you take a firm grip of the rail and refuse to let go. You get through tantrums, broken things and poop on the floor, at this point sitting on the base of that platform with your whole body wrapped around that rail. You’re not quite sure if you would rather throw up or pass out, but every now and then the euphoria hits and you laugh out loud from that strange fun that can only be found when you’re completely out of control.
Finally you’re there. You’re at the point of no return. Let go and fly off the madly spinning ride, taking your chances on the rocky ground, or hold on tighter to see where this crazy adventure takes you. You hold on, wading through insane schedules, mystery viruses, family dance nights, numerous knock-knock jokes and curtains pulled off the walls. You make it through first days of school, toilet water tea parties and a sink that always has dirty dishes in it.
Eventually, things begin slowing down a little. You can start to see your friends’ faces again, and even manage a shaky wave or two as the ride begins to lose speed. You’re able to get shakily to your knees, then your feet, as you look around and realize you made it through the gauntlet. Your kid is semi-independent. You can look away for two minutes and reasonably expect him to still be there when you look back. You defeated the crazy, spinning wheel of disfigurement, and you are almost on the other side.
When the ride finally stops you step off, staggering around a little and trying not to look too hard at the nauseating movement of the world around you that seems to have kept going even though you didn’t. You sit down for a little bit, resting your mind and your body, enjoying the fruit of your labors, and remembering the laughter and the fun of some of those moments.
Do you know what you do then?
Your accomplice smiles and calls you over, and you jump right back on that dang merry-go-round for another turn. Because you’re just a little crazy.