Parenting is an extreme sport

After I graduated from high school, my mom shared that she had cried herself to sleep every night during my senior year. I was angry that we had moved away from my childhood home in Phoenix to a soulless suburb of Seattle, and I acted out in typical but relatively harmless ways—smoking cigarettes on the school choir trip, dropping out of Physics, dating the ‘bad boy.’ She was worried about me. I probably also felt the birth pangs of the divorce that would come a few years later, the dissolution of our family that still breaks my heart every single day. I was in pain, it was my parents’ fault, and there was nothing I could do about it, except make my mom cry and pray.

When my daughter was born, my heart shattered with love, and simultaneously I was humbled by an overwhelming and newfound respect for my mother. Parenting is the riskiest thing I can think of. Elizabeth Stone said, “Making the decision to have a child—it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Nothing makes me feel as vulnerable as my children. Every decision I make is fraught. I’m in charge of every aspect of their lives—nutrition, education, discipline, screen time, social and emotional health, faith. As Anne Shirley Blythe says in Anne of Ingleside, “I’m writing living epistles.”

If anyone really knew what parenting entailed—the mess, the heartbreak, the mind-numbing monotony—no one would ever sign up. And yet I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s an adventure, and it’s worth the risk.

Rachel Womelsduff Gough sometimes feels like a 13-year-old trapped in a woman’s body and is still getting used to being called ‘Mom.’ Rachel headshot

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