Parents are an odd breed.  When it comes to our kids it seems like we spend our time drowning, soaring, drifting, or pedaling furiously through their childhood stages.  Everyone’s able to agree that there is beauty and challenge in each stage, and yet…

Parents are definitely an odd breed.

Maybe it’s simply human nature to compare ourselves to those around us to see where we fall on the spectrum.   How great we have it, or how challenging our kids are.  How smoothly things are going, or how tough it is to be a parent.  Life is Good, or Life’s a…well, you get the picture.

Here’s the part that flummoxes me.  If we’re all living this parenthood experience – if we’re all feeling the ups and downs of raising human beings – why do we insist on comparing our lives to one another?

Specifically, why do people insist on telling me I have no idea how tough parenting is?

Let me say right off the bat, we’re pretty darn lucky around here.  Do my kids drive me batty sometimes?  Sure.  Do we deal with our share of conflict and drama?  Yep.  Are there moments when I feel like they’ve been possessed by an alien force with limited communication skills and the emotional combativeness of a toddler denied a toy?  Definitely.  But overall I’d say that T-man and Bear are pretty good eggs.

With that being said, life is not a piece of cake.  Some days are easier than others, and the ones that aren’t so easy range from bumps in the road to massive mountains and valleys.  Just like everybody else.

I never would have looked at a mom with babies and said, “Sure, the endless diapers are rough but just wait ’til you’re dealing with tantrums and biting, then you’ll wish for these baby days back.”  Just like I never would have told a preschooler’s mom, “Yeah, it seems tough now but just wait ’til they’re in school.  Then you’ll have to deal with homework, extracurriculars, and annoying peers.”  These days you won’t find me calling out the second grade parent with “Gee, I remember those days…just wait ’til you’re dealing with raging hormones, then life gets really fun.”

Why?  Because I remember.  Every stage has good moments and bad ones.  Times when you look at your child and think I’ll never forget this incredible feeling, and times when you know you’ll never be able to erase the horrifying moment you’re living through.

Plus there’s that whole “don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes” concept.  Very few of us actually know the entirety of another’s story.  It’s nearly impossible without having lived through that particular person’s experiences, and simply belonging to the subcategory of parents does not mean we’re living identical lives.  There are a million variables in raising children.  Differences that make raising my nine- and eleven-year-old, well, different than raising yours.

Simply put, I don’t know your life.  I can sympathize with what you’re going through, I may even be able to empathize with certain aspects of it.  But I cannot know, inside and out, your experience.  I only know my own.  And the same is true of you and your knowledge of my life.

They say that women have a harder time than men when it comes to asking for what they want, so I’m going to dig down deep and put this out there.

I need other parents to stop telling me, “Oh, you have it so easy.  Just wait until you have kids as old as ours.”  Seriously. Stop it.

Telling me I have it “so easy” makes me want to set something on fire.  I don’t have it easy (ps – nobody does), and tossing that my way is dismissive and condescending.  Even if you say it jokingly with a wink to the Woe is Me parenting club.

Also, how about we go ahead and assume I already know the teen years are going to be challenging.  There’s really no need to scare the hell out of me further…trust me, I’m already apprehensive enough without your hinting at the terrors yet to come.

So maybe we could all agree that every parent is fighting the good fight and keep our horror stories to ourselves.  It’s a basic premise: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  There’s a tidbit that stuck from my own mama’s parenting.  How about we spread the love, people?