Opinion: Parenting empathy, at last

Commentary by Danielle Wilson

Yesterday my familial crew traveled up to Chicago to celebrate the second birthday of one of my nephews and to meet his new brother, born this summer. We showed up at their second-floor walk-up just in time to help my sister dress the baby, pack the diaper bag, haul two strollers down the steep stairs and hike everyone over to the party. At one point, my daughters and I saved the day, sprinting back to the apartment to grab forgotten medicine for the baby. Not surprisingly, I heard “thank you” several times, but interestingly, I also heard, “I’m sorry. I get it now. How the eff did you do this with four?” Ah, Karma. How I love thee.

See, my husband and I were the first in our families to have children. We started in our twenties, and by our early thirties, we were done, struggling to maintain our sanity while keeping a quatrain of little people out of the ER, toilet and street. Few of our siblings had kids back then, and we would often find ourselves defending our early bedtimes, quiet-time rules and generally sad social life. No one wanted to listen to our woes, and very few offered to help. They were all too busy living and loving the kid-free dream.

But now that everyone has kids, Doo and I receive belated apologies, like my sister’s on almost a weekly basis. And I have to admit, it feels great. To finally be validated for my constant irritability and frustration from dealing with tantrum-throwing twins and a sadistic six-year old is a beautiful thing, even 10 years later. To have a brother-in-law empathize with the mind-numbing boredom I felt while playing Barbie Dreamhouse for nine hours straight and the murderous rage that occasionally exploded while assembling a 4,000-piece Hot Wheel’s Sky Track is exceedingly gratifying. To hear my sister say that if she’d known how hard parenting is, she would have held off on the whispered judgements and offered to change a damn diaper.

Peace out.

Danielle Wilson

I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the same year Dick Nixon was elected. Along with my twin sister and three younger sisters, I attended Catholic schools for thirteen years. (Holy Mother, pray for me.) I spent two years as a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado until I wised up and transferred to a more normal school, Indiana University, where I received a B.A. in history and a teaching license just for funsies. In 2001, I officially entered the ranks of stay-at-home moms to care for my two-year old son and newborn twins. I have mentally blocked all of 2002 and most of 2003. In 2004, I received a Master’s degree in U.S. History from I.U.P.U.I. and a fourth child from my should-have-had-that-vasectomy-sooner husband. From 2005 until mid-2010, I played Super Mom in the yet-to-be released indie film "Provide Daycare for Your Sister-in-Law's Children Because You Don't Have Enough to Do Already." I returned to teaching this fall at an undisclosed Indianapolis school where thankfully very few parents know who I am. I am considering developing a bad habit.

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