Saturday, November 2, 2013

I Don't Know How You Do It by Rachel Nemhauser

Let me set the scene: I'm at the grocery store with Nate, waiting in line to check out.  While we wait, Nate's ever-busy little hands grab a candy bar off the shelf.  I take it out of his hand and put it back. He screams in his shrieky way that makes everyone stop and look.  I try to hush him and he grabs a magazine and throws it on the floor.  I ask him to pick it up and he screams again. I unload the groceries onto the conveyor belt and he puts them back into the cart before they're scanned. Basically, he's turning grocery shopping into an endurance sport that is testing every limit of my patience and good humor.

By the time we're at the front of the line I'm sweaty and frustrated, and that is when the woman behind me in line chimes in with "I don't know how you do it!"  Not this again.

I get "I don't know how you do it" a lot, accompanied by a sympathetic smile or a pat on the back. Sometimes there's a hug, sometimes followed by a "Wow! You have so much patience". Sometimes by a stranger and sometimes by a loved one.

I hate when people say that to me.

Perhaps it's because "doing it" was never a choice I was given. No one asked me, before I conceived Nate, whether I'd be interested in making grocery shopping infinitely more agonizing and embarrassing for the next 20 years. No one asked me if I'd like dinners to be tornado-like, or getting my child dressed to be a full-contact sport. Sometimes I'm not sure how I do it either, but groceries need to be purchased, kids need to go to school in clothes, and we all have to eat.  I do it because it has to be done.

Maybe "I don't know how you do it" gets to me because it reminds me that what I'm doing is harder than it is for some other parents. While most people don't like to take their 9 year old grocery shopping, I know that most parents aren't dealing with what I'm dealing with when we shop. However, if I walked around all day dwelling on that I'd be a pretty miserable person.  "I don't know how you do it" takes me out of "denial" mode and into "reality" mode, and I don't always feel up for that!

But here is why it really gets to me. "I don't know how you do it" implies that what I have is worse than what you have, and that is absolutely NOT how I view my child.  Tougher? Yep. More frustrating? Probably. More labor intensive?  Absolutely.  Worse? Not by a long shot.

Because at the end of the day, I get to have Nate and no one else does.  I get to hear him laugh, and watch him learn, and brush his glowing orange hair.  I get to snuggle with him and smell his neck and take him trick-or-treating. I get to watch him squeal with delight as leaves swirl down from trees, or when our cat licks his face.

Difficult behavior is an unfortunate down-side of an awesome kid. If you find yourself not knowing how I do it you just might not know Nate well enough.  I promise you that if you knew him better, you would know exactly how I do it.


  1. Being a parent doesn't come with an instruction booklet. Sometimes I used to feel like i was missing something that everyone else somehow I missed the memo. I think of these things when I watch my son and daughter-in-law parent both of their sons.I forget how much energy it takes and how much focus. I have tremendous admiration and respect for the challenges they face and the way that they face them together. And yet, sometimes, I do hear myself say "you are so do you do it". On one hand I want them to know that I am aware of what their life is like. On the other hand, I do believe that life doesn't give us more than we can handle and so we just need to get on with it.
    Each of the boys, as do all children, have challenges with behavior, neatness, homework, rules. Isaac has more abilities to understand what is needed. Nate is still grappling with life and the constraints that he lives within. I see each of them growing and thriving in their loving home with parents who make the time to "do" the parenting.As one of the grandmas,I get to play and hug and sometimes bend the rules! It is an honor and a privilege to be welcomed into their lives. And even though I do sometimes find my nerves a little frayed, I look over at Rachel and see her take a deep breath and carry on. She gives me a feeling that everything is going to be ok and then I turn to Nate and give him a hug and hear his laugh.....and then we are off on a new adventure!

    1. Thank you for such beautiful and thoughtful comments Marci. I always love hearing your thoughts about what I write!

  2. Rachel, Thank you for sharing. Thank you for allowing me to play in the water with Nate, being swim lessons. What a treasure!!! Love Love Nate's smile! Marianne

  3. Rachel, he is love. You are super Mom. There is no worse in life when you are involved. You and Nate are made of good stuff. You might be having a different shopping experience but not worse. I like how he creatively knew how to challenge you when he did not get the candy bar, that takes smarts. Most kids would have just complained.