photo of yellow flowers in a glass vase next to a window
Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on

The fact is that although you and I are co-writing this blog, Owen, not everything I have to say is about you. So forgive me, but I gotta whine. You can put your two cents in later, ok?

I began texting this thought to some friends, but this thought is too big for texting. I have been chewing on it for a while: motherhood is a shitty-wonderful job. Okay, it’s one of them. One of many.

I tried to explain my thinking to parent friends in a letter-I-never-sent, written by candlelight tubside at the end of a long day. But I wasn’t sure if my friends would understand — and now you can all wonder whether this post was the letter originally meant for you. And it was. All of you. That letter, it turns out was the first draft of a brewing blog post. If I had only known, I wrote, how gut-wrenching this job of parenting was to be, I would have been way to chicken to do it.

So I am glad I didn’t know.

For instance, raising babies and riding the highs and lows in that cozy relationship nest you build together, longing for and delighting in each sign of Growth and Maturity! — only to realize the end game is being left. See ya. Empty nest is not a joke. And for those parents whose kids stay local: You. Have. No. Idea. So don’t talk to me.

And when parenting morphs into a new and different kind of support role: wow. Watching your young adult work to integrate into a world that misunderstands, mis-judges or ignores him or her, listening while they voice their pain — their RAGE — while you are giving your all, witnessing while the voiceless reach out but go unheard by family, that is the like being stretched on the wrack.

And although I doubt it is standard protocol for human agony, semi-sweet chocolate chips are called for. (Never mind the carob. Pure, organic chocolate morsels) Can’t help mocking myself. It helps me keep moving on. So, a 1/2 bag of chocolate chips on the sly and a mommy-time-out later, I am (over) charged and (if feeling ill) ready to go. Back into the trenches.

Mothering is shitty-wonderful I say. Parenting is what I mean, though.

I was so proud earlier this summer, watching our son leave the dinner table with his tantruming baby daughter. He correctly understood what that tantrum was communicating. He listened to her. I watched him sit with the baby on the ground at the backyard fire pit, allowing her to ogle the blazing fire that she so desperately wanted to see, but not to touch it. He was hungry for his supper, and (I suspect) worn out with dealing her needs at that moment. But he rose above that, and above any opinions that any grandparents at the table might have had about her behavior or his choice of how to handle it. He followed his gut and/or his convictions. Then they came back to the table and ate supper. I know at his age I would not have been wise enough to see the value in doing what he did. But I could see it when he did it. It was a teaching for me. It is so good to be taught. Shitty but wonderful, in fact. To quote Glennon Merton, “Brutal and beautiful. Brutiful.”

My daughter called last night. She took a while to get to it, but she was able to say a very hard thing. Please don’t evaluate our relationship based on how often I call you. Or how often I don’t call you. I just don’t call people, she went on, I probably call you more often than other people. Well, ok, I was able to say, I just need to find some people who want to connect more often than once a month. That’s all.

Valuable. Satisfying. I hope she felt the release in saying it that I felt I hearing her words. You are more to me than some numerical extrapolation of our phone minutes. Please don’t impose that evaluation on me – or us.

Our children are our teachers. And our forebears also keep on teaching us long after they are gone. Too late I understand some of the pain I caused my dad. Raising a young adult with special nees is difficult, still parenting as grandchildren start arriving is much more difficult. I judged my father harshly for his apparent lack of interest. I longed for him to coo and to cuddle, to show his interest in my children in certain visible ways that would make up for the absence of my mother, who had died many years before. Now, life has provided that I shall know by experience how it is to grandparent while continuing to parent. The truth of course is it’s shitty-wonderful. I am thrilled to be a grandma – I just don’t know if I will have the energy to be any good at it.

But the upshot of this chocolate-infused moan, is…I guess more wonderful than shitty. Tough as things can get, I have to confess that I would never take back even the most difficult parts of my journey so far. Because each of those (after a lot of digestion) has resulted in my greatest growth. Deeper insight. And, yeah, each episode hurts like hell. The rack.

Which is my read of what Jesus demonstrated in permitting his cruxifixction, if you will pardon a religious digression. Whether you see Jesus as a guy, or as God-energy in a human form, the teaching seems the same. Everything I speak to you is a parable, he said. You will be crucified, to be re-born. Let go, and be taught – let your ego die, and live. Roses can grow great in manure, as long as it’s well-composted.

Yeah. I get it. More than that, I feel it. Ouch! Which gives me hope.

Your two cents, Owen? Is this one ok?

yeah. i like it. i think this one is ready to go.

2 thoughts on “Shitty-Wonderful

  1. Gritty Momma July 23, 2019 / 5:57 pm

    This was soul food for me today. Thank you. 😀

    In a similar category, today was the first time I got to experience a child hiding in a closet, not answering, and spurring a neighborhood search and rescue complete with police. Yikes!!! So glad it amounted to not wanting to get a diaper change vs. a kidnapping. Sheeeeeeesh….


    • wystansimons September 18, 2019 / 10:52 pm

      Dear Gritty Momma – thanks for your feedback and appreciation on our blog posts! Super relieved to learn that your child was ok!! I had a young child go to sleep in the doghouse one summer day… the neighbors out searching… all’s well that ends well!


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