This week finds me almost halfway through "The Hard Eight" (aka the first eight weeks following birth).
I'm still recovering from "birth-related difficulties". I'm up between three and nineteen times a night dealing with a new 7-pound roommate who indicates her oncoming need to eat by grunting like a crazed warthog for 45 minutes before beginning to wail loudly. Also, I'm breastfeeding approximately 27 hours a day.
It's been a little bit of a grind.
Then this morning, as I sat slumped over 42 ounces of Diet Coke in an attempt to ingest sufficient caffeine to allow me to remember my first name, I heard the doorbell ring. I staggered zombie-like towards the front door and opened it to find a Jehovah's Witness wearing an expression of friendly concern.
"Family life is very stressful, don't you agree?"
he asked, handing over a small pamphlet. I stared at him in a daze for a moment before responding:
"Dude, are you familiar with the expression 'preaching to the choir'?"
I briefly considered inviting him to confirm his beliefs by coming inside to witness the insanity-inducing spectacle of my two sons standing in the center of a playroom bursting with toys of all varieties while fighting violently over a one-wheeled train, but he seemed like a nice enough fellow, so I opted to spare him the trauma and sent him on his way.
Actual pamphlet handed to me by Jehovah's Witness
After his exit, I perused the pamphlet he'd left behind. The title "ENJOY FAMILY LIFE" is followed by the question,
- "Can families really be happy?"
and the even more damning follow up:
- "How is it possible?"
While I'm tempted to spend the rest of this entry performing an in-depth analysis of the illustration above (I mean, do you really expect to improve family harmony by taking in two puppies and a GIANT PARROT when you already have two young kids? Bad choices, Mom and Dad!) but instead, let's focus on the headline for a moment, shall we?
Now look, I like to complain about having children as much as the next mom. And sure, I'll revel in the occasional screed on my husband's inability to remember to bring his lunch to work to the point where I've been tempted to Krazy Glue Tupperware containers directly to his palms. But, come on Jehovah's Witness pamphlet preparers! Are we actually at a point where we collectively understand family life to be so ceaselessly nightmarish that we need to ask ourselves whether happiness within such a unit is even possible?
Having "woken up" from a bad night with my newborn to face a day of potty training, dish-doing, and inter-brotherly negotiations, I have to say I really wasn't in the market for a handout on the innate despair of being a mom. But as I perused the contents of this brochure it actually began to cheer me up, because it made me that realize that even I, from the dark place I'm currently in, do not accept the premise that families are, by their very nature, a ceaseless black hole from which happiness has no hope for survival.
I mean, there's lots that's awesome about being part of a family:
- There's the fact that even though a vague sense of misery sometimes dominates your entire existence, you still end up laughing all day long because you have small people around who, while admittedly troublesome, also do hilarious things on a near-constant basis.
- There's the constant intellectual challenge of trying to trick your surprisingly wily offspring into doing your will by doing things like disguising their vegetables under sufficient amounts of ranch dressing and/or claiming things during the morning dressing battle like, "But these are your fun pants!"
- There's outings to places that are surprisingly fun that you might never have visited if you weren't just desperate to get your kids out of the house. (For us these places have included the local farm, the botanical garden, the fire station, and the duck pond at the park. They have not, for the record, included Chuck E. Cheese - where every visit steals a piece of your soul forever.)
- There's getting to see the world from the perspective of a two-year-old, which means delighting all day in a host of things you might miss as a regular old grown-up. (For example, did you know that the 900th airplane to fly over your house on any given day is JUST AS EXCITING as the 1st plane? Well, it is!)
And those are just the things my sleep-addled brain was able to come up during the six minutes between crises that demanded my attention.
So to you, Jehovah's Witness pamphlet I say YES! Families REALLY CAN be happy!
At least some of the time!