There is a scene in my favorite movie, A League of Their Own, where Dottie, the star player of the Rockford Peaches, decides to quit baseball. She abandons her team just as they are headed into the championship game to head home with her husband, who has just returned from war. Jimmy Dugan, the head coach of the team, confronts her just as she’s about to leave.
“It just got too hard,” Dottie says.
Jimmy replies indignantly, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”
Jimmy’s message stuck with Dottie, because she does return to the team to play the final game of the season. The championship game ends in heartbreak, as Dottie drops the ball on the final play, allowing the winning run to score and the Peaches to lose.
I’ve watched this movie countless times since the first time I saw it in the theater as a child. As a softball player myself, the wisdom of Jimmy Dugan was burned in my brain as motivation to keep working and pushing myself, both in practice and by facing the best competition possible. It’s supposed to be hard…
Now that I’m a parent, and my competitive athletic days are behind me, the sentiment behind that quote is still applicable.
It’s supposed to be hard.
Parents are well acquainted with The Hard.
There are days when I hide in the bathroom or escape to Starbucks as soon as I can make the child-handoff with my husband.
But I always come back. I rejuvenate with caffeine and solitude, and return to my babies with fresh adoration and patience.
I sometimes fantasize with nostalgia about my “lonely” single days where all I had to take care of was myself and my dog.
But then I look, and I see, what bountiful blessings I had no idea were to come. Sure, I may have had less responsibility and more sleep, but what beauty and LIFE I was missing.
I cry in frustration because my husband doesn’t have the same parenting priorities as I do and I wonder how we will ever raise our children with consistency and clarity.
But I remind myself that he is just as much their parent as I am, and he loves them just as deeply as I do. And above all else, this is the message the children need to hear: We love each other and we love you.
I have been known to shake with anger when my one year old won’t sleep past 5:00 am and when my four year old talks to me with the sass of a sullen teenager.
But I press on. I am forced to confront the ugliness of my own selfishness (and sass), and am able to practice patience and grace with my children.
Occasionally, I feel sorry for myself, because raising a special needs child on top of everything else makes The Hard of parenting exponentially more intense.
But when I hold my son in my arms, I remember that with all his challenges, he has profoundly changed me. I am kinder and more empathetic because of him.
Yes, parenting is hard. It’s harder than I ever thought possible, and there are days where I’m sure it is going to break me and shatter my heart. I don’t always win, and sometimes I drop the ball and the day ends in a heartbreaking loss. But parenting is also great. So, so great.