Thursday, February 5, 2015

Parenting: It's Ground Hog Day All Over Again

In one of the crazier traditions we apparently exported across the nation, Pennsylvanians predict how much longer winter will last by whether a groundhog sees his shadow on a specific day in February.  Its a big deal; the Washington Post covers it.  Amateurs in other states are now doing it, resulting in them having their ears bitten off.

That groundhog saw his shadow Monday, so I'm told we are in for a lot more winter.  Six more weeks of it, to be specific.

We do this every year, and pretty much every year we get the same result: six more weeks of winter.  An editor I used to work with often pointed out that giant television and photography lights kind of pushes you toward one outcome over another.  I guess when you rely on a groundhog for your weather predictions, you aren't picky about such things.

There is even a "culturally significant" film starring Bill Murray based around it.  In the movie, Murray's character repeats the same day over, and over, and over and over again and again and again (see what I did there?).

After begrudgingly filming groundhog day, Murray's character realizes that he is reliving the same day over and over again.  Which, if you think about it, is a lot like parenting.

At first the Murray character lives it up.  As any new parent can tell you, this happens to us all.  The new baby in the house is novel and exciting.  Everyone from family to strangers coos over the new addition.  And even though your entire life is so much like a day on repeat - everything from feeding to changing to bathing - that you can easily lose track of days, you live it up and lap it up.

But sooner or later, just like the Murray character, you become depressed.  Eventually, the novelty wears thin.  All the glamour of the little one wears off.  Family stops visiting and helping as much.  Strangers stop saying how cute your kids is and start asking if you couldn't please keep him quiet or have him at least stop kicking their chair.

Worse, about this time kids start crying and acting out.  In response, you start seeking more and more desperate measures to end such battles.  Your resolve to never give in to certain behaviors melts.  Where once you would never give in to whining or oddly timed cries for night-time pottying, you find yourself worn down in the face of months of repetition.  Eventually, rubbed to nubs by months of monotony, you say "F it" and start giving in.

Good god, this sounds awful, you are probably saying.  You might even be questioning my fitness as a parent.  Go ahead, I do it on pretty much a weekly basis.  Its unlikely you'll uncover a flaw I haven't.

So where is this going?  Is parenting an endless parade of monotonous days, with no end in sight?  No.  Well, yes, it is, but that isn't the point here.  Murray's character  escaped the cycle only by bettering himself.  It's something everyone, but parents especially, need to keep in mind, I think.

Parenting isn't a single day in time, its a process.  A long, sometimes arduous, and definitely repetitive process.  But nothing we do in any given day will make any difference to our kids long term. Its wash, rinse, repeat.  So, even though you might have had a bad day or week, you have a new chance tomorrow.  You might not be all that great a parent, right now at this moment.  You might scream at your toddler who has just decorated your floor with sparkles, or flushed some untold thing down the potty.  You probably just had a day when your fuse was too short.  Or maybe you had a day where your kid bit your ear off.

It doesn't much matter.  The important thing, the only way to break the monotony and break out of the cycle is to keep things fresh.

Keep working at getting better, all you Moms and Dads!



  1. Aaah — this is a great post! I said on SO many occasions, when the boys were tiny that it felt like Groundhog day. Menial tasks — on repeat; their routine — on repeat. And then — puff — it is all over! Like a flash. They're 23 months this weekend and all of a sudden, Groundhog day has moved on to another phase! :)
    PS — my husband's favourite film is Groundhog Day!! :)

  2. Thanks for the post, Caro! Mine are 3 YO and the monotony is still there, just less so. I honestly remember very little about the first year or so. It was such a blur.

    Thanks again for stopping by and commenting!

  3. Great post and you are so right. Those early months especially were purely a case of surviving, whilst also trying to keep some brand new little people alive! Thanks for linking up with #MultipleMadness