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The Quadratic Equation of Parenting

By: Christina Gentile

Here is one of the coolest things about being a parent: getting to bear witness to how you change as a person, and how your kids change. What’s annoying is that your face is shoved up so close to the changes that happen to you and your kids that it’s all out of focus and blurry and you have no idea that they’re occurring, except when you look back. The gap between the parent who I thought I’d be and the parent who I am is somehow simultaneously larger and smaller than I ever thought possible. I am awesome at things I never expected to excel at: sprinting into projectile vomit to give a hug; laser tag; swearing, a lot. I also find myself doing things that I NEVER thought I’d do: silencing calls from the school nurse, praying that she doesn’t leave a voicemail; ignoring my kid in favor of my phone; not keeping track of screen time at all; swearing, a lot. I thought that I was going to pass along my love of reading to them but other than the time when I let my son read Magic Johnson’s autobiography as a basketball-obsessed third-grader, that hasn’t happened. I thought that we were going to regularly volunteer as a family. I thought that we would have a chore chart.

In some ways, you can’t really predict how you’ll be as a parent. I would not have anticipated that my husband would be so… daft as to ask, when our now-14-year-old was 2 days old, when the baby would “get on our schedule.” No one could have convinced me that I would become totally unravelled over being bad at breastfeeding. And I certainly didn’t expect that during Covid, I would re-learn and rapidly forget quadratic equations, unclog a toilet with my bare hand when there is no plumber to be called, and get pretty okay at Jeopardy.

I think that for most of us, we’re not sure yet how covid has changed us as people and as parents. It’s like one of those math problems: if I am travelling at 60 mph and my awareness of how covid has changed me is travelling at 40 mph, how long until it catches up to me? I don’t know if I will end up worrying about my kids more, since we’ve been through this; or less, since we’ve been through this. I don’t know if I’ll start buying Life Is Good t-shirts because, you know, life is good now. I don’t know if I’ll start wearing a bra again. What is certain is that we don’t know how we will look back on this time: as Andy Bernard said in The Office, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

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