David B Younger, Ph.D, P.C. Clinical psychologist and creator of Love After Kids, designed to help couples with their relationships after having children.
A couple of Sundays ago, I went with the family to a local brunch place for…um, brunch. We made it out the door before 9:30am, which was a feat in itself. We took the dog with us because we’re really bad dog owners and we haven’t trained him and he controls us.
Our 12- year-old son, Eric, didn’t want to go out for breakfast, but he wanted to be left home alone even less, so he put on his Dr. Dre headphones and sweatpants. He was fine staying home alone when we lived in New York City. But here in Austin, you’d think he lived in the middle of the Amazon. He doesn’t want to stay home because they are gonna get him. Who? The cowboys?
So we get there and my almost 3 year-old daughter, Emma, decides she’s not ready to get out of the car just yet. There’s already a line out the door. The dog wants to be inside my jacket, literally like a kangaroo. When we’re out, especially. He’ll bite you too if you try and pet him when he’s there. He just bit a friend in fact this weekend. Not hard or anything. Never pierces the skin, but she wasn’t happy. He looks like a stuffed animal, so it’s not what you’d expect.
Anyway, we get out of the car. Eric is listening to his audiobook. Emma is having a tantrum because she still wasn’t ready to leave. Phinny, the dog, is perched in my pouch and we have to wait half an hour for a table. We’re just trying not to disturb too many people and to prevent a calamity before we get to eat our gluten free pancakes. Luckily, there are other families with young kids and dogs in the patio area, so they’ll understand.
I scan the area and see all the young kids eating peacefully in their highchairs. I look at Emma. She’s screaming because she wants to watch a video of a stingray on Deb’s phone. Deb is in a bad mood at this point. She’s looking at me with a hint of disgust. Her look is saying: This is all your fault. This was the worst idea ever. Why did I agree to this? She didn’t say any of this and I know that I warn a lot against assumptions…but I just know. She’ll tell you. Trust me. I’m feeling pissed off with her too. I’m feeling like this would all be okay if she could just have a better attitude.
Eric is hunched over with his shoulders sloped and he’s looking at the ground. Deb corrects his posture. That lasts for maybe ten seconds. Finally, they tell us our table is ready. The hostess goes to pet Phinny and I give her a head’s up like those warnings you get with the pharmaceutical commercials. She retracts her hand and leads us to the table.
Emma had calmed down at that point, but she started up again because she wasn’t ready to move to the table. There’s a table of millennials next us. No kids. A guy at the table turns to look at us a few times. It’s not a look that says, how sweet. It’s a look that says, you’re ruining my mimosas. I won’t say what I was thinking, but you can imagine.
The food comes. Emma wants to pour an entire bottle of maple syrup onto her pancakes. Tantrum. Phinny smells bacon. His priorities shift. Eric is anxious about school the next day. Deb and I don’t have the time or space to string more than two sentences together.
Pay the bill. Time to go. Emma’s not ready. Tantrum. I make eye contact with the millennial whose mimosa drinking was interrupted and I nod at him and grin.
I wrote this because it was fun to write. I wrote this because there’s a lot of humor that can be found in the rollercoaster ride of parenting. I wrote this because I feel strongly about joining the experience when I work with people as opposed to sitting up high as though I’ve got everything figured out and do it all perfectly.
Parenting and relationships are not formulas to be figured out. They’re dynamic creations that are often unpredictable and that challenge us to the core. We can learn from our experiences and mistakes, but there will always be more new experiences and mistakes down the road.
I remember being like the guy at the brunch place with the 3-hour breakfast and the New York Times cover to cover. Life was a lot simpler then. There are certainly things I miss about it too. But I wouldn’t trade this hot mess for anything.
David B. Younger, Ph.D is the creator of Love After Kids, helping couples with their relationships since having children. He is a clinical psychologist and couple’s therapist with a web-based private practice and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and Thrive Global. David lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, two kids and toy poodle.