This is What It Costs

None of this was free. You knew that intellectually and it hit you—especially if you’re an American—when you saw that first bill from the hospital. But of course, parenting takes a lot more from us than just money.

It wears on us. It steals sleep and energy. It taxes our patience. It covers us, literally, in bruises and scars. It keeps us up at night worrying. It takes time, so much time. So much time in the car, waiting in waiting rooms, watching their Little League games or recitals.

And? As we’ve said before, it’s a wonderful part of the process.

We’ve been quoting recently from the old children’s story The Velveteen Rabbit, about a toy that’s so loved by a young boy that it becomes real. This is a great metaphor for parenting in a way. Because that’s what’s happening to us. We made a decision to have kids many years ago and then for years that decision works on us, shaping, changing, transforming us. No part of that is more powerful than the love and energy of our children—whose joy, whose innocence, whose pain, whose growth is working on us always…even as it takes so much out of us.

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” says the old worn toy horse in the story. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

It takes a while…it takes a lot out of us. It wears us down as it shapes and molds us. It doesn’t happen all at once, it happens day to day. It’s exhausting but also wonderful. It’s not for the faint of heart or the fragile. But in the end, it makes us Real, as parents and as people.

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