Parenthood: Ridin' the Coaster

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Sometimes I feel like Steve Martin’s character Gil in Parenthood. I’m desperately seeking the perfect opportunity to create forever family bliss only to be reminded (sometimes gently, sometimes not so much) how much of a roller coaster family life and parenting in particular really is (thank you to the Grandma character for those words of wisdom near the end of the film). It is easy to imagine your child’s grateful valedictorian speech only to have it replaced by howls of toddler pain because the oatmeal is still too hot.

I am grateful for a slight change of pace in the Hensel-Whalen household this week. Public schools are on break, so my studio and school-based work is also paused, allowing me dinners at home with the family and leisurely mornings of ignoring my daunting list of choreography projects. Sometimes when I rest, I rest. My brain and body become mush unlikely to be seen encouraging teenagers to travel, travel, travel when they bourre across the floor and just try, try, try to do five more pushups. 

But parenthood offers few breaks and the babies in my house are still demanding full-on attention (reminding me why I am grateful for my hours at the studio with other people’s children). There is more attention to be craved when mom is around more often. There are more opportunities to be reminded of my own mistakes and imperfections as a parent when I am parenting full time. It is easy for me to become obsessed with finding the solution to toddler-teenagedom, when in reality, I am most likely just being asked to hang on tight for the ride.

There are moments of crazy joy when I can let go of the need for a smooth day, an easy attitude, and never-ending family happiness. The babies can laugh and dance while the record player spins tunes and my daughter can “play cribbage” with her card-loving dad. My man and I can share a knowing, loving glance while the kiddos cry, desperate for breakfast, but we demand our cup of coffee and hot chocolate first. I can look at those same kids, both sleeping so soundly later that night, and feel like the most fortunate lady in the entire world. 

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If you haven’t seen Parenthood, I strongly encourage you to Netflix it or head over to your video store now. The movie opens with one of the main characters attending a baseball game as a child while reminiscing as his adult self, explaining to the man selling popcorn that his father “was taught to see child raising as a burden - a prison rather than a playground.” 

My most recent viewing of this movie included me looking at my partner say, “A PRISON rather than a PLAYGROUND!” Because we all need reminding sometimes...