The hardest job I have is participating in raising my two teenage boys along with their wonderful mother. Let's call her Mary the Magnificent. Let's call my oldest son Calvin and the youngest Hobbes. Calvin and Hobbes are good kids as kids go. They are warm and considerate (except to each other). They are polite and willing to help out (except when they are at home). All in all, they are teenagers through and through, with all of the accompanying difficulties and, theoretically, with all of the benefits.
Raising Calvin and Hobbes is a testament to the craziness of raising children. It's the hardest job I have ever had and I could not have even contemplated doing it without Mary. If I had, I would have pitied my boys. They would have ended up half naked, swinging on trees and looking for wolves to live with.
There are lots of jokes about kids and parents. My favorite is "What is the difference between your children and vultures? Vultures wait till you’re dead to eat your heart out."
My favorite newest one liner is from Dr. Laurence Peter: "Psychiatry enables us to correct our faults by confessing our parents' shortcomings." The lesson is that whatever else can be said about raising Calvin and Hobbs, they are tough on the sanity of their parents. But then, that is their job and they both do it well.
The problem with parenting is that parents do not usually come into the process with all the screws in their head tightened. Most times they are a few quarts low on oil. Missing some of their marbles. A few cents short of a dime. One banana short of a bunch. Or my favorite, a few ants short of a picnic. Some would say that no sane person would ever willing choose to put their wants, desires and dreams aside to raise someone whose main goal is to leave you.
Example Of Our Pre-Child Sanity
I have no problem admitting that I could use a few more ants at my picnic. While Mary is saner than I am, her elevator still stops just short of the penthouse. However, our individual deficiencies may not be that important since we made a blood-oath to raise Calvin and Hobbes as a team. That makes it Team Parents versus Calvin and Hobbes, which is important since, while individually all of the lights in our home may not turn on, as a team we have more than enough bananas to make a full bunch. Together, we make one sane person.
It's simple math. Let's assume that Mary is 80% sane and that I am only 40% sane. That may not be good as individuals, but combined we have sanity to spare. Having a surplus of sanity is important since, at least as it relates to raising Calvin and Hobbes, a day which starts out with sanity can end with either Mary or I needing to tap out and let the other finish the wrestling match.
A wrestling match is a perfect analogy with one exception. In the usual two-on-two match, there is only one member of each team in the ring at any given time. In the parental wrestling match, our kids’ team always has two members in the ring. The parent team sometimes has two wrestlers on the mat, but most of the time it only has one. To make things more difficult, Calvin and Hobbes are full-time wrestlers. Their only job is to figure out how to win the match. Not so for Mary and I. Not only do we have to wrestle, but we also have to raise the funds to buy the ring and pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the arena. Additionally, we are responsible for each other as well as a myriad of other obligations. As such, we each have several full-time jobs.
Perhaps the greatest advantage that Calvin and Hobbes have in the wrestling match is the certainty that they are right and that they are the mightiest wrestlers ever to walk the earth. Ask them how to wrestle, or do anything else for that matter, and they will confidently give you an answer. It may not be the right answer, but they are certain it is. And that is what counts in the wrestling match.
Mary and I do not have the luxury of believing that all that we do is correct or that every move we make in the wrestling match is the proper one. We have lived long enough and experienced enough to recognize our fallibility.
The knowledge that we are not perfect is a significant weakness that Calvin and Hobbes are not reluctant to take advantage of. They are marvels at psychological warfare. They
instinctively know our strengths and weaknesses; they also know how to avoid one parent and take advantage of the other. And they are not reluctant to do so.
We do have some advantages over our loving children. We are smarter and have more experience to fall back on. Acknowledgment of our fallibility gives us the ability to learn and alter our conduct. We also have more money than they do, ensuring for now that Calvin and Hobbes need to come to us for the things they like. We can also take away the things they like to do (think x-box). We are familiar with the concepts of blackmail and bribery and we are not afraid to ruthlessly use either when necessary.
In an even match, there is no doubt that either of us can pin Calvin and Hobbes or at least get them to momentarily tap out. At full strength, either Mary or I can easily win the match. It would be no contest. But we know that no match is ever even since it usually begins unexpectedly when Calvin and Hobbes are full of physical and mental strength and Mary and I are already spent from the other things we have to do. This is why it is so important for Mary and I to pool our resources. That is why it is critical that Mary and I have the intelligence and the confidence in each other to know when to call on the other, to know, regardless of our individual insufficiencies, that together we make one sane person.
Calvin and Hobbes are actually really good kids. Even so, that does not make anything I have written untrue or an exaggeration: I could not conceive of raising them without my partner in sanity (and she concurs - go Team Parents!)