Does it ever get better?

"Anon for sure" left this comment on Thursday's vent post:

"My baby is almost 1 year old, and I am getting scared that things will not get better, as everyone always says. Used to sleep very well at night, and is now crying out and woke up today at 4am. She is also more irritable during the day.

Everytime we see the light, it gets snatched away from us. We are so tired of troubleshooting, coping, trying to patch up sleep snafus, etc. And this isn't really a sleep issue. This is battle fatigue from dealing with one stressor after another. I'm pissed off that we try so hard, research extensively, invest so much - and yet we have so few smooth periods.

We have a lot to be grateful for, we know. It is just so hard to have perspective. We work so hard to be good parents, and it is problem after problem. When do we get to enjoy ourselves? People say it gets easier, but I don't know if I believe them anymore."

Anon for sure, honestly, I think people who enjoy having babies are nuts. Like seriously insane. I hated it both times, and didn't even realize how much I hated it, because I loved my kids and thought it was just parenting and therefore what I'd signed up for.

But now that they're 8.5 and 5.5? Whoa. It's a whole different experience. I'm actually making decisions and having discussions and working on things with them that are interesting and that make an immediate impact, and sometimes hurt my head in a good way. And they sleep all night and deal with their own poop, and tell me if they're hurt. Yes, there are tons of things that are still Not Fun, like getting them to put on shoes, and explaining stuff like puberty and racism and divorce, and forcing them to do their homework and write thank-you notes. But we get to talk about books and ideas and feelings and thoughts, and they beat me at Wii golf and dance in the living room to Taio Cruz and can navigate from the back seat when I hand them my phone or a map.

It does get better. But seriously, not for awhile. You are not alone. Many many many of us loathe the baby/toddler experience with a capital F-U.

I was talking to an old friend of mine who is pregnant with twins after a lengthy fertility battle. She told me straight out, "I'm just going to try to make it through the first few years alive, because I don't like babies." Right on, sister. Because you know what? You don't have to like parenting a baby. You just have to do it. You keep showing up, and remember that they'll be babies for a couple of years, but they'll be your adult children for decades. And that's the payoff. Your job right now is to give them the love and boundaries and guidance and tools to be amazing adults while keeping yourself open enough to be worthy of being their parent. And then they become fun way before they're actual adults, so those years between toddler and adult are just a bonus.

That doesn't mean that there aren't hundreds of beautiful moments in the baby/toddler stage, when you feel the light of heaven shining down through your child. But the ratio of beautiful moments to mind-numbing exhaustion gets geometrically bigger as they get older.

Parenting is hard, y'all. How do you stay sane during the Red Zone Years? Or do you just accept that you can go under for awhile and come back with a vengeance later?