Struggles, not ‘snuggles’

When I was a new mother, Facebook was just becoming a big thing.

It was so long ago (2008), that we announced our son’s birth primarily by email.

But as the months went on, we started sharing photos of our kid — who we were just getting to know — with the ever-evolving social media landscape.

It was addictive, watching the likes and comments roll in about how cute our child was! 

It made parenting in those early days less isolating and more bearable during my maternity leave.

Then came a comment that utterly perplexed me: “Oh, I remember that age! Enjoy all those snuggles!”

Snuggles? What snuggles?

What was this friend from high school even talking about?

My life had become consumed by nursing (which was going just OK), diapers and colicky bouts of crying, crying, crying.

When our son was smiling instead of crying, I spent my time taking super-cute photos of him on snuggly blankies to make the world (and me) think everything was only amazing — and not also really, really difficult.

Though our son might have looked cuddly/snuggly, I did not have a snuggly baby, nor did I feel like a particularly snuggly mama. New motherhood was just … hard. 

So her comment — ripped right out of the “they grow up so fast” playbook of parenting clichés — made me feel like a “bad” mother with a “bad” son. 

Now that our son is 9, and swiftly moving into tween territory, I’m seeing that childhood does fly by at the speed of light, especially after your kid starts school.

I’m also learning to accept that those elusive snuggles — which mommy bloggers seem to cite all the time as the norm — will never be mine. 

Fortunately, my son and I have found many other ways to connect — hugs (usually stolen by me, but not always), back scratches at bedtime, back rubs during TV time, wrestling, tickling and pats on the head. (Despite not having a natural snuggler, I believe strongly in the value of touch between kids and parents throughout the day.)

What I’m trying to say, in honor of our annual Baby Issue, is that parenting is a surprisingly “universal experience” that ties you forever to parents everywhere in amazing ways. 

But at the end of the day, it’s not THAT universal. It’s as individualized and challenging and messed up as we all are as humans. 

You may not get snuggles. And you’ll definitely face greater challenges than whether you get snuggles or not. You will do everything wrong. And everything right. And your family will be miraculous, and solely yours. 

Parenting is a mashup of heaven and hell, wonderful and horrible, fearlessness and worry, joy and heartbreak.

But one thing it’s not is all #snuggles, no matter what Facebook says.