I grew up in the Klein Karoo and there is nothing quite like a a summer thunderstorm. Except, maybe, parenting. As more of my friends join the parenting family, that metaphor has become clearer and clearer to me. Now, to clarify, I grew up in Montagu, where a thunderstorm also very often meant a massive flood. This part of it also plays heavily into my comparison.
In the day or two leading up to a storm, there is a clear sense of anticipation in the air. You can feel the promise of relief, the thrill of electricity, the threat of flood. It is the same with parenting. The run up is full of excitement, thrill, promise and fear. And having lost a baby myself, the fact that storms in the Karoo often follow drought, is not lost on me either
There is little as physically isolating as being in the middle of a thunderstorm, with the power cut out, the roads unusable and the phone lines down. And there is little as emotionally isolating as parenting. There is so much judgement, so much exhaustion, so much pressure and you can feel so terribly alone.
Aren’t we all just a little frightened of the flashes of light and the loud claps of thunder? Parenting is one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever do. You are constantly terrified of getting it wrong. Always afraid for your child’s safety, their health, their happiness, their future. Even when you are firmly enthralled by the beauty of it, the fear is with you.
Beauty, wonder and thrill
No matter how alone or scared you are, one can’t help but be enthralled by the beauty and thrill of a thunderstorm. The flashes of light, the awesome power of water and electricity, the low rumble of thunder. It is the same with parenting. There is immense power and beauty in the love for a child. In the journey of guiding them on their first steps through life. There is a thrill in the first innocent smiles that are so overwhelming aimed at you. There is power in the rare hug of a teenager. There is bittersweet in the first steps of independence.
There is no way to truly prepare for a flood and there is no way to control it. The flood of emotion that comes with parenting is as unstoppable a force of nature as a wall of water. There is love, that washes away so many things in it’s path. There is frustration, pain, sadness, fear, anger, joy, pride. And they all wash over you and change the landscape of your heart like a river in flood.
As isolating as a thunderstorm and flood can be, it also brings the opportunity to build community. It is quite something to see community come together to clean up, take care of each other and put things back in order. If you reach out, if you open up, the community of parents is a wonderful place. They take care of each other, they put your world back together, they help you make sense of this new landscape you must navigate. They will rally together and they will rebuild your village.
Parenting is a thunderstorm. Both terrible and beautiful. Destructive and revitalising.