Roller Coaster Ride

There’s a quote at the end of one of my all-time favorite movies, Parenthood, that has seemed to sum up my life since becoming a mom. It’s near the end of the movie during the peak of the family’s emotional drama. Out of the blue, the grandmother says that when she was nineteen, her grandpa took her on a roller coaster. She said it made her so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all at the same time. But some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round instead. But, she says, the merry-go-round just goes around. She said she preferred the roller coaster because you get more out of it.

I liked that quote so much that I used it at the end of my first book. I’d had my first child, been through a difficult bought of postpartum depression, left my career, written a book and gotten a publishing contract and was pregnant with my second child. The roller coaster analogy of highs and lows certainly seemed apt. What I didn’t know at the time was that there would be more highs and lows that I couldn’t even imagine. My co-author Stephanie and I got a radio show, appeared the Today Show, got a second book contract, and then I was diagnosed with cancer. I went from being excited to being terrified in a stomach-lurching second.

I’m fine now, but as any cancer survivor will tell you, you don’t just wipe your hands of cancer once you’re done with treatment. Even when the disease is out of your body it stays in your life a long, long time. My life now swings between the excitement of launching a new book and the terror of sitting in a doctor’s office waiting to hear the results of my latest CT scan.

Sure, life has thrown me some curve balls, but isn’t that true of nearly everyone? The real roller coaster ride is becoming a parent. Once you become a mother or a father, nothing is ever the same again. David and I always chuckle about people who don’t have kids…how you can tell immediately when you walk into their house. No tennis shoes on the dining room table or juice stains on the furniture. Their floors are not sticky, their refrigerator doors are uncluttered and there is no play dough caked into their rugs. Life with kids is messy, chaotic, aggravating, nerve-wracking and terrifying. Your courage is constantly being tested…putting them on the school bus alone, letting them spend the night at someone’s house, letting them (gulp) drive a car. Parenthood is not for wussies. It takes guts and persistence and super-human amounts of patience. But you know what? It sure beats the merry go round.

Sara Ellington is the author of The Must-Have Mom Manual and The Mommy Chronicles, both with Stephanie Triplett.


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