When Americans talk about the beauty of foreign languages, German is rarely offered up as an example of one that is particularly pleasing to the ear. In fact, in my experience, German often comes up as the antithesis of a beautiful language. It's derided as harsh, guttural, and confusing. Ever the contrarian, I beg to disagree. Not only do I think German is absolutely lovely, I think it's a language that makes nuance tremendously efficient, encapsulating complicated feelings and situations into a single word. There are definitely parenting emotions there should be a word for, and so I think we English speakers could take a lesson from German speakers.
For example, the German word "schadenfreude" is defined as "pleasure derived at the misfortune of others." Boom. One word in place of seven. Not only is it efficient, it's such a strong, instantly relatable word that you wonder how English speakers haven't come up with its non-German counterpart centuries ago. Another example of the German language's proficiency is the word "fremdschämen," which means "to be embarrassed because someone else has embarrassed himself (and doesn't notice)." Again, one word replacing twelve.
In talking with other parents, especially parents of small children, I find that so many of the intense, situationally specific feelings I have gone through are immediately understood. So why don't we have specific words to address these feelings? Shouldn't we? Yes. Yes we should, so I'm going to start by creating the following 15 words that encapsulate so many parenting emotions that, as of this moment, cannot be described accurately. Sure, I guess these aren't "real" words. Yet. They're not real, yet.
The feeling of confoundment, rage, and defeat that immediately washes over you when your children ask for a snack after refusing to eat their dinner because they "weren't hungry." One's level of munchenhünger increases if the child claims to be "starving." Because you're not starving, you're just picky.
The feeling of frustration coupled with the desire to remain patient after your potty training child sits on the toilet for five minutes without doing anything, only to immediately pees on the floor the moment they (finally) exit the bathroom. WTF were they even doing on the potty, you wonder. Were they holding it? You want to scream at them, but you know potty training is a process and you don't want to traumatize or shame them, so you sigh and clean pee. Again.
The feeling of horror, panic, and inspiration to immediate action experienced when your child takes a crap in the bath mixed with the feeling of preemptive annoyance in knowing that you are now going to have to clean the tub after your child goes to bed.
The feeling of desperation and agony you feel when your child takes a poop in their diaper while you are stuck in traffic and can do nothing about it except gag on the noxious fumes. To make matters worse, if it's very hot or very cold, you can't even really roll down your window to alleviate the overpowering stench. You just have to sit there and take it. In fact, this might be a good metaphor for the negative aspects of parenting.
The feeling of annoyance, anger, desperation, and mild amusement when two or more of your children are throwing a tantrum at once. An estimated 90% of your brain is preoccupied with how awful this is, but about 10% of you (the part of you that can maintain perspective) can almost leave your body and recognize that there's some real comedy here because, WTF are you freakin' kidding me right now?
The soul death you experience when your child begins losing their sh*t over the fact that their food is "broken" and can therefore not be eaten. Broken food can usually take the form of a cracker that has a corner that does not conform to a perfect 90 degrees, a slightly irregular carrot, or a banana with a single brown spot.
The jealous, frustrated sorrow you feel when you have to fight your kid to take a nap when you are so exhausted and would love nothing more than to take a nap yourself. Because, OMG, kid, who doesn't want to sleep? I would give anything for a daily two hour nap. Look at your life and look at your choices and get it together.
The feeling of annoyance and personal offense when you change your child's diaper only to have them take another crap not more than three minutes later. You very strongly sense that your child is trolling you. As much as you don't want to believe that's the case, and deep down you know that it's not, you nevertheless also know that they are doing this just to hurt you. Even the infants. Maybe especially the infants, since body functions are the only weapon they really have at their age. These contradictory truths are part and parcel to parenthood.
"A Double Rainbow"
This describes the near inexpressible joy and sense of accomplishment you feel when two children take a nap at the same time. It is named for the "Double Rainbow Guy" in that video that went viral, because his reaction conveys exactly what it feels like to have two children sleep at the same time. (This can be multiplied by however many children you have: Triple Rainbow, Quadruple Rainbow, the list goes on and on.)
The feeling of initial concern followed by delighted and bewildered shock, experienced when your child sleeps past 8 a.m. It's sort of like the Double Rainbow, but any pride is replaced with confusion.
The feeling of resigned longing one feels listening to childfree friends talk about what they do with their free time, money, and sleep. It's not envy, really, because you wouldn't trade lives with them — you're delighted with your children and your choices — but you would still really like to travel to Bali and get hours of uninterrupted sleep in a stilt-house in the middle of calm, turquoise waters.
The sense of flustered, apologetic confusion and feelings of being judged when your normally beautifully behaved child is a total terror, usually around particularly judgmental people or friends who don't have kids and can't necessarily fathom how children can turn on a dime. One's sense of trickenswitch increases if one has just talked about how sweet and wonderful their child is.
"Pulling A Talking Tina"
This is the opposite of trickenswitch. Remember the episode of The Twilight Zone with "Talking Tina," the evil doll who tormented and eventually murdered her child's father? But whenever he tried to tell someone about it the horrible things Tina did and said, no one believed him because she was just a sweet, unassuming doll? Kids do this, too: they're really sweet and adorable around everyone else and then they're a nightmare for you.
The feeling of persistent determination against impossible odds and eventual acquiescence to the fact that you are never, ever going to get everyone in your family to look good at the same time for one perfect family photo. It's just not happening. Maybe when they're in college.
Until then, someone will have their eyes half close, another will be turned around or looking at another camera, or throwing a tantrum because they don't want to sit still for the three seconds it will take everyone just goddamn held still and smiled.
Better than the double rainbow, better than sleepinjoy, snügglövin is the special kind of cozy, familiar, but overwhelming love, contentment, and excitement parents feel when they cuddle with their babies.
Seriously: there are no words.