Sisyphus – Patron Saint of Parenthood.

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August 31, 2015 by Dadinator

Sisyphus isn’t a saint as he pre-dates the idea of sainthood by a few thousand years. He’s a figure from Greek Mythology, a king and, well, a sneaky bastard who suffers a horrible punishment for his misdeeds. But I’d like to conscript him to our cause as parents because once he gets punished he fits the mould so well.

One of the things that sitcoms (take all your life advice from sitcoms and you’re a wise man/woman….) tell us is that parenting is repetitive. Yes. Repetitive. Repetitive.

Here’s an example of an interaction I have with The Lad on a regular basis. Okay it’s an example of a flurry of words I say to The Lad with no response a few times each day:

“Lad, are you listening?”
“Lad, can you look at me please”
“Lad, are you listening?”
“Lad stop and listen”
“Lad, this is making me frustrated.”
“Lad, put that down for a moment and listen, I just want to know if…”
“Lad, does Daddy listen to you when you talk?”
“Lad. Oh thanks for looking back at me lad. Now I just wanted to ask you……. Oh. Lad?”
“Do you want anything to eat?”
“Lad, I need an answer please?”
“I’ll make you a sandwich”.

So, what’s this got to do with Sisyphus?

Now let me explain the myth. Sisyphus was a sneaky bastard. I mean a really sneaky bastard. I mean makes Machiavelli look like a dunderhead. He was ruthless. Killed his enemies, broke the  law to do it, held on to power and life with an iron grip, and was apparently a pretty good king in terms of building up his kingdom.

But then it all caught up with him. Death was sent to clap him in chains and drag him down into the underworld. Sisyphus (sneaky bastard) then asked Death to show him how the chains worked. Death put on the chains, and Sisyphus trapped him. Okay, that shows that Death is a bit thick rather than show Sisyphus is all that clever, but wait for the next one…

Eventually Sisyphus died. His wife threw his body out on the street. No funeral, no burial, no religious rites of the dead, just his corpse strewn naked in the city.  But Sisyphus had asked her to do this so he could appeal to the gods of the underworld for the chance to go back and “haunt” his wife – and the morons said yes. So he escaped death twice.

But it got him in the end. And by the time he was down in the underworld, the gods of the dead had a special treat for him. His task was to push a boulder to the top of a hill. Where it would roll straight down again, so he’d have to go and push it up again. And again. And again. And again. And……

Here’s perhaps the best visual summary of Sisyphus in existence, with bonus reference to parenting and cats! :

GaGuD - Imgur (Source – imgur)

You know, like trying to clean a lounge room when you’ve got children under 4 around the house. Or trying to feed your children something that’s good for them. Or trying to convince your 2-year-old daughter that she can bloody walk 5 metres to the car and doesn’t have to be carried absolutely everywhere today. Or like trying to calm the tantruming 3-year-old using the same phrases over and over and over and over….

So much of what we do is putting our shoulder to that rock, pushing it up that hill and watching it roll straight back down again.

But there’s an extra catch for parents. Something Sisyphus never had to put up with. The sneaky bastard.

Our kids do grow,  change and develop. Those boulders we’re pressing today won’t be there forever – although a number of them last a good while.

We borrowed a book from the library recently “Dr Seuss’ Sleep Book”, or as The Lad calls it “The County of Keck”. I know it really well, I used to know it verbatim, and I’d walk laps of The Lad’s bedroom saying the story to him over and over as I hoped he would go to sleep. It’s not short, and some night’s I’d go over it 3 or even 4 times. I was committed, see. I was also frustrated, exhausted and Sisyphian.

But I don’t do that any more. It lasted months, but now he just goes to sleep in his bed. Yay! That boulder’s done right? That boulder is a gonner, no more pushing that boulder for this little Sisyphus. Yeah! Then I looked at the book from the library, clicked over the pages and I realised something. I kind of miss those days. When he was so little. When he would cling to me like a barnacle. When he’d….

Oh god, am I insane? I HATED it some nights. Absolutely loathed the lost time with The Mamanator, the endless repetition and the strain of carrying him for so long.

Yet…. he was pretty cute.

See our mate Sisyphus will never feel nostalgia for his boulder? Does it grow quickly? Does it go from just being a lump you lug around to something that climbs your bookshelves? To something that yells at you and throws tantrums? To something that asks you “why” all the time? To something that you stay up at night worrying about?

No, his boulder will never get into his head, re-wire his brain and convince him – through the lens of nostalgia – that it “wasn’t so bad”. Nope, he is forever stuck in one stage, never progressing. Never changing, never growing. No surprises, no first steps or words. No changes in taste. No development of character…

Okay, I admit that sounds much worse. Even if I have to help/half carry my daughter up to the top of a slide 15 times, I know I’ll miss it one day.


The one of my daughter doing this ends with a stack, so here’s The Lad!



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