It doesn’t really matter how you tumble into this parenthood thing. Most of us seem to come in with the same (gloriously well intended) delusions.
A glowing pregnant woman, treasuring each ultrasound and planning a fabulous gender reveal. A foster or adoptive parent, waiting on pins and needles to get That Call, reading every parenting book you can get your hands on. An expectant couple walking their surrogate through a pregnancy, hanging on every craving and scrapbooking the experience madly.
All of us are waiting for our children – dreaming of them, really – and we instinctively picture what our family will be.
Our babies will have that delicious baby powder smell, and we’ll laugh one day about all the dirty diapers we dealt with. Our toddlers will go through the Terrible Twos (and Threes), but they’ll never look quite as terrifying as that kid flailing away on the grocery store floor and they’ll mind when we tell them to knock it off.
Our children will adore us. They’ll crave our time and our attention and our love and our hugs, and we will never tire of it ever ever ever because we dreamed of them for so long. They will grow independent enough to tie their own shoes but never so much that they scream I hate you! from their room. They will be smart and beautiful, and their very presence will feed our souls like the deepest spring in the forest.
Yeah. Here are a few of the life lessons you can only gain through on-the-job parenting experience.
** Everybody lies. Everybody. The sweet old lady who says not to worry about your child’s screaming tantrum because it isn’t all that bad and besides, she already had a headache when she came into the store. The babysitter who met you in tears at the door one night and then is conveniently busy the next five times you call. The cranky guy who complains that your kids are always tearing through his yard – well, he might not be lying but, in general, everybody lies. Get used to it.
** Your precious snowflakes will also lie like a bad rug on an uneven floor. He’ll lie about hitting his sister. She’ll lie about forgetting to flush. They’ll lie about why they’re late getting home. They’ll lie about doing their chores. My kids lie. Your kids lie. They will always lie to save their asses if they think there’s the tiniest chance it will work. With any luck (and a whole lot of intervention) you can condition them to believe that telling the truth is always better since you’ll find it out in the end anyway. (This approach can require an attitude adjustment if “You did WHAT?!?” is your instinctual response to stupid behavior.)
** You will always be That Parent. Because everybody else has dessert for dinner. Or everybody else lets their kids stay up ’til 11:00 on a school night. Or everybody else has a phone. Or everybody else has Instagram. Hell, you might be That Parent in every single one of these instances, but the point is there will always be another parent that lets their kid do the one thing you’re denying yours. And of course your kid will know about it.
** You will never ever ever be prepared to hear some of the questions that pass through your sweetum’s lips. Your ears will burn, you’ll die a little inside, and the memory will be seared into your brain forever. FOR-E-VER.
** You can be considered everything from the village idiot to a genius within an eight hour timespan. Remembering to send the signed progress report/extra school supplies/teacher appreciation cookies? Expected. The homework you helped with? Genius. The dinner you cooked? Good enough. The reminder to put away a bike? Idiocy. (“I KNOW!”) Just accept that your brilliant morning performance may transition without warning into your offspring’s sincere belief that you have the intellectual capacity of a gnat.
** There will be things that are simply beyond comprehension. For example, $18 socks. My son owns ten pairs of $18 socks that he’s bought with his own money. SOCKS. The first pair was the hardest, really. I tried to talk him into buying something more, I don’t know, kid-like with his funds. Then I tried to understand his logic behind buying them. And then I realized they’re just socks. They make him happy, so he bought them. Don’t be like me. Skip the first two steps and just accept that some things are beyond our understanding.
** They will never put the charger back when they borrow it. Like, ever. So far I’ve tried reasoning, anger, expressing frustration, natural consequences, and one instance that was pure what the hell, dude?! I have no words of advice here. It is what it is.
I’m dreaming of the day this sort of book appears at Barnes and Noble, one that tells the dark and gritty truths about the parenting world. Then again, as Bee’s often pointed out to me, God makes those kids cute for a reason. If too many people knew the depths of insanity they would be plumbing as parents, they might think twice.
And then who would throw those cute gender reveal parties? Bless.