You've seen those cute little bumper stickers that say things like, "Everything I learned, I learned from my dog"? Well, I'm not ashamed to say (boy do I owe my parents a huge apology on this one), but everything I learned (although it kills me to admit it) I learned from my parents.
You see, like all smug kids, teens and young adults... I often giggled at what I considered my parent's idiosyncrasies and wondered why they did the things they did, said the things they said, etc. Now I KNOW... they are parents. It comes with the territory. Try as you might, you WILL do and say those things you used to laugh at folks. You just will.
I used to sigh when my mom fell asleep before even the opening credits to a movie or TV show were finished, wondering why the poor woman couldn't even stay awake long enough to watch a movie with us. I rolled my eyes when she used phrases like, "what am I talking to?! A brick wall?!" I was truly puzzled when my dad would begin a sentence, "Girls... I'm not going to tell you AGAIN..." I was confused as to why my mother chose to vacuum at 10:30 at night. I wondered why my father got up at THE CRACK OF DAWN even on vacations. I wondered at my parent's impatience when I needed to ask one measily question while they were on the phone. Now, I know... boy do I know.
Parenting, I'm discovering, is a crazy juggling act. And by crazy, I mean it's making me nuts. It's about balance and organization and timing and some luck. I have two children now (and that is ALL I plan on having, thank you) nearly 2 and 4 1/2. So I've got one in the time-to-potty-train, starting-to-say-"no"-to-everything, running-naked-from-mommy-when-we're-already-late-is-funny, I'd-rather-finger-paint-with-my-food stage. And my lovely son is in the I'm-going-to-get-my-own-way, I-don't-want-to-share, everything-in-life-is-worthy-of-an-Oscar-caliber-meltdown, why-why-why-why, I'm-old-enough-to-do-this, playing-is-more-interesting-than-listening/eating/sleeping stage.
Why did my mother fall asleep at 9:00pm? Because she was EXHAUSTED people. It is very tiring to get up with the sun if you want ANY chance of having enough time to yourself to shower, get ready enough to feel human and maybe even enjoy a cup of coffee and then go ALL day and into the night trying to keep up a house and kids (and in her case work too, as I did until Elizabeth was born). I cannot stop moving during the day unless I want to fall asleep. Putting William down for a nap has now become dangerous for me because if I lie down to read him a story, I'm likely to put myself to sleep first! I often drift off in his bed only to be told "wake up, you're snoring!" and I'm THANKFUL because then I can get on with my housework. You see, being the type-A freak that I am, I have a very structured plan of how to keep my kids busy AND my house clean AND have some time as a family on the weekend... so I can't nap while they're napping, I clean! So now here I am at night asking my husband if he wants to watch TV with me and I'm greeted often with a skeptical look and I can tell Mike is calculating just how long I might actually last. Can I make it through an hour show? A half hour? Is a movie even WORTH attempting? Should he just play on the computer because I won't make it past the opening credits? Yup, I am my mother. Of course, sometimes I'm not even asking Mike this question until 10:00 because even though the kids' bedtime is 8:30, I have fallen asleep in William's bed for a "nap" for a while. THEN he knows I can make it through at least one show.
Oh, and the brick wall comment? Now, I get it. This morning I believe my talking with William went something like this:
"Put on your clothes and come downstairs, it's a school day"
I turn to Elizabeth only to notice a couple minutes later he's playing with trains.
"WILLIAM. Put on your clothes and head downstairs, it's a school day"
I've finished dressing Elizabeth. He now has Star Wars action figures in his hand and is at least holding his shirt.
"WILLIAM!!!!! PUT ON YOUR CLOTHES, it's a school day!"
I brush Elizabeth's teeth, grab her socks and William is standing in a shirt & undies apparently contemplating the universe because he's frozen in the playroom.
"WILLILAM!!!! WHAT AM I TALKING TO? A BRICK WALL?!!!"
He turns, "what? what are you talking about mommy? why are you yelling?"
I'm now taking several deep breaths.
"Dude! I'm yelling because apparently you didn't hear me the first few times. I have ASKED you to put on your clothes so we can head downstairs, it's a school day. Do you want to miss your Valentines Party?"
He looks totally confused, grabs the rest of his clothes and starts down the stairs, shrugging "I'll just get dressed down here mom, come on."
Oh my god, kill me now.
My dad used to get up with the sun even on vacation. I thought this was a holdover from his Air Force days or that perhaps my father was nuts. No, no, kids, no, no. He's a dad and he learned quickly that preparation is a parent's only weapon. If YOU are at least prepared before preparing your children, your chances of leaving SOMEWHERE CLOSE to the time you intended have improved greatly. Why is this? Well kids, children are TIME SUCKERS. I'm not kidding. Time will be sucked away from you in HUGE increments and you will swear only five minutes has passed. When you're single or even married-but-childless, you have getting ready and leaving on time down to an art. You know, for example, that at the very least, you could wake up 15 minutes before leaving and still be presentable. Yeah, kiss that one goodbye when you have kids. I remember I used to try to wake William up 30 minutes before leaving to go somewhere. Then it became an hour. Add Elizabeth-I-like-to-run-away-and-throw-drooling-tantrums in the mix and it has become an hour and a half. If you are asking yourself "why" as you read this, then you are not a parent. If your are laughing in relief that someone else is living in your hell... you clearly ARE a parent.
A friend during a playdate mentioned that she and her childless sister got into a fight the last visit because her sister asked her why she needed to make plans in advance, why couldn't she just "go with it". I think my coffee nearly came out my nose. Go with it? Really? People, when you need sanitorium-grade restraints just to get a child still enough to clothe, when you have a four year old with the attention span of a gnat and more easily distracted than a puppy, when you would like to have the kind of day that doesn't require 5 shots of whiskey to cure... you have to be prepared. And with children the age of mine this requires "packing" for even the smallest outing. This requires extra clothes, toys, "entertainment", juice cups, milk cups, snacks, diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, jackets, etc. I mean, if you would like to be the parent in the restaurant with the melting down child because they're starving and you didn't anticipate having to wait for a table... by all means "go with it." If you want to be the parent forced to get up from the table and play "let's count the cars outside" because you didn't think to bring along table-friendly toys/entertainment, go for it. And that's just the stuff you CAN anticipate. Preparation still cannot top the last minute poop emergencies, spit ups, lost items that you had just two seconds ago before your toddler ran off with them, bodily fluid "surprises" that require a change of their AND YOUR clothes, etc. Preparation is your weapon. Use it.
"I'm not going to say this AGAIN" and "DUDE I'm on the PHONE!!!" are two things I think I must say daily now. Seriously. Daily. Children will forget what you have told them in seconds. It's amazing. I can tell William and Elizabeth no wrestling 1000 times a day. Won't matter. They'll still do it and one of them will end up hurt. Every day. And yet, I still try, beginning my sentence with (yes, Mom and Dad I get it now), "I swear to God, I'm not going to say this AGAIN." Although truly, I'm lying. Because I will have to say it. Again and again and again. And OH MY GOD, the phone. What the hell? My children will be quiet, playing nicely and neatly UNTIL I GET ON THE PHONE. Then it's time for 100 questions or it's time to dump all the legos, rip off Spider Man's legs, roll all the toilet paper off the roll, rip all the books off the shelf, try to kill each other and take out every dress-up/costume item they own. And that's just during a 5 minute conversation. I had to call the doctor's office the other day and I seriously prepared by closing the doors to their bedrooms, bathroom and putting up a baby gate in order to quarantine them to the playroom and THEN told them I was making a quick phone call and please be quiet. Yeah... that worked. (sarcasm)
It's a crazy life people. A good life, but a crazy one. You WILL be doing something insane like vacuuming or making tomorrow's breakfast at 10:30 at night because that's the only time you'll have. You WILL be forced to give a simple direction at least 10 times before it's done. You will find yourself saying things you never thought you would like, "Elizabeth, don't put your straw up your nose" or "William, your sister is not a tackling dummy" or "Now we have to sanitize that since you dropped it in the toilet". You will find yourself out in public only to discover yogurt on your pants or a Cheerio stuck to your shirt. And you WILL be tired constantly. You won't get a moment to yourself unless it's early in the morning or when you're exhausted at night. You will have to adjust your idea of normal every few months as phases begin and end. It's parenthood. And now, Mom and Dad, enjoy this...
"YOU WERE RIGHT"
"I AM SORRY" and finally,
Great.. now I'll just have to wait 34 years and perhaps my kids will say the same. Until then...laughter and preparation folks, laughter and preparation.