The Problem With Being a Parent
I’ve decided the problem with being a parent is the kids. No, it’s not that I wasn’t fully aware of the material aspects of the situation. Almost every prospective parent pauses to consider providing food, shelter, clothing, education, and any number of other basics before taking the plunge. It’s the other stuff no one explained to me, like personality quirks, for example.
My four year old daughter is determined to wear anything but what I have asked her to put on. I tell her she needs to wear pants, she shows up in shorts. We tell her to get ready for bed, she comes out of her room in a leotard. Sometimes I’ll find her dressed for the day in odd combinations like neon green floral shorts, a pastel print shirt, white cowboy boots (sans socks), and a frilly head band worn horizontally across her forehead.
This child is so driven by her own sense of style, she convinced her older brother he needed a hair cut and that she was the beautician for the job. The space underneath our dinner table, being conveniently out of sight, was transformed into her salon. My talented little hairdresser snipped off random chunks of hair until three bald spots were exposed across the back of my son’s head.
Needless to say, I was not pleased. It was, however, rather entertaining for the two of them as they watched their mother frantically search for some way to fix a mess that was un-fixable. As it turned out, my son was stuck with three bald spots for over a month.
The experts say that as parents we’re supposed to teach our children how to be responsible by giving them jobs, having them contribute to the needs of the family and home. Thus, I made up charts. All kinds of charts. Daily charts. Weekly charts. I evaluated what the kids could or could not handle from scrubbing the toilets (never) to depositing dirty diapers in the diaper pail (always).
To keep us headed in the right direction we have family meetings. My husband and I explain what is expected. Everyone agrees to help. Two mornings later, (if I’m lucky for two days) I’ll find myself reminding my seven-year-old son for the nine-hundredth time that he needs to make his bed.
“It’s too hard.” he complains. (Note, he has already performed the task to my satisfaction for at least two mornings.)
I tell him to do the best he can.
He says he needs to do his homework first.
I remind him that the bed should have been made before he left for school, thus the bed must be made before he begins his homework.
Suddenly the little man is gripped by the urgent need to relieve his bladder. He runs to the bathroom. (Heaven only knows why, if it was so urgent, he didn’t go running to the toilet sooner.)
An hour later I remember to check on his progress, only to find the bed spread and sheets draped across every piece of furniture in the room.
“Hey mom!” my son calls from beneath it all, “Look at my fort! Isn’t it totally cool?”
I’m ready to scream. Do you think any research has been done into the emotional trauma parents experience?
Just recently my husband opened our freezer and found one of our dinner glasses filled to the brim with half dissolved bits of pizza crust, olives, carrots, milk, tomato sauce, mushrooms and a small amount of water in addition to whatever else had been found left over from our pizza dinner two nights before. The two who had been assigned to dishwasher loading duty on that evening were called to be questioned.
“That’s our ‘spearment dad.” explained my daughter as if it was the obvious explanation we’d missed.
“We,” began my son in his most intellectual, know-it-all tone, “were trying to see if it would freeze.”
My husband paused to set the glass next to the kitchen sink and calm his emotions.
“Almost anything you put in the freezer will freeze.” he explained, “That’s why it’s called a freezer.”
“Of course.” replied my son loftily, “That’s what I thought. Rachelle was the one who wanted to know.”
My daughter stifled a giggle.
Both my husband and I suspected there was more to it than a simple “‘spearment” as she had called it.
“Well, please do not do anything like this again.” said my husband, “Now clean this mess up.”
The two of them always call their unique concoctions ‘experiments’ but, I’ve heard them making secret plans to feed the brews to their baby sister. Frankly, it’s not the notion of their baby sister consuming such muck that bothers me as much as them scheming to feed it to her.
Speaking of the baby, that singular, wiry little infant could almost count double for the trouble her two older siblings have caused. I believe she’s come to the conclusion that she is an adult, with all of the related privileges. Twice now I’ve found my makeup scattered and smeared into the carpet after one of her secret primping sessions. Mom and Dad’s bed is considered to be hers as well. She’s crawled between sheets to leave loving pen marks, smears of facial cream and dots of toothpaste.
What makes her the most dreadful of my three children, however, is her uncanny ability to escape from almost anything. Houdini would have been proud of a prodigy like her. She can climb out of any playpen, over any gate, under any play yard, out of any car seat, and into any cabinet or drawer no matter what precautions we take.
In the process of challenging her unique abilities, we’ve spent a significant amount of money. I’m proud of her obvious intelligence and physical dexterity. Her freedom, on the other hand, is going to drive me insane. The little daredevil will climb up to stand on high window ledges, her wobbly body scarcely retaining her position as she bangs on the glass with all her might.
What’s worse is that her mouth is constantly hiding (often swallowing) objectionable objects. I’ve already had the unique thrill of finding a large button in her diaper after it’s made the precarious journey in one end and out the other. Who was supposed to warn me about kids like her? Who was supposed to explain to me that there’s more to child raising than keeping them alive and showing them off in cute outfits at picnics?
My mother says I was a good baby. My parents also have an interesting picture of my father with a patch over his eye because I scratched it badly. There’s a lengthy gash down the front of the fridge my parents now keep in the garage. I’m told this was the result of little me having an altercation with a floor lamp. On that occasion, the floor lamp was deemed dead. Obviously the gouged refrigerator (brand new at the time) survived. There are even some tell-tale black marks around one of the electrical outlets at my old home where I decided to conduct an experiment of my own with a hanger. I admit it was a very memorable, yet painful experiment.
I remember how it used to make me angry when my mother told me to go change my clothes because she disapproved of the artful combination I’d concocted, and how huge and horrible our family room looked when it was time to pick up the toys. On my first day of kindergarten I trimmed my own bangs to one inch in length. Any member of my family can testify of my talent for avoiding dish duty by dashing to the toilet. (Trust me, I really did need to go.)
Maybe the problem with being a parent is that we’ve managed to forget what it was like when we were younger. Perhaps we remember the tough lessons we learned and don’t want our children to feel the same pain. It seems so much simpler to live the reasonably, get the work done when it needs to be done, wear what’s suitable for the weather, and think about the consequences before attempting something new.
Then again, maybe on occasion, it’s healthy to climb into my son’s bed sheet castle, to watch the look of triumph on my toddler’s face as she overcomes my latest attempt at confining her, wear the wild array of ribbons and clips my daughter’s twined into my hair, and see the world again from a whole new point of view.
In spite of the added stress, I love them. In fact, because of those exasperating moments, I think I love them more. It’s the balance between our two extremes which keeps us afloat. They keep me looking at new possibilities, I keep them within reason. It’s a system that, in it’s haphazard way, works.