When I first discovered I was pregnant 13 years ago, I sought out every resource about having a baby and becoming a parent available. From the classic What to Expect series to the hip, modern apps that told me about how the baby was growing from the size of a pea to a peach pit -- I read it all, twice.
Now that I am a mother to 12-year-old, a 10-year-old, and a 6-year-old, and an almost-step-mother to a 23-year-old, a 20-year-old, and a 17-year-old, I look back at my nerdy self and laugh. (Full disclosure: I am still a nerd. No cause for alarm, folks.) Sure, I survived breastfeeding, teething, minor illnesses, and toilet training, but I had no real idea of what was in store for me.
(This is the part where we all know that in a few years, I will be re-writing this same blog, lamenting how little I knew when I was 36 . . . it's a shape-shifter, parenting.)
So for your Friday enjoyment, here is my unofficial and incomplete list (I am feverishly writing this while the children sleep, after all, and that spell could be broken at any moment) of What They Never Tell You about Parenting:
* When you have more than one child, you will feel like a referee more often than not. I once left a bucolic room filled with happy children for 30 seconds, only to hear a blood-curdling scream. Running back into the room, I asked, "What's wrong?" The reply? "He touched me." Take that scenario and multiply it by 58 and you've got a typical morning.
* You will erroneously think that saying something once is enough, especially as the child gets older and appears to have mastered listening. This is laughably false. We think, "Sure, we have to tell the baby, 'No,' repeatedly, but that's because he's a baby, and by definition, is well...sort of dumb. I mean, developing!" This tricks us into thinking, "Hey! This kid is older. He goes to school alone and functions all day without me. He's got this!" And then you find yourself saying, "Please put your dishes in the dishwasher," every single night after dinner, as if the dishwasher were installed that very morning. Get used to it.
By the way, it is a universal truth that a dishwasher with clean dishes in it is rendered useless, and therefore, all dishes must be stacked in the sink until they reach perilous heights.
* You will also assume that your children will notice and (pause for effect) APPRECIATE everything you do for them on a daily basis.
[Hold on, still laughing at my naive self who once thought this possible...]
OK, so it goes like this. You will plan out and do approximately 900 things for your children per day -- including making meals, washing clothes, doing dishes, buying them food/clothes/toys, inviting friends over, installing a swimming pool, driving them everywhere, making more meals, doing more dishes, pouring drinks, cleaning up messes, refereeing (see above). The children might, and I stress MIGHT, notice the installation of the pool and say thank you. The rest, they file under "Stuff My Mom is Supposed to Do While Also Working Full Time, Managing our Household Bills, Maintaining All Family and Friend Connections, and Somehow Reaching Society's Unreasonable Expectations of Weight and Beauty" -- or, "Stuff My Mom Supposed to Do," for short.
Oh -- and here's what else happens. On the day you plan out something special, like a trip to an amusement park, the children will become overtired monsters who may even exclaim, "I hate you, Mommy!" when you mention it may possibly be time to go home. This, you will learn, can be translated to, "Thank you for taking me to the amusement park," if you so choose.
* This goes along with appreciation, but you will assume that because you worked hard to earn the money for something, your child will take pride in it and take care of it. You remodel a bedroom, you invest in new furniture, you spend money on some new gadget that your child is really into. They HAVE to have it for Christmas, it's the only thing they want. They've grown out of the little kid wallpaper, so you repaint the room to be more mature. You think, "Wow, I put a lot of time, effort, and money into this. Surely they will take care of it because they wanted it so badly."
Fast forward two weeks. The room looks like a bomb went off. The prized possession's location is either unknown, or it is buried under a pile of clothes/toys/books/dust. You will then stupidly think that telling your child to clean it up or take care of it once will be enough (see above...again).
And when you decide to learn from this lesson and tell your child the next time they ask for something which would require time/effort/money, "No, not this time. I bought that _____ that you wanted and you don't take care of it," you will be met with, "That's not fair!" or "I promise to keep it clean this time!" Chances are, you will be gullible enough to fall for this more than once.
* When you have more than one child, they believe their job title is "Mini Parent." I lost track of the number of times I was interrupted by one of my children while addressing an issue with another child yesterday. I routinely have to remind them that I am in the room and in full possession of my mental faculties, and therefore I would not be in need of an understudy. This is particularly noticeable the older the child is, and it seems to be more prominent in my girl child. Named "Mini Mom" by her brothers, my daughter loves to tell them, "It's time for bed," or "Please push in your chair when you get up from the table." While she is clearly exhibiting behaviors that will make her an excellent -- and exhausted -- mother one day, her brothers find it taxing.
*** It looks like we are out of time for today, folks. I hear children stirring, and this is my favorite time of day, when they are well-rested and still love me. I will leave you with one final thought:
* What they don't tell you is even though you will feel like you ran a marathon every single day while actually gaining 3 lbs due to lack of time to exercise, being a parent is the most rewarding (and important!) job we can ever have.