I used to have a handful of favorite posts on the old blog. And today, I was soundly reminded of one of them.
I spent the morning walking 1.2 miles with 26 five year olds. I know this because I consulted my phone at least seven times to confirm the distance. I can assure you, this long walk was not as romantical as you're thinking. 1.2 miles each way to a park. That's 2.4 miles. In wellies. Some that did not fit properly. It was herding cats of the highest level - crossing roads and creeks. We had to count every dog and post box. I literally drug a small boy the last .5 mile, trying to distract him with chatter about how great it would be own a jetpack and trying to be as kind as I possibly could while pulling his body to keep up with the class. My own child discovered her boots did not fit anymore, and tiptoed for the entire walk home, crying intermittently because her feet hurt.
I offered a prayer of gratitude that my name was not chosen to chaperone the trip to the Science Museum in central London next week.
As I was saying, it reminded me of a post a couple of years ago about kids. About not knowing what you're getting into when you think having a baby is a terrific idea. I thought I would revisit it today to check and make sure it's still accurate, and maybe add to it. Yea, it's still accurate. After wrangling a bunch of little jerks, I'm partial to number 7 today. And let's just add a mental note that winter walks of over 2 miles are not exactly kid friendly.
I now give you, The Truth About Babies.
The truth is this: Babies turn into kids.
Most people tend to overlook this biological fact when they’re considering diving into family life. Moms-to-be are distracted by adorable onesies, tiny shoes, and the gummy smiles. Babies are frickin adorable. They have to be to get people to commit. Because no one would look at a 6 year old with missing teeth, mangy hair, and an inclination to mark their spot with their farts as an investment in their family future.
Full disclosure, it’s the middle of summer, and I have spent an inordinate amount of time in small spaces with my kids. Traveling by car across the west and in our temporary apartment, I have smelled them more than I care to admit. I confess this post may be a result of the last 8 weeks of close proximity and frayed nerves. And even though I like to think of my blog as a place for sharing ideas and high-minded thinking (heh heh), I realize this is nothing but a mommy blog.
Back to those darn babies though – people kind of warn you. You hear about the crying and the lack of sleep, and diapers. And you think to yourself, “Yea, gross, not my favorite way to spend time, but I can handle less sleep and we’ll take turns with diapers.” Note that you’re not actually telling yourself that you will, indeed, handle poop. As in, palpate poop. Your life will come to revolve around bowel movements in ways you never imagined….but I digress. My point is, we tend to think we just have to get through a few pesky months of cute baby antics and then we’re golden.
Here’s what people don’t tell you about those cute babies. They sort of lose their pudgy cuteness and morph into really loud elbows and knees that invade every private area of your life that you thought you had. The specifics of kids are glazed over, because nobody really wants to bore you with the excruciating details of the horror that awaits you. So, young parents everywhere, hold on tight, your cute bambinos and toddlers are going to bring you new levels of self-awareness. And pain. Mostly emotional pain, with a dash of actual physical pain. Though to be fair, the physical stuff is generally just a side effect of their inherent clumsiness and inability to actually pay attention to their surroundings.
A list! I compiled a list with great intensity and fury. On a legal pad, no less. Here is what I wish people had told me about kids:
1. The crying does not stop. Babies cry, sure. But they keep crying. Toddlers, preschoolers, elementary kids – they taper off somewhere between 8-10 years. There were about 7 years that I don’t think a single day passed in our house without someone crying. And they cry about everything. Being hurt, being stressed, being awake, having to eat, being talked to, being blown on by wind, being looked at funny – anything is a potential trigger for waterworks.
2. Even if you have family dinner every night since the day they could sit at the table, they will not be able to SIT AT THE TABLE. They squirm, they fall off their chairs, they hide under the table, they lie down on the floor, they stand up, they dance, they sing, they do anything but sit down and eat. We finally have an 11 year old that can sit still. Can’t wait for the next decade!
3. Food will be an issue. Whether it’s power struggles over what they eat, or picky eaters, or allergies, or kids that refuse to use utensils, or expect a parent to feed them, food will not be easy. I see it everywhere and you’re kidding yourself if you think it’s not happening in your house. If you’ve reproduced in America, our food culture is food issues.
4. Everyone thinks his or her kid is gifted. Just keep it to yourself, and if they get into the gifted program or skip a grade or go to college when they are 5, pat yourself on the back and get on with it.
5. Children cannot get in and/or out of vehicles quickly. PERIOD. You will need at least 10 minutes for loading. Count on it.
6. Kids hurt themselves all the time. For the stupidest of reasons. They will literally walk into walls, fall over while standing, and be surprised when the pencil they’re jamming into their own skin causes pain. Please see #1.
7. That sweet, drooling, chub of love may turn into a mean kid. It’s hard to tell at first. But while we all expect mean kids from the children of others, it’s quite another thing to realize that even your darling can be mean or aggressive. I find a lot of parents in denial about this. And while I hate the constant intervening of parents in the kid peer group, I appreciate a mom that can identify when her kid is being a jerk.
8. Your kids will embarrass you. I don’t think it’s possible for me to list the variations of how this could happen, but let’s just say a lot of it will happen in bathroom stalls. And they will also behave in ways you never expected at just the wrong time. (Which is how I ended up in an awkward conversation with my pediatrician about how I don’t actually give my kids “sleeping pills,” and that it’s just occasionally melatonin.) My only consolation with this one is that I know in not too long, my very existence will be a source of embarrassment for them.
9. They will not necessarily share your interests, your good taste in crafted European toys, your opinions on good hygiene, or concern for your dwindling sanity. They will, however, be hyper vigilant about their access to candy.
10. Repetition rules their lives. At first it’s sweet babble talk. But then it’s movies, and shows, questions, stories, and worst of all, NOISES. Kids are fueled by repetitive noises that push you into full blown sensory overload and make you wish desperately for the days when they could not talk. BEE –DOH BEE-DOH BEE-DOH BEE-DOH BEE-DOH BEE-DOH BEE-DOH BEE-DOH!
11. They think it is your job to entertain them. At any time, in any place, and regardless of the circumstance.
12. They will be annoying to a degree that you cannot comprehend, not only to you, but to everyone around you. There will only be a handful of people that truly want to be around your kids, and the sooner you figure this out, the sooner you can not be offended. The upside is that everyone seems to value the familiarity of their kids’ own brand of annoyingness over that of other children.
13. There are more bad times than good. I don’t say this to be mean. Even though I am mean, it’s my desire to be realistic here. You imagine that you will sail along with a few bumps, but really things rarely ever go smoothly. There are bright spots here and there, but it is a constant battlefield of behavior, limits, refereeing, direction, mood management, feeding, and sibling rivalry. All day long. Every day. It rarely varies, even though there are some moms that would like you to think it’s different at their house, they are only trying to convince themselves otherwise.
14. Kids are incredibly stressful on your relationship with your spouse. Parenting is the single biggest stressor in our marriage. Seeing what your spouse does under pressure can really lead to painful examination and discussions. Whether it’s being worn out and not having the desire to engage with another human being, or whether it’s trying to have a conversation and being interrupted 15 times, or whether it’s late night talks hashing out whether or not there is anything that will work to fix problem a, b, and c, or the basic disagreement of how to handle a certain kid. It happens and you’ll have to figure out how to work through it without scarring everyone involved. Good luck.
15. Bad parents are everywhere. And you are one of them. Own it, and realize we’re all being judged and we’re all trying to get through the day.
I think I’m done. I feel a bit lighter now.
I will add that even after all of this, I feel compelled to say that kids also do some amazing things that adults have not mastered. They forgive pretty effortlessly. They forget the dumb stuff you do as a parent and love you like you’re a God most of the time. They don’t hold grudges over you. (Remember I don’t have teenagers yet.) They say funny things at awkward times. They make you explain yourself. And the greatest thing about them is that they start fresh every day. Every day is new to them and that is something that I envy deeply.
Now I’m done airing my grievances.