Originally posted June 2, 2008
I became a parent nearly a decade ago. A few blunders later I've come to a few startling conclusions.
For starters, I learned early on that it's politically incorrect to bring Happy Meals to the playground. Who knew? Take it from me though, the other mommies and daddies in the sandbox will hate you if you do. They'll know that thanks to you, their own toddlers will turn up their noses at their healthy snacks and tantrum all the way home until they get some.
Another tip? Don't let your six-year-old daughter take orders for more boxes of Girl Scout cookies than you're willing to deliver all by yourself after she poops out and announces "I don't wanna go. You do it Mommy, I'm staying home." You won't look good in that brown vest the Brownies are required to wear anyhow. Trust me.
When checking your kid's math homework, for Pete's sake, don't get the answer wrong and then make your kid crazy turning himself inside-out trying to figure out the answer that works in your sick, mathematically-challenged little world. I've done it. It wasn't pretty. Tears were shed. Sadder yet is that even though I used a calculator to get the dang answer (Noah didn't, and had it right in the first place) I failed to notice the pesky little decimal point.
Don't call attention to something that doesn't already have your kid's attention, which you wish he'd just ignore anyhow. In other words, don't remind him to keep his hands off a scab that he isn't even picking right at that moment or you'll hear, "I forgot about it until you just reminded me, Mom," Noah said wryly.
Don't always win at Battleship unless you can stand to see your kid sulk for hours. Oh, and don't lose either, or you'll be accused of throwing the game to make him feel better.
If you're trying to lull the kids to sleep at bedtime, don't crack jokes. Even really good ones. And once they finally do close their eyes, don't pop the popcorn until you're positive they're really down for the count - or else you'll have to share.
Don't yell at your son to stop running on the icy sidewalk beside the parent pick-up lane at school, unless you want to humiliate him in front of his friends. Seems he'd rather risk slipping under a minivan and having his legs severed. Okay, yell anyway, but risk more sulking and recriminating glares.
Another thing I've learned since becoming a parent? Our kids are gonna dish-out more "I hate you" 's than "I love you" 's along the way and we'd better soak up affirmations when they do appear - even if they're issued from unexpected sources, like the angel disguised as the dairy guy at the Whole Foods in Wheaton. "You're awesome," my dairy-angel said to me after I had Noah crunch the numbers and decide whether it made more sense for us to buy string cheese by the package or individually, and surmise why the store charges more for us to buy them by the pack. Truth is, I was having trouble quickly multiplying on my own (yeah, I know, big shocker), but I'll take my compliments any way I can get 'em.
A parent's life is full of surprises and opportunities to learn some really nifty stuff. Have you ever considered why maggots stop wiggling when they're used as ice-fishing bait? And can you pick up and kiss a bullfrog without getting peed on (it's all in the wrist)? Speaking of pee, do you know how to get a 100-pound sleepwalker to pee into the potty without missing his target.
You know it: parenting really isn't for sissies - or fashion snobs.
Have you heard the word that you really can pair red and white striped leggings with a tie-dyed shirt and a fuchsia scarf worn as a belt over a cheetah-print skirt after Labor Day (soccer shin-guards optional)? I used to make comments like "And Holly picked out her own outfit today," to friends I worried would wonder. Eventually I got over myself and learned to shut up.
It's quite an education, this parenting thing.
Thanks to my kids' queries, I now know how cheese wheels are formed, and can tell the difference between chemtrails and contrails, but my favorite lesson of all? When he was two, Noah taught me how to make "twinkle soup" in a muddy sandbox. Who needs Happy Meals, anyway?
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.