Thursday, January 21, 2010

Parenting: It's weird.

All parents make promises to themselves and to their children. Before they pop out in a mess of blood, fleshy cord, and other things you’d rather not think about (You’re welcome.) you set guidelines on how best to raise them. You form ideas about who they’re supposed to be.

The problem with these promises and guidelines is that they’re often unrealistic.

Children are like STDs. Some are treatable, some aren’t. Some communicate easily, some take a bit of extra prodding. Some are shared with others (whether they want them or not), some are kept hidden.

That might not be the best analogy. My point is you can’t decide before you meet the little buggers how exactly you’re going to raise them. Each one is unique...infectious in their own way.

I was making promises I couldn’t keep long before the kid even came into the picture. I told myself, “Self, you will never have children. You must promise not to procreate for the sake of yourself and others.” And I did. I promised.

But my promises are like front clasp bras – always coming undone accidentally on purpose. You don’t want them to come undone, but you knew when you bought them that your boobs were entirely too large and assertive to be held in by those little clasps.

So before the kid was even a renegade egg I was fucking up this whole “child guidelines” thing. And before I realized that there are no set guidelines and control is just a seven letter word, I spent the first year or two of her life promising this and that, buying into the media hype, and just generally stressing myself out. It started with the little things.

I promised she would always look like she’d been birthed by a J.Crew model, more or less.

I bought expensive outfits, hats, bows, shoes, and matching socks. I made sure she was wearing the cutest thing possible whether we were in public or sitting at home watching talk show reruns. If she got a spot on something I changed her immediately. If she had a snotty nose I would use that suction thing relentlessly on the off chance she would get a stray booger stuck to her face and someone would see. (Actually, I thought the sucker thing was kind of fun. Sick, I know.) In short, she was a very shiny baby.

That didn’t last long. I eventually got lazy and allowed her to become the pantless, tangle headed wonder she is today. The kid would rather ride her scooter around in her underwear than play dress up like other little girls or hide under the bed rather than have her hair brushed. And truthfully, most days I just cannot be bothered to fight about it. You have to pick your battles. Like whose turn it is for the remote, which brings me to...

I promised she would watch very little TV and when she did, only educational programs.

Though evidently a common parental guideline, I failed to take into account my complete and utter lack of patience and low tolerance for all things...child related.

It quickly went from one or two educational shows a day to, “Hey, kid! Sit down and watch Spongebob...look! Look!” Then I’d attempt to squeeze in as much cleaning, cooking, or hiding in a corner as I could before she realized she’d been duped.

Don’t get me wrong we play games and read books and all that other constructive stuff, but I have a short attention span. I’m also very competitive when it comes to board games and the like. As a matter of fact, just recently she and I were playing Chinese checkers and I found it physically impossible to LET her win. I know she’s only four (almost 5), but she totally cheats.

So anyway, now TV = babysitter. Her current obsession is The Little Rascals and she’s picked up a few lovely phrases such as “I hate your stinkin’ guts” and “snot wads”. She also enjoys watching The Bachelor with my mom’s boyfriend and calling the women “hussies”. I’m incredibly proud.

I promised myself that I would nip any and all bad habits in the bud immediately. I was going to be a strict enforcer of “the law”. Uh huh.

At first I didn’t realize what was going on. I’d pick her up from school and there would be a tiny toy dinosaur or some other random little thing in her book bag. I figured they were hers (she’s got so much stuff it’s hard to keep up with it all) or that they were prizes. Things finally became clear when she tried to walk out the door one day with the rattiest looking baby doll I’d ever seen.

“Hey, what are you doing with that? That’s not yours.”

She stood in front of the door and hugged the naked, ratty baby tight to her chest. “Yes it is”, she said.

“Um no, no it’s not. Go put that ugly thing back.”


This went back and forth for a minute. Appalled to be having a scene over such a disgusting toy, I turned around to see one of the teachers looking at me.

“She can take it home if she wants. Just for tonight”, she said.

I looked at my defiant child and I wanted to say no because she was being a shit, but I was tired and didn’t want to engage in tug of war. So instead I said, “Ok”, and led her out to the car.

It took a minute for things to click, but click they did. When I got home I dumped out her bag, went through every tiny compartment, and found contraband galore. And what did I do about it?

I laughed, of course. And when everyone else got home, I told them about it and laughed some more. And when I returned the things to her school, they laughed a I did too. Pretty soon it became this running joke to see what she would attempt to make off with next.

Until she stole someone’s large stuffed pony a few weeks ago.

She got one for Christmas, but hers was pink and this one was black, brown, and white. Of course I don’t pay attention to such things so when one of the teachers asked if I’d seen it, I said no but I’d look around. Sure enough, the little bugger had snatched it.

I made her give it back to its rightful owner who didn’t really understand the significance of the moment. The kid did. She stood there with her arms crossed and looked at me in a threatening manner. The battle lines were drawn. I had to lay down the law about stealing. I had to learn to suppress my laughter, because evidently some people don’t find my sticky fingered child amusing.

Today I’d like to say my child is a recovered kleptomaniac, but unfortunately she’s still going strong. She did stop stealing from school, though now she just takes my things. It’s not nearly as funny, especially when I really need them, but at least it doesn’t get me in trouble with the other parents.

I could fill a few more pages with the promises I made and the guidelines I set: My kid will be this, do that, and go there. But I can’t map out her life. I can’t control everything and I can’t force her to behave.

Technically I’m supposed to be the ringmaster to her clown. But who wants to constantly crack a whip? I think I’ll divide my time between laughing in the stands and coaching subtly from the sidelines.

And if that doesn’t work I can always feed her to the tigers.


erin said...

I had the scrubbed shiny kid rule with Rose too. By the time Max was born I had given up completely. Both Max and Elijah are covered in snot right now, and I don't even care.

They're also watching Jumanji while I'm supposed to be cleaning. Wow.

Ally said...

It's so weird. I can't even imagine how my husband and I would be with a child. It's funny because until you read blogs by parents - these little day-to-day type things don't really enter my mind if we were to have kids. I always say my kid would be the coolest looking, most stylish, etc. I'm sure I too would give up after a year or so.

Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing

Colleen said...

I think your kid is lucky to have a cool mom like you.

Crys McClenahan said...

Just wait until she hits her teens! Then the fun will really begin!

P.T said...

"But my promises are like front clasp bras – always coming undone accidentally on purpose." - EPIC!


Even I have some guidelines set mentally...when or if I do get a child...:)

And what do you know...I got proop as word verification...way to go...

Eric said...

Hah, children calling women 'hussies' is beyond hilarious.

Organic Meatbag said...

I have front clasping underwear...

Steam Me Up, Kid said...

I love that she watches the Little Rascals. You mean the old ones, right? There's no new Little Rascals, are there? Say no.

I used to wave people away and say "Nothin doin" when I was little. And I turned out awesome. So, there you go.

Lizzy and Elle said...

Thanks for making me feel well...not alone..although I am right's quiet..not sure where they are..but I need a moment so I am taking it..I am sure they will be fine. Ah crap I have to check on them...

We would love to invite you and your visitors to a bloggers club where the best blogs gather for fun, learning and more fun. It is new and we are looking for great bloggers and thought of you.

Anonymous said...

All the best laid plans change when we become parents, just like no war plan survises beyond the first shot.


Anonymous said...

Haha, dude you are one patient lady. Or a tired one at least. It actually sounds to me like you're doing ok as a parent. Despite yourself! Kids are little deviants though. I babysat a three year old the other night. We played hide and seek. He'd go hide in some nook or cranny then give me a heart attack when I came to find him, but come my turn to hide he was adamant: "YOU HIDE THERE!" I had to fucking hide WHERE HE TOLD ME. Who says kids don't know what they're doing? Little fucker.

Oh and regarding your little magpie? Don't leave any uh...personal products that require batteries around. :) Show and Tell is all sorts of weird nowadays I'll bet.

The mad woman behind the blog said...

You are totally my hero.
Weird that momhood has been on my mind so much lately...yours too apparently.

Ha ha , "apparently" Man, I'm lame.

Phat Mama said...

I'm back and you've been missed!

mo.stoneskin said...

I'll bet you are a great mum. In fact I know you are.

Watch out though, what if she nicks your laptop or something, not that would not be fun.

otherworldlyone said...

Erin: Jumanji? I'm turning you in.

Ally: I'm sure you and your husband will be just fine when the time comes. And if all else fails, there's always boarding school.

Colleen: Thank you very much. Most of the time she thinks I'm pretty cool too. I imagine this will only last another 2-3 years.

Crys: I like teenagers. I can be mean to them and not feel badly about it like I do when they're small.

P.T.: Scrap those guidelines. I'll write a book.

Eric: I love the term hussy. It always reminds me of little old ladies staring at the odd woman out at church or somewhere.

Meatbag: Boo! You whore!

Steamy: I'm referring to the "in color" movie they made in 1991. It's actually really cute. She watches it on repeat.

You need to have a baby so we can make fun of your parenting and give it a cool nickname like... Steamer. Or Frank the tank.

Lizzy & Ellie: Ha, you're welcome. I check on her like this from across the house, "HEY KID! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" (Her response.) "PUT THAT DOWN!"

I'll check it out, thanks.

Secretia: Word.

Veg Ass: I have NO patience.

That's exactly how my kid plays hide and seek. And when she hides, she hides in plain sight. Weirdo.

The personal products are always, always put away. Not only for the sake of the kid, but for the other nosy characters I'm forced to live with. Apparently "normal" people don't have "personal products". Snort.

Mad Woman: I think I'll wear a cape in my next blog photo. Thanks. And I like your blog.

Phat: I've missed you too lady!

Mo: Thank you. I'm trying to keep a closer eye on her. And by that I mean frisking her periodically throughout the day.

miss. chief said...

I've never had that problem with a front clasp bra. Hm.

Nina Patricia @ The Adventures of Nina Patricia said...

Oh, I'm so with you on this one. Seriously I though I was going to do this and that- silly me being a 17yr old Mom. No use on thinking "no, my kid wont do that, eat that, see, read etc, that" Thankfully he came to be a very good kid (17 now) and behaves more than I do. However no matter what I came to realize he is going to do his own thing, like how I'm pro choice and he is diferent. Now with a new little bugger I now know better. They are going to be who they are going to be no matter what. But seriously your child is very lucky...and so are you.

Sally-Sal said...

Hey, you win at parenthood when you didn't turn your afterbirth into a handbag. Epic win.

Lola Lakely said...

Hey you! It's been awhile. I am not a parent and not even close to becoming one anytime soon so I can't relate but you seem to write about it openly and honestly. Which I like. I can't stand blogs who spew poetic nonsense about how perfect their child is, down to their adorable last poo. It's nice to read someone who admits faults and struggles. Way more interesting. Good on ya! I've missed your sass and your blog.