If you spend a lot of time on the internet, particularly on social media (Pinterest…I’m singling you out!) there are certain misconceptions that you’re bound to start having.
The easiest of those is simply that you’re just not getting it right.
The super-parents out there give you indications of how they make homemade cookies with marzipan-covered heads and sugar candy eyeballs to make ladybugs from scratch. They post pictures showing their creations and concoctions telling you that they’re “so adorable, you have to do this for your own kids’ parties!”
They show that they’re involved, shuttling their kids to every swim meet, science fair, scout meeting, football practice or game, basketball camp and they manage to still chaperone the kids’ dances and field trips.
Then there’s parents like me.
That picture’s a few years old now . . . but that’s my family. There’s a little less of me . . . a little more of the kids (growing, not weight).
When I started parenting alone this wasn’t about perfection it was about parenting. It was about example. My Mom made all our treats and my Dad was home when he was home. We didn’t have Pinterest-perfect-looking cakes or cookies or whatever but you know what? We had them and they tasted damn good because my folks were and are good at it.
In among all the Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram posts are indications of “look at how great” the things are and I applaud the creativity and patience. I wish I had it. What those posts don’t show is whether or not their kids wanted to help; whether those kids messed up a bunch of red marzipan making the ladybugs; how stained the countertops were from red food dye; how the attention to detail was attention taken away from the kids.
I don’t take my kids around to every sporting event, they’re just not that interested in sports. I’d do it or arrange it if it was that important to them.
Still…there are certain truths that happen the moment you become a parent that I just don’t think people realize when they read the internet. It’s too easy to ignore them. These are a few I’ve realized:
Kids think they’re immortal! They aren’t, but face it…you thought so, too. My son, when he was still a little tiny boy, (he’s 11 now) was literally bounced out of a bounce house when a bunch of teenagers were inside. He thought he could handle himself with them. He hit his head on a rock and I took him to the ER, looking like I just walked out of Beirut from the blood all over my shirt, and he had to have staples on his head. His biggest concern? He left the birthday party early and didn’t get a balloon. The nurses gave him 3 of them, the flirt. Pinterest parents would bemoan the dangers of bounce houses. I tell my son, when he’s being annoying, that it’s because he hit his head at a bounce house. I’m sarcastic. Sue me.
You will run out when it’s most inconvenient. This is most applicable if you have teenage daughters. They will know, by the way, at the end of their period, that they are out of panty liners or tampons. They will not ask you to get new ones, however, until a month later when their underwear is now a mess and you’re running to the store, late for work, because they “forgot.” The same applies to toilet paper – which they will take but neglect to tell you – when you have run out in the middle of using the bathroom. See also: paper towels or toothpaste, ruined toothbrushes and socks.
A kid’s emergency is far different than your emergency. I will be in my bedroom, in my underwear, trying to change clothes, and one or all three of the remaining children in my home will open the door, front windows looking out on the world, and argue about the erasure of a video game file. This simply cannot wait until you’re decent. This also applies to when you’re in the bathroom, the shower, or throwing up from being sick. That, by the way, brings me to:
Their version of sick is not your version of sick. I have a 15-year-old and two 11-year-olds now. I still get sick and I have. They get sick, the world has ended. I get sick and it’s a minor inconvenience for them and they still ask, when you’ve been home hugging porcelain all day, “what’s for dinner” upon walking in the door from school. That, by the way, brings me to:
They’ll never, ever, have an idea of what to have for dinner (or entertainment or insert activity here). “Any ideas for dinner,” I will ask almost daily? The response is a protracted silence followed by “I don’t know.” The corollary to this is “how about we have pizza” to which they will answer “Naaahhhh. I don’t want pizza.” “Okay, what would you like?” “I don’t know.” I now, when they ask “what’s for dinner?” simply answer: food.
School assignments will be due in a week but you’ll find out the day before. Just understand that. We aren’t all sitting at home doing our kids’ homework or looking at every problem. If they have an issue I work with them, but I am lucky in that my kids seem to be doing fine. As a result I don’t have to work with them every day. However…projects come up and I find out usually about 9pm on the day before they’re due and we don’t have one or more of the necessary items in the house to complete it. I’ve started keeping shoe boxes and buying multiple presentation boards and report binders just because of this.
Adventure is a matter of perspective. This all being said…if I come up with an idea – going to the Big Trees or maybe San Francisco or wanting to go to the site of the first nuclear explosion or even driving across the country to see my folks rather than fly . . . the kids are in. They really are. You have to realize sometimes that you are the example. If you sit and do nothing they sit and do nothing. That’s what they see. So dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower…but eventually you should go. You don’t have to take them with you, but they should know you went so that they ache to experience the world around them, too.
Overall, I learned what kids do is what kids do. I also learned…they can have just as much fun as you do. When you tackle projects too big to handle your kids aren’t primary they fall behind the project. Perfection shouldn’t be what you strive for it should just be parenting. Half of parenting is just being there – when they need you and present even if you’re at work.
The other half…is just enjoying yourself as you do it. The ladybug cookies may look amazing, but do they taste amazing? I know for a fact…the rice krispie bars in the pan do and they took half the work…and then we went and jumped in piles of leaves.
That…is fun…and that is another of those certain truths…along with the fact that you shouldn’t jump in the leaves until after you’ve eaten the rice krispie bar.