Monday, September 29, 2008

Insider tips, straight from the trenches of parenthood

It’s time to break out the itty-bitty socks and diapers again in our family, and in my current state of total and utter chaos, I’m glad it’s not me.
It’s my sister-in-law, which will give me my very first chance to be an aunt, and my children to have their very first cousin. We’re all so excited we can hardly stand it. Not only will we be able to empty out some of the baby clothes we’ve accrued over the years, but it also gives us older, more seasoned moms, an opportunity to relive those glorious newborn days. You know, the ones where the kids are too small to dress themselves in ridiculous clothes, be picky eaters, and roll their eyes at your every word.
Besides, it gives me a chance to reflect on all I’ve learned as a parent deep in the trenches of parenthood. There’s only so much to expect when you’re expecting, but what comes in that fateful fourth trimester—the one that lasts about 18 years – is the hard part.
And even though my parental wisdom only gets me as far as the elementary school years, I thought this would be a good of time as any to start writing down a few of the things I’ve learned before old age sets in and I forget these things as quickly as I had to learn them…
1. Outlet covers and table padding can only help so much. Crawling babies can find danger in just about anything, including leaves and shoelaces. I’ve also learned that children of all ages and sizes are inevitably smarter than the average doorknob protector.
2. Children will eat just about anything that includes dip, sprinkles, or a magical ingredient. Keep in mind that pepper can also be called “fairy dust” and if you eat it without whining, you may gain mystical powers.
3. During the infant and toddler years, you will praise the maker of Cheerios because they occupy your child for more than one minute at a time. You will have various personal shrines to the Cheerio, in the form of little containers of them in every purse you own.
4. All of those so-called child specialists that say TV is terrible for your child doesn’t know how wonderful it can be to their parents.
5. As much as you love your kids, you’ll still squeeze them into shoes and clothes that are too small (or drown them in items too large) because you just bought them and they aren’t even dirty or stained yet.
6. Shopping by yourself, even if it’s the grocery store, is an absolute luxury. And if the kids are with you and misbehaving, you’ll find that you have gotten really good at threatening them through gritted teeth and a phony smile.
7. Toys that are safety-approved and brain-stimulating and made just for your child aren’t interesting at all. Give them a wooden spoon, some measuring cups and an old pot filled with scraps of fabric, and they are happy for minutes.
8. When dealing with small children, minutes are practically hours. Get used to it. The ride to Grandma’s house that normally takes 45 minutes is now officially 18.75 days.
9. It may take a few years, but you will eventually grow to love cartoons and G-rated movies. You’ll find yourself sitting to watch PBS Kids and then realize that there are no children in the room. Don’t panic, this is normal. Some people even find that they turn on Spongebob when they are all alone, but I don’t know any of those people…
10. Sending your kids to school is a blessing and a curse. You’ll appreciate the break but get all worked up the first time the school’s rules trump your own better judgment. Your desires to fight with the powers-that-be will then be trumped by the thought of your kid getting the evil eye every time she passes the front office.
11. You will worry about spoiling your child when you answer to every cry when they are infants, by putting bandages on every scrape as a toddler, or by smothering your school-aged child with enriching experiences and the latest in backpack crazes. Don’t worry all that much—no amount of spoiling you do can compare to what the grandparents are capable of.
12. There will be bad days and you will pray hard that your child grows out of that particular stage. And the moment they do, you’ll long for the way it used to be…and look forward to tomorrow. It is a continuous emotional conundrum that is thankfully soothed by the occasional random hug, kiss, or simple “I love you, mommy.”
Have your own tip? Email Karrie at KarrieMcAllister@aol.com.

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