I am rather adept at finding humor in my parenting skills. I have to be, because I trip, stumble and fall a whole heck of a lot when it comes to my kids. In my world, motherhood is gritty, dirty and downright hilarious, if I didn’t laugh maybe I’d cry. Parenting is not for the weak, nor the faint of heart. I have honed my motherhood survival skills much like a Man vs Wild episode. Bear Grylls would not last a day in my house. My children have the ability to analyze and scent out the weak and vulnerable. In every situation my children can factor in their cuteness and age to negotiate and conquer. They are masters at identifying your buttons and they will push and poke them with an endearing grin.
School Survival 101: start out strong!
My first career was teaching and I entered this world with grandiose ideas and plans. I was an idealistic teacher without children, unleashed on some poor unsuspecting parents. I assigned projects and had expectations with zero clue to the reality of parenting. I am sooooo sorry to the parents whose children were in my class. The well-meaning thematic units with dress-up days and home projects, while exciting for my students must have been exhausting for the parents. I don’t even want to talk about the authentic Thanksgiving meals or labor-intensive Flat Stanley project. I cringe looking back and I am so grateful for the parents who had grace for a young, idealistic teacher sans children.
I always begin the year with good intentions. New backpacks, organized folders, homework checked off and bedtimes are static…and then there is this slow slide of fatigue and lack of follow-through. I am really bad about writing things down and I miss the small details…a lot. Here is an adorable picture of Joel and Ellie running to their preschool class for their Halloween party…on the wrong day. Yes, I dressed them in full Halloween garb on the wrong day. Here’s where inventive parenting comes in, I told them they were the only kids allowed to dress up two days in a row.
Projects in my house may occur the day before or the morning of… I tell myself that I am not inhibiting their creativity by imposing false deadlines.
And don’t get me started with being mature about emergent writing. I am so bad and my silly nature gets the better of me when it comes to my children’s writing skills. It’s a wonder I’m allowed to parent, and thank goodness I’m no longer a teacher.
In our house, the first day of school is celebrated!!!!! This is a survival technique that allows the offspring to understand the importance of higher education. The reality is that parents are so grateful for the start of school that they will actually have organized folders, do homework checklists and pretty much support a new and idealistic teacher sans children.
And the end of the school year sees me slowly collapsing beneath the burdens of thematic units and school fundraisers. At this point you must bear down and step it out. Yes, you’ve got to dig deep and get creative. Here is class color day and don’t my kids look fabulous? Someone help me before I embarrass my children.
Home….where truth lies somewhere in the middle
Home is where my parenting survival skills really shine. Home is an environment I can manipulate and control. It is my oasis, my island, my fortress…. actually I’m lying. I no longer am the ruler of the castle; I have been usurped by the 3 foot peasants. This is evident in the number of Legos that I have stepped on barefoot and by the sticky stuff that always finds its way onto my nice pants. You will see my queenly status has slipped slightly, but I still maintain a tight-fisted control. Unfortunately, the little beings that reside here have gone to great lengths to not follow my well constructed plans and ideas. In a effort to survive, I have at times resorted to extreme measures.
I have utilized my son’s OCD nature to organize the pantry.
I took a picture with Santa and told my children that we are friends and I talk to him frequently about their behavior. Shamefully I admit that I have pulled this picture up on my phone in restaurant settings and during long car rides. “Santa loves the quiet game,” has been uttered by my lips.
I have dressed my children up for my own amusement….and taken pictures that might be used as bribery in the future.
I “Double Dog Dared” my daughter to touch her tongue to a metal pole…and yes, it stuck. Look closely at this picture, she had just cut her own bangs with my scrapbook scissors, again.
I often don’t stop the madness…..all I can do is sit back and try to hold my crown on while I’m doubled over laughing.
You hit the public scene and you are on your own. It really is a crap shoot and you better be prepared to follow through on every threat, because missed threats are cataloged in the elephant-like memory of your child(ren). This is why you pick and choose your battles, and empty threats will always come back to bite you in the butt. For example, no one can be “grounded for life” because that would mean your child is living with you forever. Think about that one for a moment. Prepare your kids with your expectations, and then hunker down because they know that this is a new playing field. If I see you across the aisles with a screaming child, I am not looking at you in disgust or pity. It’s like Hunger Games and I am thinking “solidarity, sister.”
In an extreme survival situation, namely the grocery store, you can’t sweat the small stuff. I pick my battles and if they find a moment of amusement that doesn’t involve climbing an end cap display or knocking down a tower of fruit, I tend to look away. I never noticed that Joel liked to sample the fruit and put back the rinds, until my oldest pointed it out. LOOK AWAY…and let’s keep moving. In a grocery store situation, you have 30 minutes before meltdown. You can subtract 5 minutes per additional child and if you have a toddler all bets are off, I’d go through the McDonald’s drive-thru.
Hygiene and childhood do not tend to go hand in hand. Take for example my oldest son. He went to camp and returned home with 6 pairs of clean underwear. Now, a survivor mother says, “Great job, son, you washed your underwear before coming home from camp!” The next year I sent underwear in his care package.
Adoption has magnified every crack in my parenting. There are days that I have hidden in the closet and pretended I was playing hide and seek. My closet is filled with “mommy chocolate” and tears. Yes, there are days this mommy is tired. There are days I wish I could change my name, because if I hear “mommy” one more time I might scream. I have lost my temper, wore the same yoga pants three days in a row, and I haven’t peed alone since 2002. There are days that I think “what in the hell was I thinking.” My best friend and I call that a “w.i.t.h.w.i.t.” moment. And yet, it’s okay because the “withwit” moments are fleeting. I just call her up and tell her “withwit” and we go have fried food at Sonic. And then there are also days that my children astound me with their compassion and love. Days I smile at the simple beauty of childhood. God’s grace is sufficient in my failings. My cracks and crevices are covered. I don’t have to be a perfect parent, only willing. Because guess what? There is no such thing as the perfect childhood or the perfect parent. There is only the forgiven parent, and I am so grateful for that.
Here’s to survival!