By Gila Pfeffer of The Mom Who Knew Too Much
They say that nothing in life is certain except for death and taxes, but I’d like to add a few things to that list:
- That I’ll always join the slowest line at the supermarket
- If there is cake within 10 feet of me I’m going to eat it
- Being asked, after birthing each subsequent child, “So how has it been going from one kid to two? Two to three? Three to four?”
The hardest adjustment for me, actually, was going from zero to one. New motherhood felt like getting run over by a truck. It was nothing like in the diaper commercials I saw on TV, and I wasn’t prepared for the all-consuming nature of my new role.
It took a long time, but eventually I did find my stride, and by the time my daughter was born fewer than 2 years later, the transition was smoother. And smoother, still, when my third and fourth came along. “I’ve got this,” I thought.
Having four kids back to back means they go through the stages of life simultaneously. The diaper/bottle/stroller stage ended abruptly, replaced by the school years. Just as I was getting into that groove, the high school/teenage years came in like a wrecking ball and now, just as I’m wrestling hormones, acne and armpit hair into submission, my oldest leaves for university.
And that’s been the biggest adjustment yet.
I’ve had to process the fact that, for him, there are no more childhood stages. The question will now be “How does it feel to go from having four at home to three?” Which means that if we are lucky and life goes to plan, in 2 years we’ll have a 50% reduction in kids at home. Then 75%, then 100. Whoa.
I’ve been reflecting back on my parenting career so far and here’s a thought that keeps occurring to me: raising kids is like a game of Pac-Man.
You remember Pac-Man….
*He moves through a maze, eating dots and trying to get to the next level before a ghost makes contact, causing Pac-Man to lose one “life.” Three ghost touches and he’s out.
*In the four corners are Power Pills which send the ghosts flying into their ghost cage, giving Pac-Man a minute to catch his breath.
*Each level has a single fruit which Pac-Man can eat for bonus points.
*As the game progresses, the Power Pills render the ghosts vulnerable for shorter and shorter amounts of time, increasing the pace and intensity of the game.
In the 80s it was my favorite game. Still is, really. I wasn’t the best gamer, but I did make it to the Apple level a few times. That level came after the Strawberry, Cherry and orange board which, looking back, makes me think that there were some parents on the development team at Namco, Pac-Man’s birthplace.
The game is a constant shifting of power between Pac-Man (me) and four colorful ghosts (my kids). This metaphor works equally well for any size family, but I’ve got four children, each with very distinct personalities and needs, so when I see a bunch of crazy-eyed ghosts zipping around a board all trying to get at me—er, I mean Pac-Man—I can relate.
By eating a Power Pill, which renders the ghosts powerless and sends them scampering to the “ghost cage,” Pac-Man gets some brief ‘me time’. Think of it as a precursor to self-care.
For me, the Power Pill represents that brief moment in the middle of each childhood stage when I feel like I’m on solid parenting ground. I can breathe, knowing I’ve cracked the code and can apply it to the younger ghosts as they enter the phase that my oldest is just leaving. But inevitably, my 4 ghosts are blinking back to their vividness, scampering off in different directions, which is what they are supposed to do, after all. And I must adapt to keep up with them, lest they swallow me whole.
They are not the only ones growing, changing, learning. As they become new versions of themselves, so do I.
It’s not that my kids are trying to eat me alive the way that Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde wanted to consume Pac-Man.
I’m saying that as they develop, I’ve had to leave former iterations of myself behind because I’ve outgrown them. I’m no longer a fashion marketing director, but I’m reborn as a writer. Gone is the pregnant mom, the PTA mom, the harried, toddler mom. My kids are teens, and now I’m a college mom, ready to usher all of my little ghosts out the door, one by one yet all at once.
As long as I remember to keep my eyes (and mouth) open in search of Power Pills, the things that energize me and allow me to adapt to new versions of myself, I’ll always be ok. I’ll try to save some for you, too.
About the Author
Gila Pfeffer, better known as The Mom Who Knew Too Much, is a freelance writer, blogger and mother of 4 teens. She’s an American raising her family in London and her kids know that their every transgression will likely become a blog post. It’s a fair deal. She’s worked as a fashion marketing director and e-commerce marketing manager in the past. A breast cancer pre-vivor AND survivor, she’s a staunch breast cancer prevention advocate who gives talks and writes in that space. Gila is especially proud of her title “Sammiches & Psych Meds Guest Writer”. Her funny-because-it’s-true content about parenting teens and other life challenges can be found on her blog at www.the-mom-who-knew-too-much.com, on Instagram @the.mom.who.knew.too.much and Twitter @gilapfeffer