Everybody’s an expert at parenting before they actually become parents (or a looooong time after they’ve been parents). I was no exception. The list of things I was never going to do as a parent before I became one is lengthy. I was either so naive or such an asshole — not sure which.
Here is a list of just a few of the things I was never going to do as a parent.
Let the TV babysit my kids.
Oh, please. I use the TV all.the.time. It’s nice to think you’re going to come home from work and be able to make dinner and do laundry and complete tasks for one’s day job while the kids quietly play by themselves, but that’s just not realistic. They may play, but it’s certainly not by themselves. It’s filled with “Mommy! Mommy! Look! Look, Mommy! MOM-my! LOOK!” and “He’s hitting me! He took my toy! He kicked my leg! He’s existing next to me!” not to mention all the whining and pants-tugging.
My kids spend their entire days learning and playing at school and daycare, and we spend time chatting about our days and reading books at night. They certainly don’t want for intellectual stimulation. But there are also days when working on my Masters degree or grading papers simply isn’t an option. It has to be done, kids be damned. In those instances, the TV is a lifesaver. And I don’t feel guilty about it, either.
Say, “Because I said so.”
This was one of my chief pet peeves when I was a kid. What do you mean, “because you said so?!” That’s ridiculous! If you don’t have a good reason, it’s a stupid rule! I’d complain.
My, my, my, what an insufferable little brat I was. “Because I said so” really means “Shut up about it already. I’m the adult, I have years of experience living, I know better than you what’s good for you, and this conversation is now over.” And I find myself uttering it frequently.
Leave the radio off in the car “until we get on the road”.
As a child, “until we get on the road” perplexed me. What does that even mean? Aren’t we already on the road? We’re in a car, right? Where else would we be except on the road?
Turns out, “wait until we get on the road” means “No, I will not turn the radio on full blast the second we turn the engine on. We are humans in this car, not animals, and as such, it befits us to converse with one another and discuss our plan of action before head banging to some hipster/metal band hybrid.” We wait “until we get on the road” regularly in this house.
Be overprotective about everything.
I wasn’t allowed to ride in cars with inexperienced teenage drivers. I wasn’t allowed to stay out past midnight or stay over at a friend’s on school nights. I had to wear a helmet when I rode a bike (well, I didn’t have to, but my husband did). And I thought it was all so incredibly stupid.
Hmpf. Guess who’s not riding in cars with inexperienced drivers, not staying over at friends’ houses on school nights, and wearing helmets when they ride their bikes? My kids, that’s whom.
Adhere to a strict bedtime schedule.
As far as I was concerned, bedtimes were Nazi-instituted torture tactics parents employed to make their children’s lives as miserable as possible, and there was no way I was going to subject my kids to that maliciousness. Their bedtime was going to be when they were tired.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! *sigh* I used to be so funny.
I remember my grandmother telling me bedtimes were created so parents didn’t murder their own children. And she was right. Aside from providing kids with the sleep they need to be healthy and productive, bedtimes give parents much-needed alone time. And a homicide free home is a happy one.
Take my kids to restaurants when they’re little.
When you’re childless, few things are as irritating as little kids in public places. They’re loud, they’re sticky, and they often throw temper tantrums at the most inopportune times. I used to sneer and judge and profess that my parents never would have allowed me to behave that way at a restaurant, and neither will I allow mine to.
I want to vagina kick myself hard for that one. Sometimes, you have to go out to a restaurant because there’s no food in the house and no time to grocery shop. Sometimes there’s no time to go home for dinner between work and an evening engagement. Sometimes you’re too damn tired to even think about cooking, let alone actually do it.
They’re kids, for God’s sake. Nobody ever died from listening to a child scream while his parents carry him out to the waiting area to finish his meltdown before returning to the table. I’ve received my fair share of sneers and judgement since having kids, and you know what? I don’t give a flying monkey arse. They’re tiny humans and they have to eat. Deal with it.
Let my kids have a breakdown at a store.
An extension of the restaurant one, letting my kids have a temper tantrum in a store was unimaginable to me pre-children. Can’t these people control their spawn? I’d wonder. How hard can it be to exert power over a 3 year old?
Hard. Ever split an atom with bare hands? Kinda like that.
Unless one’s willing to get her kids whatever it is they demand at that exact moment (and even then, sometimes offering to purchase the entire toy aisle is an exercise in futility, especially if the children have special needs), breakdowns in public places are going to happen. I remember the day I went Christmas shopping for Mr. Sammich at Best Buy when Alister was a toddler. He got down on the floor of the store and began wailing and rolling about. Know what I did? I walked to the next aisle over and waited for him to notice I was gone, all the while cursing myself for my former ignorance.
Say “no” to their requests to play.
My husband remembers feeling dejected when he would ask his father to go outside and play basketball or build something out of Lincoln Logs with him and his father would say no because he had something he had to attend to first. Mr. Sammich promised he’d never do the same to his own kids. Except he does. And I do, too.
As children, we don’t realize that sometimes, taking care of our responsibilities takes precedence over building a snowman in the front yard at 9:00 at night. This doesn’t mean we don’t play with our children. It just means we’ve learned that saying “no” is sometimes necessary.
Allow them to eat fast food and mac and cheese for dinner.
Lawd, I was living in La La Land. No matter how hard we try (and admittedly, it’s occasionally not very), there are times when they eat a Happy Meal or all yellow foods for dinner. Alister loves his veggies, so getting him to eat them ain’t a thang. But Ewing? Psshht. Getting that kid to eat something green makes the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan look like a children’s movie.
A little fast food here and a processed meat there won’t kill them (I hope). At least not if we do it sparingly.
Give into their pleading.
Kids need boundaries — no doubt about that. But sometimes, bending those boundaries is easier than fighting a battle that’s not worth the time or the energy.
Before having children, I was adamant that when I said no, I meant it, no matter what. I was never going to give in to pacify their whining and begging, not even if it meant I would be battling their behavior for hours.
I guess I didn’t realize just how long hours can feel.
We have rules, and for the most part, we stick to them. But on occasion, breaking those rules is worth the peace and quiet that extra M&M or bedtime story offers.