Sunday, September 21, 2014

What Nobody Tells You

Dear Expectant and New Parents,


Here is what nobody tells you:

-Forget college, start saving now for the $100+ Graphing calculator your kid will need anytime from 7th grade on.

-Breast milk vomit stains.

-Your child will hate you at some time(s). It only lasts until they need something.

-You will hate your kid at some time(s), even for an instant. You will. It'll pass, but you will.

-Eating food they left on their plate is not only okay, it is economical.

-Being tired isn't the worst part about parenting

-When other parents judge you(and they do), it's just because they are desperately trying to feel better about themselves. Oh, also because you're doing it wrong.

-Purell and its like are placebos; your kid is gonna get sick.

-Once your kid starts walking it's not just a milestone, it means their hands are free for other things.

-The moment your kid starts talking it means they are one step closer to saying "I hate you!"

-You can ban toy guns, but they will still make one out of an orange.

-They're going to see an R-rated movie at their friends' house.

-Until the age of 9, their birthday parties are really just a way for you to show off.

-When they offer to help it's usually because they want something.

-Your friends are not as interested in your kids as you are.

-Kids are really expensive. No, I mean seriously expensive. Invest now.

-You will be taking care of all pets, but only if you want to keep the animals alive, otherwise, let your kids learn a valuable lesson.

-You will be depressed sometimes. You will feel like a failure often. You will, at least once, question why you became a parent. You are still a good person.

-Get a 529 plan and have your parents or in-laws put it in their name so it won't count against you or your kid for financial aid.

-From here on out, the clean laundry will never fit neatly anywhere despite any and all Real Simple advice. It will spill out of drawers or be piled on top of chairs only to fall on the floor and become dirty laundry again.

-You won't watch all those videos you took of them because you're too busy picking clean laundry off the floor.

-It's okay not to enjoy every moment.

-You never realized how often your spouse/partner/co-parent is wrong.

-You will cry at animated movies.

-You aren't the only lucky one, that kid(s) is lucky to have you too. (See, there's more to me than cynicism.)

This list is still under construction since it seems this building of a person is never quite done. And this person I'm referring to, surprise surprise, it ain't your kid.  So, please feel free to add what nobody told you.

In the mean time, welcome to the cult, good luck, and always remember: nobody's done what you're doing-raising your child. So cut yourself some slack.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ikea Instructions: Step 5

I have a lot of keys on my key ring. The sheer amount could be mistaken as a sign of status or importance, and that assumption would, in fact, be a mistake. My many keys could also be misconstrued as metaphoric; you know--there are many doors available, many options from which to choose, endless possibilities--a Robert Frost rip-off waiting to be exploited and put on a poster. That's not it either. I have many keys because life is complicated.

That's an interesting word that gets a bad rap--complicated. I don't see it as a negative, I see it as a synonym for intricate. Merriam Webster defines it as "having many parts or steps." They also define it as "hard to explain or define." That's all. But when we hear something is complicated, we instantly share a reactive look of concern mixed with wincing. We fear complicated because we crave easy. We want things that are easy to understand, we want the world to go easy on our kids, we just want everything to go smoothly. That's why we both love and loathe Ikea instructions; they seem easy until about Step 5 when the diagram doesn't quite make sense-it's just a little too Scandinavian.

Well, this year I acquired two new keys which brought me to Step 5 of my life's Ikean schematic. And you want to know the ironic thing, it all honestly felt like the simplest thing to do.

The nuts and bolts of it are: Teenager #1 wanted to go to a different High School. He came to us and said he was miserable and we remembered that quote about the definition of crazy. So instead of making him repeat the same thing over and over, we let him search for a new school. One thing led to another, we needed to establish residency, we needed to notarize papers about custody and now I have two more keys on my key ring. It's far less August Osage than it reads. It's just a different solution to a problem with many parts and steps. We're still one big happy weird family, we just live in two different places, go to two different schools and are all together only on the weekends.

Complicated. Some might even say crazy or irrational; yet it is surprisingly freeing. The world has opened up. There is no longer just one right school or one right path, or one right way to be a family. In the first week alone Teenager # 2 successfully negotiated public transportation home on his own. Teenager #1 has done more homework in the past week than I saw him do all last year. Husband and I have gone out twice, one more outing and we'll break last year's record. It's possible we're all growing up.

When our kids are babies, and even before, we see how clearly their lives will go. Even the most buddhist of us see clearly that our children will go to school, get their driver's license, go to college, get an apartment with friends, find a job, fall in love, visit on holidays, etc. We talk a good game of letting them become who they will be, but we still see the path lit before us like an airplane landing strip. That is why we panic when they want to land somewhere else. We cannot clearly see success and independence and happiness on that course, we must stick with the flight plan we logged.

Except that we don't. We can let the world be bigger than we imagined. We can entertain the ridiculous. We can revel in the complicated. We can put the wrong bolt in the base of the book case and the bookcase will still hold books. And that is why I have a lot of keys this year.

Some people have told us that we are good parents for doing this. Some people look at us with a mix of concern and wincing and simply say "Wow." I don't know if it's good, or bad, or strange or crazy; it's simply the next of many steps we continue to take as parents. Some of these many parts are bound to go horribly awry, this is an experiment not a cure. It is scary and exciting and wakes up the senses because it is uncharted. It is an adventure we're ready to suit up for.

It is complicated, and makes for a cumbersome key ring, but sometimes life asks us to go a little Scandinavian.