Parents: What I Didn’t Know that I Didn’t Know
Before becoming a mom I had a general idea of how I wanted my household to be run.
My kids would always be clean (excluding acceptable times approved by me). Nails would always be trimmed, hair nicely quaffed, and they’d just naturally know how to behave in all situations. They would love each other, and play happily together. After all, I’d worked at the GAP and knew when all the best sales were. I just couldn't wait to live happily ever after!
When my first son came along, a few of my ideals had to be adjusted. But when he started sleeping somewhat well at night, I thought I’d figured out parenting. Sure, I knew the unexpected would come up over the years, but nothing that would throw me off.
Stories from my childhood of my mom sending us to our bedroom for emptying entire bottles of soap onto the kitchen floor so that we could have sliding competitions, or finding two of my siblings dipping each other into 5 gallon buckets of honey. Those wouldn’t be part of MY parenting story.
Then my second son came along. I think he was sent to knock me off my pedestal. It worked.
Then my third son came. And now the 3 of them are trying to figure out ‘independence,’ and it’s proving to be ridiculously messy and expensive.
I haven’t given up entirely on some of my ideals, but there are definitely some household rules I’ve instituted that the ’new mom’ Robyn had no idea were in her future.
Household rules I’d never dreamed of … (yes, I’m a big meany)
- Limit of one person using the toilet at a time.
- Nothing but Kleenex and fingers should be inserted into your nose/ears, or we will be taking you to emergency … again.
- Please do not blow into my face.
- Do not blow into my ears.
- Stop blowing on me!
- All bicycle riding must be done with EYES OPEN! (Instituted after an incredibly expensive run-in with the neighbour’s car)
- By the age of 7, all children must be wiping their own bum, every time. Stop asking me to do it.
- The microwave is not to be used to try to make things explode.
- Do not disassemble any electronics in our home.
- Do not bury disassembled electronics in the backyard.
- Only eat food.
- Do not lie down under me while I’m doing yoga.
- Do not sit on me while I’m doing yoga.
- Anything thrown onto the roof is going to stay there for quite a while.
- All chemical reaction experiments must be approved and supervised by an adult.
Oh my goodness you guys, WESLEY IS NOT AN ADULT!
It’s kind of amazing how you gravitate towards how your own parents ran things – not completely of course – but sometimes, you suddenly understand.
Growing up an only child did not prepare me well being a mother of 9 children!
One of the mantras that my mother instilled in me was, “If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”
I thought that was great advice. It probably was – for me. It even worked as a mother through the early years of child #1, child #2 and a little bit through child #3. Then, I discovered for myself another mantra “80% of the good can be accomplished with 20% of the effort.”
Although I had no siblings, as a teenager I did a fair bit of babysitting. I was an observer of a few families with children. I saw lots of things that I just knew wouldn’t be a part of my family. MY children wouldn’t fight (at least not much). MY children wouldn’t make a mess (at least not much). MY children wouldn’t be rude or disrespectful (at least not much).
As time went on and more children were added to the family, that 80/20 rule seemed to be more and more relevant. Sometimes, just doing a job is better than doing no job perfectly. There is only so much time and priorities must be chosen.
I was, after all, a reasonable, tidy, respectful kid because my parents raised me that way. So, I knew how to do it. I would raise my children that way, too.
As a babysitter, I often went to homes in the evening after dinner. In most of these homes dirty supper dishes were lying around and the house was often very untidy. My judgy-little-self resolved that this, of course, was never going to happen in my home!
While babysitting I would do the dishes and tidy up. I was surprised when the returning parents were so thrilled when they saw their kids were asleep, the dishes were done and the house was tidy. I didn’t think it was a big deal.
Fast forward 15 years. Trying to get out for an evening with my husband was a momentous job! Getting the kids fed and ready for bed and myself looking presentable was all I could manage. If I had waited for the house to be tidy and the dishes done, we would never have gone anywhere. Usually, we came home to a sink full of dirty dishes (how to wreck a nice dinner out) and a messy house.
The babysitters who did the dishes and tidied up were truly gems!
Also, I was very surprised at how totally different each child could be, from me, from my husband and from each other.
My parents didn’t give me many rules as I was growing up. At least not spoken ones. It was just taken for granted that some things didn’t need to be verbalized. It was assumed that I would be a reasonable, thinking human and I believe that, for the most part, I was.
However, it seems that those traits have a way of skipping a generation or two.
Either that, or I lacked creativity and my children made up for it in spades. Like Robyn, I had to verbalize “rules” that I still shake my head to think were actually necessary:
- No catapulting younger siblings across the living room or yard.
- No jumping off the roof of the house.
- No throwing shoes, keys, food, books etc. down heating vents, even though they make fabulous sounds going down.
- No ‘trick-or-treating’ in July.
- No chasing your brother with an axe.
- No going to bed in your clothes so you won’t have to get dressed in the morning.
- No flushing whole apples, jewelry or toys down the toilet. (Some of these items ALMOST go down all the way).
- No using the rug attachment of the vacuum on your sister’s head.
- No putting sandwiches, toys or Lego inside the VCR.
- No making sand-castles out of the neighbour’s insecticide.
- No frying ants with a magnifying glass on the front porch of the church.
- No playing helicopter by swinging snakes around your head.
The list could go on for pages and, as you are no doubt thinking, there really is a story behind each one. Use your imagination and you won’t be far off.
I am the first to admit that I made many mistakes as a mom. My expectations had to change and evolve regularly along the way. But when I look at my children now, many of them with their own children, I have to admire who they are. I know I can’t take credit for much of that, but maybe some of it is because I did just a few things right along the way.
It’s often said that kids don’t come with an instruction manual. Making judgements about other parents or even ourselves as a parent is a non-starter. The judgments come back to haunt you. Every child is so different – apples and oranges, peaches and pears, buttercups and geraniums. Every parent will make mistakes. But children are resilient. You need lots of three things – love, kindness and an extra dose of patience. For parents who just do their best, the wrinkles fall out in the sunshine.
We'd really LOVE to hear about some of the rules that you’ve come up with as parents, that you never DREAMED of before! You are welcome to leave a comment below.