Sixteen years ago, my husband and I got married – we spent 6 years on our own before having kids. One of the few things that I remember from way back then was going out to public places, or to family events and saying things like “my kids will never…” and, “why don’t those parents….” — and at some point, I’m sure you did too. It’s always so easy to say those things when you don’t have kids of your own.
When I think about the joy involved with parenting, I look back to how we were raised as kids. Much of our anxiety as parents probably stems back to that notion that as a child, your life must be magical – or you have failed as a parent.
I was born in 1979, and at that time, my mom drove a white Ford Thunderbird with red leather seats. She didn’t have a fancy Britax or Graco stroller, and we grew up playing outside with salamanders and drinking water from our water hose in the yard. We rode in the bench seat of my Dad’s pickup truck and we often times sat in the back of the truck bed as he drove down country roads, our hair waving in the summer breeze.
My mom never volunteered at our school. Neither of my parents went on field trips. We never went to Home Depot or Lowe’s on Saturdays for Build & Grow workshops, and in all of my 18 years of growing up, I remember one trip to the movie theater.
That was when “The Land Before Time” came to theaters – I don’t even recall what age I was, but I could probably look back and do a quick google search on that one. I guess we were boring too because we never really had magical birthday parties – in fact, my mom made chocolate cake and we sang happy birthday around the kitchen table. Every Halloween we dressed as the same thing.
That’s right.. the same thing.
My sister and I were witches and my brothers were pirates. I’m not sure if my mom just didn’t want to get her “craft on”… or that was just easier for her given that she had her hands full with all of us. Back then Pinterest really wasn’t a thing, nor was Facebook, or blog posts with cute Halloween costumes.
We rode the bus to school 90 minutes each way, and our summers consisted of playing on the tire swing in the backyard or riding our bikes to the neighbors to drink milk from the tank in the barn.
We’re now almost 40 years old, and after sixteen (almost seventeen) years of marriage, we’re parents of five kids, and if anything rings true, it’s that we have learned quite a bit along the way. It didn’t take us long to realize that we truly don’t have it together as much as we think, or thought we do..
Although we certainly are far from knowing everything about having kids, we have learned a lot from ourselves, our own kids, and other parents that have been in this same fun experience as us. There is nothing more gratifying than having kids. It’s also very testing on one’s patience, too – some more than others.
So what do we know now that we never realized before?
Expect the unexpected. Kids will try anything and do anything, common sense isn’t always too common. Our boys put green bananas in the washing machine to ripen them faster. We know that doesn’t work but they needed to know that for themselves.
As for toilet paper.. I still don’t understand why little people get so excited to unroll king size rolls of toilet paper and leave in a heap on the bathroom floor.
Messes are inevitable. A year ago, our [now] 6 year old stuffed empanadas in his pants pockets and forgot to take them out before throwing them in the wash. What a MESS . I was mat at first, but then realized…a little mess is fine, and a lot of mess is actually okay too. In fact, messes and clutter are fine – in fact, it’ll give the kids a way to learn how to clean up after themselves and give me more patience than I had before. That same day, he threw my candy thermometer on top of the house in a desperate attempt to get his Croc shoes down that he threw up the week before.
One of these days, our HOA will probably ticket us for unusual objects on our roof. They haven’t noticed yet, but it’s just a matter of time.
Kids are so much fun. There is always something to laugh at, no matter where we go. Our kids can find fun in the most simple things. I will not forget going on our last road trip, and being about 20 miles from home. Our 5 year old screamed “I HAVE TO GO PEE! HURRY! HURRY!”
My husband, unwilling to pull over, said “Wait. Twenty more miles and we will be home.”
“HURRY! I can’t hold it! UG! It MIGHT be a number two!”
Two minutes later we were pulling into the gas station, our kid jumped out, and once in the door of the station exclaimed “JUST kidding! I want a bag of Doritos!”
Bathroom stops have never been the same since.
Raising kids is hard work. I always knew parenting was work. But I did not ever realize the immense amount of laundry, dishes, cooking and fun involved. It truly never ends – there is no “catching up.” I’m not quite sure if others feel the same, but it takes me about an hour to make breakfast, and an additional hour to clean up the breakfast area and little people that ate that meal. Before you know it, it’s lunch, and the entire cycle starts again. It would be nice to say that the dinner hour is easier since the spouse is home, but just because he’s home doesn’t necessarily mean he’s available – he might be just as bad as the kids.
Every child is different. With each, I worried about the baby… how they would handle the newest, and whether they thought I would love them less. Every child allows you to multiply your love – each kid is different. . and it’s so much fun to have many little people. Our kids fight constantly, but they certainly are capable of helping their siblings be loved too.
One child was easy. I definitely didn’t feel that way at the time, but looking back, one child was a piece of cake. I recently went to the car wash with all 5 kids (heck… I always have all 5. My husband is usually on his own!), and my kids took charge as their normal selves. The middle aged gentleman next to me quietly asked if they were all mine – with which I responded “why yes, of course.” He then said “are they always like this?” Why yes, they are.
To pour out you must be filled up. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will burn out. Nobody else will take care of you but you.. so remember to care for yourself. For the mom who truly never seems to get a break, sometimes that means locking the bathroom and squeezing in a 5 minute shower. *Maybe*.
Expectations have a huge affect on mood. It’s one of our biggest triggers for anger in our children – and something we deal with frequently. Learn how to lower expectations without sacrificing mood, so as to prevent as much disappointment as possible.
Housework never ends. Those things like dishes, mopping, laundry and cooking are never ending. Just as you finish, you start again for the next meal, and just as you fold a load of clothes, there is a load right behind it. Learn to accept what it is and move on.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Most everything is trivial – and not worth the added stress of worry. If your kids are happy, that’s all that matters. If you have ever met my children, you’d be surprised to realize that they have mismatched shoes. At one point, their shoes were married beautifully in identical pairs – somewhere along the way, that pair decided to pursue other interests and so now the remaining shoes are mixing and mingling with others quite exclusively.
Moderation is key. Being extreme is never going to be helpful.
You can’t control everything. It’s common for people to look at kids that are misbehaving and pass judgement on the parents. Our kids are extensions of ourselves, but they are also independent thinkers too. You can train them, instruct and discipline them, but you can’t control them.
Kids might be small but they make a lot of noise. A five year old boy can be louder than 200 people in a crowded restaurant. Don’t ever assume that since they are little people that the noise level will be anything close to tolerable. That could also be why we have resorted to eating out at the Sheryl restaurant ;)
You can learn from your kids. The best thing you can do is to listen to them – kids are much more smarter than we think, and they typically know what they need.
Your kids and your relationship with them are far more important than things. Our house has dings in the walls, shattered windows and chipped drywall – our boys have broken a lot of things. Our thrift store books are marked up and our bathroom mirrors are covered in toothpaste spit. You might even find a few LEGOS in the spoon drawer, drinking straws and a jumbo pack of Glide Flossers in the toilet and [clean] pantyliners stuck on the bathroom cabinets, but it’s our home. Sure, some of those things that have been destroyed were at one point costly, but none of them are more valuable than my children.
Thrift store shopping makes good parenting sense. It’s smart, fun, practical, green Paying $.49 – $1 for a book is much smarter than buying retail. You can find quality clothes at bargain prices – that won’t hurt as much when they rip or stain them.
Play is important. You won’t always feel like playing with them but you need to do it anyways. Sometimes you just have to jump in and go with the flow.