Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What I've Learned: Twenty-two Reflections Drawn from Three Years of Parenting

My daughter turned three today. And while the time has gone incredibly fast, I would say that the question - where did the time go? - is a bit disingenuous. I will tell you where the last three years went: trying to get my kid to sleep, picking up toys, managing tantrums, mopping up the floor, answering the question "why?" (about 20,000 times a day, lately), watching the same videos on YouTube over and over and over again, being hit in the nose with a sippy cup, worrying, worrying, and worrying some more.

Some of that time I wish had gone faster. Other times I wish I could have held onto more closely. A lot of the time I wish that I had been a better, more patient mother. But all in all, I've been watching my daughter closely this week and I have to conclude that I haven't done too bad of a job. Or at least I've done about as well as I could so far, being the person that I am.

The only evidence I have of this is the person that she is. And wow! She's a pretty cool person! Total nutcase. Intense. Energetic. Bright. Creative. Hilarious. There is never a dull moment. And while I can't say that she is this way because of anything I did or didn't do, I can say that it's clear I haven't yet broken her body, mind, OR spirit. Which is neither something to be proud of, nor the worst thing in the world. She has a lot of years - and a lot of other people to deal with - who can take care of that, even if it might have been an easier road for me to have done it.

In any event, I've learned a few things along the way. So I thought I'd share them. (What else is a blog for?) In no particular order.

1.) Always take extra (napkins, mayonnaise packets, plastic silverware, valium, diapers, wipes) if it is available.

2.) If you have the opportunity to use a restroom do so. If you have the opportunity to use a restroom by yourself, try to make it last as long as possible.

3.) If you do not pack a change of clothes (ditto: diapers, wipes, boxed wine, pacifier, snack) you will definitely need it. But don't think that packing it will help avoid needing it the way carrying an umbrella is supposed to ward off rain. It won't.

4.) Your butt is psychically linked to your baby. If you sit down, s/he will wake up. This is also true of your eyes and the camera on your video monitor. If you look at it, no matter how surreptitiously, your kid will suddenly start to twitch like that thing is shooting laser beams across the nursery.

5.) It is always happy hour somewhere. 10 am is not too early for a glass of wine, as long as you don't have to be driving anywhere or using power tools.

6.) Ants supposedly use two basic rules to build anthills: if you run into a piece of sand and you are not carrying one already, pick it up. If you run into a piece of sand and you are already carrying one, drop it. This also applies to children and toys, but it creates chaos, rather than toyhills.

7.) Anything clean is about to get dirty. Anything dirty can get dirtier.

8.) If it smells like poop, it probably is. Figuratively and literally.

9.) Farts are funny!

10.) You need less sleep than you think but you will miss it (and talk about it) more than you ever thought possible. Any no one else really cares. They have their own problems.

11.) You never know what is going on in someone else's family or relationship. Keep your judgments private. (I'd say "don't judge" but where's the fun in that? Plus, it is unrealistic.)

12.) You don't know what kind of parent you're going to be until you have a kid. You don't know what kind of kid you're going to get until they're born. The two are not unrelated.

13.) You will waste a lot of things: time, energy, food, gas, tears. Make resolutions to change if you must, but they often just set you up for more disappointment.

14.) Someone is probably doing it better than you. But someone is also probably doing it worse.

15.) Stop worrying about what you should be doing and do what works for you (within reason). When you are beating yourself up about something ask yourself not "what would supernanny do?" but something like "what would a parent in sub-saharan Africa do?" or "what would a serf living in the middle ages do?"or "what would Mayim Bialk do?" Perspective is one thing that is never wasted.

16.) You don't have to cherish every moment, because some moments just totally suck. But do try to record some of them in writing or photos or videos. You will forget both the good and the bad.

17.) It's hard being a human, whether you're 18 months or 38 years old.

18.) If you don't like kids, you might not want to have them. (And I'll throw this piece of advice in for free: if the human body freaks you out, don't become a massage therapist. Feet are freaky.)

19.) Sometimes the best piece of advice comes from the Wicked Witch of the West: "All in good time, my pretty. All in good time." Time is something of which there is never enough. Except when there is too much of it. (It is true, however, that you cannot have it in a bottle. No matter how much you pay for it.)

20.) Do not take your toddler with you to the gynecologist.

21.) Never put a banana in the pocket of your coat.

22.) Life isn't fair, but sometimes it is beautiful.

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