Why I Had Children…And How I Have Learned To Cope With Them

I am suppose to write a blog piece for the Huffington Post about motherhood (for their special upcoming  Mother’s Day issue in another week).  And I have no idea what to write.  I am a loss.  There are no pearls of wisdom, no gems of gold from which others can glean sage advice.  No nothing.  I am drawing a blank.  I think I have amnesia from all the late nights staying up writing funny stories about my day.  I can only think in terms of conversational narrative.

Me: “Kids, get in the tub, in the shower, off the i-pod, off the X-box.”

Kids: “In a minute.

Me:  “ARRRRGGGHHHHHH!”

Quite actually.  I need to read up on that very fine topic of motherhood and parenting for my own personal edification/inspiration/motivation.  And believe you me.  I just might do that.  Right now. (#facebookjunkie  #addictedtostatusupdates  #hasnosociallife)

One of the kids mentioned tonight something about wishing for a little brother.  You might be able to guess who.  I can’t remember what exactly was said.  But I know it was said in the context of wishing for a same sex sibling with which to share life and stuff.  Someone with whom to shoot the breeze.  Go down the road to the local fishing hole and do daring things like drink dirty creek water and stuff.  Things you might do if you weren’t gender outnumbered and all at home.

When this idea came up, Husband and I both looked at each other and laughed.  Hysterically.   As we always do when someone suggests we have another child.  Or adopt a puppy or buy a fish or something.  And I think the comment was made by someone, I won’t say by whom, that we might as well  “…put the chains around our neck and drag ourselves to the river” if this unexpected surprise were ever to transpire.  As in.  We’re done.  Game over.  The goose is cooked.  And we both ate it.

And it’s not that we don’t dearly love the offspring we already have.  Au contraire.  The fact that I have not run off to the Pacific Islands disguised as a belly dancer already speaks to my undying love.  And I do mean that with all my heart.   Rather.  It’s just that we two, Husband and I, know when the game is over and someone has already bought Boardwalk and Park Place.  Leaving you both- the hapless other players, penniless and bankrupt (read: hope we can afford cereal for the weekend as we go through a box in one setting.  Forget about date night.)  Folks, let’s get real.  We can’t afford any more little Gards around these parts anymore than we can afford weekly date nights to Summerside.   The four darling Ones we have a putting us in the poor house, not to mention the insane asylum.

One of my children suggested tonight, “Let’s make a date night for Mom and Dad!!!  We can plan a show for them!  Whoop, Whoop!”  This is the sad truth.  Our children have come to believe that Mom and Dad going on a date means they are invited.  And they can orchestrate the event.  Which was cute about five years ago, but now is just plain SAD.

So, if I had any suggestions to make for myself- because I need parenting advice probably more than the next guy, here is how it would go down.  They always tell you on the in-flight safety instructions to put your own gas mask on before you help the person next to you.  And the same advice applies to parenting.  Before you kill yourself being a parent, ask yourself this, “Have I brushed my own hair today?”

And add to this one last sentiment.   It’s okay to tell it like it is.  To be tough.  To be play the meanie.   Kids will suck you bare, right down to the marrow.  They will take you for all you are worth, they will bleed you dry.  They will ask and not re-pay.  They will grumble and not make apologies.  They will tell you that you are mean.  They will tell you that you do not measure up.  And they might even once in a while drop the h-a-t-e bomb.   So what I am learning in all of this mayhem is this: it is okay to be real right back at ‘em.  To tell it like it is.  To call them out.  To dish out a bit of their own medicine.  To give it right back from whence it came.

For instance.  I have always told my children exactly what I thought of their behavior- as it affects me or otherwise.  I stand unashamed in admitting that my kids have heard from my own lips that on occasion they could be labelled mean, inconsiderate, bold, rude, irresponsible, unkind, uncaring and the like.  It is okay to be tough.  Kids might as well hear it from you than have a stranger say it in the grocery store or a restaurant.  It is my job to hold my own children up to the standards I have set for them.  ‘Cause if I don’t, someone else will.

And in closing, find something funny every day from which to see the funny side of life.  If not for humor, I should die a miserable woman.  Being a mother is not that fun.  I am sorry.  Playing house with my dolls back in the day did not prepare me for this.  Those dolls did not talk back.  They did not complain about the two articles of clothing they wore day-in and day-out.  They ate air…literally.  THEY ATE NOTHING.  And they never.ever.complained.  They sat in a closet for ten plus hours at a time.  I never heard a peep out of them.  And not once did they EVER ask for money. They were the worst example EVER of what having kids would be like.

So then.  If not for the horrors of babysitting, I would have had absolutely NOTHING to base my parenting on.  Because babysitting taught me nothing if it did not teach me this: children are often quite dreadful.    But at the same time, they are unbelievably cute.  It is one of their few redeeming graces.  And above all, they are tremendously funny.  And they say things ever y day that help me remember why I had kids.  Because living in a house with another adult is not quite the same barrel of laughs that are a house full of quirky, creative kids.  Who say the darndest things to me and about me each and every day.  They make me laugh.  They make me cry.   They make me long for vacays in Florida.   And in doing so, they help me remember why I had ‘em.

Thank goodness for that.

Ya’ll come back, now. Ya hear?

My baby turned six today. Happy birthday, M.A. You bundle of energy, you ball of fire. You, my own little spitfire. I love you to the moon and back.

Who would’ve ever thought we would get this far, intact. Intact being the key word here, and don’t think I don’t mean it. Intact, with most of my sanity still hovering at even-keel. My gray roots still clinging to the scalp for dear life. Holding out for a brighter color wash tomorrow. If I am lucky.

Grey roots are so optimistic.

What I know for sure is this. What is going to happen tomorrow is NOT that color wash: instead, I am going to get up at the crack of…actually, make that get up in the dark. (darn time change) I am going to rush around like a chicken with its head cut off until it is time to load the Gard bus/mini-van. I am going to burst headlong into the school, second last to arrive. Yes, sadly arriving nearly last and only before the Grade1/2A teacher pulls in and parks beside me, at our usual spot… next to the ditch. (I can tease her…she’s not on Facebook. HA!)

Then, I will greet the various students who are gathered at the front doors, and eventually make my way to my classroom, which will be half-organized because I was at the school the night before past ten o’clock. Then, I will have first and second recess outside duty, I will have afternoon centers/mad mayhem, and I will help load the precious little students on the bus so they can go home to their families. If only for the better part of an hour. (more on that later)

And if I am lucky. I will have pulled out in my Gard bus/minivan with my own three children in tow before the school buses leave the school parking lot. And all this so that I can pick up Son up at his school for a three o’clock dentist appointment. After which, I will indeed head to the beauty parlor. But I will sadly, as I mentioned above, not have time to cover those blasted roots. Instead I will comfort myself with freshly plucked and shaped eyebrows. This is what I call a good time.

While I am lying horizontal on the esthetician’s bed, my darling children will be somewhere, talking to someone and doing something over which I will have no control. Because I will be lying prostrate in a very compromising position, and I will also be in no position to get up. That’s what getting my eyebrows shaped really does for me: it gives me the great satisfaction of thinking that I am totally off the hook for the well-being of my three girls for those five minutes.

“Que sera sera, my generous beauticians.”

“Don’t break anything, lovies.”

I will then leave at exactly 3:15 p.m. for Alberton where I will persuade the bank to entrust me with some American money which I will try not to spend the first five minutes I land in an American mall. I will leave the bank, and head back towards home. Only I will stop before the bend. And that stop will land me directly at the Alberton Baptist Church gym. And I will stop because I have invited 20 children and various adults, (seven children of whom have already spent six hours with me today), to bounce basketballs and scream very loudly in a very ‘sound-inefficient’ gymnasium. And this fun will carry on for, oh say, the next two hours.

In other words, I am planning on having a migraine.

After succoumbing to which, I will head then to the bowling alleys for my eventual and imminent demise. And if I am lucky, someone will roll me down the lane into the gutter. I will be able to take a nap behind the curtain.

And to cap it all off, this fun day ahead, I will come home and finish packing for a trip which I still have yet to finalize the details regarding my return trip back home. Which really means: I have been very interested in Florida real estate lately.

My crazy schedule combined with my sudden interest in the housing market in Florida…coincidence? I think not. I am already looking into a green card. I hear they give them out on St. Paddy’s Day.

(and of course y’all know that I’m kidding. I love that word…y’all. I hope I get to use it in Florida…)

The joy of summer vacations….or better titled…

How Not to Have the Vacay of your Dreams…

I have had this recurring dreaming for the past couple of weeks .  The dream goes mostly like this:  I am finished work and school is out for the summer.  In the shade a brightly colored beach umbrella, I am relaxing poolside with my favorite book of the hour and a cold refreshing drink.  The mid-day sky is a brilliant blue, and there are white, fluffy clouds that look like exploding marshmallows dotting the picturesque backdrop.  The summer sun is shining brightly, and song birds can be heard in the distance faintly chirping a tune.  I tilt my head back and allow my drooping eyes to gently close, as my weary bones and muscles ease into an afternoon siesta.

Ah, this is the life…

Through the haze of my dream, something jars me awake.  Far, far away, I can hear this sound.  Piercing the calm of moments ago.  It is an irritating, fingers-on-chalkboard kind of scratching sound.  I try to ignore it, but it won’t go away.  What could be possibly making such a commotion?

“Moooommmmmmm, so-and so won’t let me get on the computer and it’s my tuuuurrrnnn.”

“No, it isn’t!”

“Yes, it is…you were already on for, like, an hour!”

“Gimme the mouse….”

(scuffle, scuffle, scuffle….)

“OWWWWWWWWWWWW!”

MOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!

Reality check.  I am no longer sleeping, although I still find myself drooling on the couch while the right side of my face has permanent pillow marks implanted along my jawbone.  I have fallen asleep in the fetal position on the sofa while all heck breaks loose around me.  I can hardly move from the dreadful pain shooting up from my legs through to my neck and shoulders.

Someone please tell me that it is not really summer vacation already?

Alas, summer dream vacations are not all they are cracked up to be.  But, if there were such a thing as an ideal summer vacation or fantasy trip to an exotic location in the works for me, here is what I would deem essential to making that vacay the stuff dreams are made of.

If you were going on a dream vacation, you probably will not be bringing along four cranky, over-tired  children.  Unfortunately, I cannot make the same claim.  What can I say?  You are smrtR than I am.  Can it really be considered a vacation, dream or otherwise, when you take children along?  After all, nothing really changes.  Reality still follows you to the ends of the earth.  You still have to clothe, feed, groom, discipline, console, growl, cuddle, bathe, snuggle, growl some more and potentially sleep with your children when you are on vacation.

My hubby and I took a vacation with our four children to Dominican Republic, and my youngest daughter threw up five times on the plane before we even touched down on tropical soil.  The plane we were on was a party-plane, and the Spring-Breakers that shared our aisle were understandably less than thrilled to be sitting in a section with our sickly clan as we made trip after trip to the postage stamp-sized washroom at the rear of the plane.  Not to mention the smells.  As this all happened right in the middle of the evening meal.

As if this was not enough to dampen our spirits and discourage us from vacationing with kiddos, another daughter decided to follow suit mid-week, just when we were all starting to unwind.  This time around, she had three days of all-you-can-eat buffets to enhance the senses.  Thank goodness for daily room service and balconies with railings (and that little spot at the bottom of the stairs just the right size for storing dirty, stinky bed sheets.)

Let’s be serious.  If you are really going to consider a dream vacation, take a little advice from me.  Leave the kiddos with Gramps and Grandma. ‘Nuff said.

As well, try not to sandwich your dream vacation in between back-to-back work/extra-curricular commitments, as I have made the mistake of doing in the past. I have literally worked up to the minute before I have left on a trip and found myself collapsed on a seat somewhere in a vehicle or on a plane, of absolutely no good value to anyone including myself for about 24 hours into the trip.  And likewise, I would suggest avoiding at all costs the red-eye flight home, particularly when you have an 8:00 a.m. appointment the following morning followed by your first day of a new job.  Can anyone say, ‘pass me the java and prop my eyes open with a two-by-four?’

Finally, as this list could go on ad nauseum, I will end with this.   Try not to make the dream vacation too much fun.  When you plan on having fun, nine times out of ten, something goes wrong and you end up feeling gyped and bummed about your dream vacay.  Set the bar really low, and then everything you do and see will look and seem stellar.  There is nothing quite like low expectations to brighten up a trip.  Dream or not.

Happy Summer, everyone!