15 Things I Know About Being a Parent

Parenting is, of course, the most consuming, challenging and exhausting task that I have ever involved myself in. Some days I ask: “what were we thinking???” And on the other days, I just don’t ask. And speaking of “we”, I readily admit that marriage is a very close second in this listing of difficult things known to humankind.

It was fifteen years ago today that I first became a mother. And how well I remember that incredible day—the moments of fear when I faced the unknowns, the moments of elation when I realized what I had gained. Holding that tiny 6 lb. 7 1/2 ounce baby boy swaddled in a receiving blanket, I knew a love I had never known before. I knew a fierce need to shelter and protect that I had heretofore never experienced. I knew so much in that instant I saw his precious baby face.

I knew so little.

Sons are interesting characters. They cling close to their mamas until they reach toddler stage, and then they can’t seem to get enough of their dads. Dads hold the world in the palms of their hands, or so it seems to bright-eyed little boys. I have watched my son and his dad grow closer over the years, and I am so thankful that they have each other. Particularly in light of the fact that they are also outnumbered in our family of six (complete with four girls). This relationship they share is a gift, one not to be taken lightly. I know neither does; never would they.

In honor of my son’s 15th birthday and due to the fact that it is also the anniversary of my 15th year being a mama, here are 15 things I know now that I didn’t know back then…

1.) Every moment is a gift, and of course meant to be cherished; but some moments are meant to just be ‘lived’, and then we move on. We don’t have to make everything special. Everything extraordinary. Sometimes life is just meant to be experienced mundanely, in the everyday ordinary routine of life. This too is precious.

2.) Kids don’t always need entertainment; the more entertainment/amusement, the less imagination/creativity (at least in the world I grew up in—which means it still holds true for my Fearless Four. Because I say so.).

3.) Sincere apologies are best taught through humble parental modeling.

4.) Some things like burps and flatulence and mysterious smells from the bathroom and spilled popcorn on the bed and Vaseline on the couch and chocolate chips all over the floor and canned goods on top of the baby…and the like: these things (while startling) are not worth blowing a gasket/major artery over. Live and learn.

5.) Seeing your child show kindness to others will make your heart swell in ways that temporary academic or sporting accomplishments never could.

6.) Patience is a virtue, but when in short supply, time-outs for mama in the bathroom/quick exits from the scene of disaster also work.

7.) Four kids is a lot of kids. But then again, so was one.

8.) The question “will I love the second (third, fourth) as much” is entirely not worth entertaining for even one little second; the answer is always yes, Yes, YES! : “to the moon and back again.” Every single time.

9.) Sometimes Mamas make mistakes. Moving on…

10.) Screaming is not the most effective form of communication.

11.) Mamas are not meant to be their childrens’ best friends (that is, until said offspring start to pay for their own bills and have an income. When this miracle occurs, the boundaries are redefined).

12.) The crucial life lessons your mama taught you about responsibility, safety, security and common sense (lessons and rules that you loathed back when you were ages 5-19): they will fall from your own tongue like pearls of wisdom to your precious babies AS IF IN YOUR OWN FORMER CHILDISH OPINION THEY WERE ALWAYS GOLDEN.

13.) There is next to nothing you will not do for your child, including acting like an idiot in public on occasion (think: jumping up and down at photo shoots), going to the ends of the earth for them and resorting to begging/bartering on their behalf. Incidentally, these rules do not always apply after fifteen years parenting as you have prioritized your ability to please and thus included yourself in this lottery.

14.) Parenting in year one is very different than parenting in year fifteen. For one thing, where you once were completely trusting and naïve, now you are a bit of a sly old shrew. Also, you are more sarcastic.

15.) You realize that although there are still some days you threaten to jump ship and escape to the nearest available carnival troupe, there is nothing on this beautiful planet you would rather be doing than mothering four of the brightest, most beautiful children God’s Hands ever fashioned. And that is the plain and simple truth.

Parenting has been said to be “one of the hardest things you’ll ever do but in exchange it teaches you the meaning of unconditional love” (Nicholas Sparks). I am thankful for the ways in which my heart has learned to expand and grow in four different directions these past 15 years.

To my Son: I will love you and your three sisters forever and always. I love you all- to the moon and back again.

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joy found in the storm…

It is suppose to be a storm day today.  The alarm sounds at 5:45ish with a twangy country tune blaring, reverberating sound off the walls and into my half-awake brain.  I already have a child glued against my left side, and another knocks on the door when she hears the party going on in the bedroom.   I decide that the computer downstairs is a better prospect for hearing the local weather forecast and cancellations than hanging out in the country saloon-wannabe that is our bedroom.  I plan to get the news, and hopeful cancellation report, then surreptitiously go back to my nice cozy, albeit crowded bed.

Storm days do not always bring out the best in me.  I have such high hopes, such high expectations.  In my mind, I envision a gloriously, quiet day spent in my silk jammies, under the bed covers with a good read.  And a steaming cup of coffee.  And the laptop.  And maybe my cell phone and landline within reach.  I could elaborate.

Curiously, in this little fantasy of mine, the kids are always spending the day at their grandmother’s house.

What actually happens on a typical storm day, is this: I spend part of the morning drifting in and out of consciousness while trying to keep the little one from constantly kicking me, after which I crawl out of bed, wearing my flannel penguin jammies and fuzzy striped socks, destined for the kitchen; at such time of my arrival, I will start and then continue to spend a large part of the morning cleaning up the big breakfast that my darling husband has cooked especially for celebrating storm days.

Ah, the big breakfast.  Crusher of storm day dreams.

We are sitting around the table.  My husband puts a plate of round pucks in front of us that faintly resemble hard-cooked eggs.

“That’s not scrambled eggs,” says one.

“No, it is not,” he patiently answers. “I had to cook breakfast while I was outside putting wood in the furnace, and the eggs cooked in the oven during that time.”

“I don’t like these kind,” she whines.  She looks distastefully at the heaping plate, a vision of circular gelatinous wonder.

Meanwhile, another happy chorister joins the breakfast ensemble.  Brian is still trying to get his body to the table, and l see a look of panic come over his face.  Breakfast is cooling faster than an ice flow in Florida.

“Who set the table?” complains child number two, while noticing there are no utensils at his place setting.

As I shoot a look that would kill, he quickly adds, “…I was just going to say that the person who set the table did a GREAT job.”

I am at one end of the table looking every bit the burned-out mama I am.  Since I have neither showered nor brushed my hair, I am sure I do not look the vision I had pictured in my storm day fantasy.  My husband, looking more awake than I, dashes around the kitchen, all the while getting more and more testy by the minute as the eggs are now nearing a freezing point.  As they look like pucks anyway, they might have a future planned for them other than the table, in the event that the picky eaters sitting round the storm day feast actually follow through on their sensitivity to different textured eggs.  My husband, undeterred, has a place set for himself at the other end of the table, showcasing a plate overflowing with eggs, toast and bacon that are unfortunately getting colder by the minute.

We say grace.

As we partake, the dog steals a sock to chew on under the table causing general alarm from yours truly, as anything the dog has ingested then regurgitated lately, has ended up looking like a hamburger.

As there is only a certain amount of bacon to go around, it is carefully rationed.  I give my share up as I had a few too many chips and dip last night.  The one who doesn’t eat eggs but loves the bacon promptly drops her piece on the floor shortly after we begin, and again the eggs are re-offered and refused.   At least the dog has something other than socks to chew on now.

There is something to be said for tenacity, coupled with a good dose of patience.  That would be my husband.  Where I would have offered a box of Fruit Loops and a glass of juice and called it a wrap, he has the ability to pull off the storm day breakfast and make it look easy.  I grumble and complain about crumbs under the table, and he just thinks that’s what we have a dog for.

In the end, it is all worth the while as the kids head outside to build snow forts and lose mittens in the freshly fallen snow.  The kitchen is clean, the beds are made and I have finally had a shower.

The only thing left to do on this storm day morning is make potato salad for lunch with none other than the leftover eggs from the storm day breakfast.

Not eggs-actly what I had fantasized I would eat for lunch on the perfect storm day.  But I’ll roll with it.