Real-Life Skills Every Parent Needs to Tell Their Child

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I have spent a lot of my parenting life preparing my children to function in the world we live in. Following societal norms, we have taught them when to say “please” and “thank you” and “bite me,” how to wash their hands after they go to the bathroom, and also how to avoid asking large-bellied people if they are pregnant.

As a child, I went wide-eyed into getting punched in the arm for wanting a “Hertz Donut,” and once I was actually fooled into going on a Snipe Hunt. I was naive, and maybe a bit of a ditz.

I thought, just in case my children follow in my footsteps, I should start to compile a list of important life skills:

1. If someone asks you to pull their finger, don’t do it.

2. If you don’t understand the joke, just nod and smile.

3. Don’t collect anything, ever. Unless you want to haul around ugly ceramic turtles for the rest of your life.

4. Believe that you can make anything happen. This will come in handy in parking lots.

5. Don’t do group texts. And if you do, don’t add me to them. Ever.

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6. READ STUFF.

7. Learn to like some vegetables. Your butt will thank you for it when you are almost 39.

8. Don’t believe anyone at a bar where you can throw peanuts on the floor.

9. Make sure you have actually hung up the phone before you start talking bad about the person on the other line.

10. Oh, and don’t talk bad about people.

11. If you don’t know how to properly do a Farmer’s Blow — seriously, just don’t.

12. Self-deprecation will get you a lot farther than narcissism.

13. Stay away from crazy people. You will know they are crazy by how much time you spend talking about how crazy they are.

14. If you aren’t completely certain that it’s air coming out of you, hold it in.

15. Don’t ever ever ever try to do a home bikini wax.

16. If you don’t want something read, don’t write it down.

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17. Create a happy place for yourself in your own head instead of a place where all you hear is, “Your butt is getting ginormous!”

18. If you find a smear of chocolate in the bathroom, don’t put it in your mouth.

19. Please don’t post pictures of your food. Or your feet.

And….

20. If you go to a questionable party, don’t eat an entire pan of brownies.

Our kids need all the help they can get out there as they try to navigate this crazy planet that we live on. The least we can do is warn them about the dangers of licking the frozen flagpole.

Related post: 10 Lessons Kids Learn The Hard Way

15 Ways to Piss Off Moms With Young Kids

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It’s no secret that all moms have the hardest job known to man. While it never gets easier, the older your children are the more time you have had to heighten your mom defenses.  Moms with young kids have it a little harder. We are still wiping butts, trudging through the “terrible toddler” years and getting only a few hours of sleep. Moms with young kids are easily agitated and often on the brink of losing it…so for the sake of yourself and the ones around you, try to avoid the following scenarios at all costs.

1. Looking at us with pity and asking if we’d like a consultation when we pass the makeup counter at the mall.

2. Asking “why,” because odds are we’ve already heard that 45,903 times on any given day.

3. Bringing up Disneyland, Disney World or actually anything Disney-related in front of our kids.

4. Giving our children stickers, Play-Doh or glitter.

5. Mentioning how you LOVE weekends so much because you get to sleep in.

6. Preaching about how TV rots kids’ brains and how you couldn’t imagine letting your child watch it.

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7. Bragging about how you’ve heard that the baby weight just “slips off” when breastfeeding.

8. Staring at us when our kids are having a tantrum in public. Yes, we hear the screaming. Yes, we are trying to make it stop.

9)  Saying something like “Oh I don’t know what I’d do if I was a stay at home parent. I’d be so bored.”

10. Only wearing yoga pants when you’re actually going to a yoga class.

11. Telling us we look tired and that we should try to get some rest. Thanks, Captain Obvious.

12. Lecturing us on how it’s never too early to start applying for schools.

13. Refusing to assist us in our efforts to hide all the obnoxious “impulse buy” items directed at children at a grocery store checkout line.

14. Pointing out that coffee is addictive and smugly telling me it is technically a “drug” and it would be beneficial to “cut back.”

15. Sighing in annoyance when we sit next to you on a plane. Believe me, we’re not excited about the next few hours either.

So if we happen to overreact to your “advice,” don’t take it too personally. Once in a while, mommies deserve a little tantrum, too.

Related post: How to Identify a Mom of Young Kids

Because Someday the Children Will Be Grown

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He said no. That’s how it started.

I had asked him to take our oldest to ballet and to bring the toddler along. I had wanted, needed, that hour, in the house, in the quiet. When the first hours of the weekend arrive, I crave a quiet house. I crave the solitude. Just me, a woman unattached, a woman free to sit in one place, carrying no one, talking to no one, listening to no one. The week drains me and I need to refill and the quiet renews me. So I had asked him to take the kids.

But he said no.

He said no and my hour of quiet evaporated into a stream of yells and screams. Both of us high on emotion and low on rest, we yelled, through the morning and then well into the night, in front of the children because what, these days, happens anywhere else? We flung accusations that we hadn’t found time to talk about between making breakfasts and managing bath times, and we screamed tales of burden and overwhelming stress. I felt abandoned and crushed under the weight of demands that I felt were mine alone. He felt the same. But I didn’t see his side and I didn’t understand his point and it wasn’t that neither was clear, it was that I just couldn’t see.

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Our words tore holes in this life we’re living together. We uncovered that all of this, the yelling, the expecting, the blindness, it wasn’t about the hour and my weary spirit. It wasn’t about him saying no, needing time of his own to breathe and be still. It was about us. It was about support and communication and compassion. Or, rather, it was about how we had assumed all of those things were there but when we tore the holes open, we found only a hollow.

We’d fallen into the trap. Kids, then self, then work, then friends and family, then everything I want for myself. “I never meant for you to be at the bottom of my list,” I want to tell him. “You are not there because I love you the least,” I want to say. “I want you to know I don’t think you belong there, beneath diapers and laundry and deadlines.” I want to usher these words into the space between us. I just need some quiet and some peace and a moment alone to collect my thoughts first. Of course, the quiet never comes and the peace never settles and I forget that I meant to say these things and all the other words that would, I’m sure, fill the holes quite nicely.

We refer to this space, this early parenthood, in terms of war. We hold ourselves, our careers, our hobbies and passions and dreams up as shields. And we wrap ourselves in the armor of our marriage, our love. We see the first shots arch over our heads and we hold each other tight. We believe our armor is impenetrable, the strongest stuff; it will deflect the bombs and the shells and the shrapnel and we’ll be just fine and protected inside. But the years roll along and the war continues. Our shields become shreds of all they once were, so we trade them out for new and that isn’t as wrong as it sounds. New wars require new shields. But when our armor begins to bear chinks and gashes, well, that is a bigger problem. When we are the ones firing the shots and sounding our battle calls through the air, then we’re in danger. Because someday, the war will end. It always does. I’ve seen it end and I’ve seen what the war can do. I’ve seen warriors leave the field, weary and worn. Their armor dragging behind them, they walk miles apart, eventually wandering in separate directions. And I’ve felt us building to that moment. I’ve felt it in the way that our deepest thoughts and dreams and our most basic needs explode like bombs, loud and harsh, powered by a thousand days of silence.

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Someday the war will end. Someday the children will be grown. Someday there will be no kids to take. Someday Saturday will dawn and I won’t crave solitude anymore. I’ll crave him. I want our armor to be intact when the war is over.

Before bed, we called a cease-fire. And in the darkness of the small hours, I relaxed at the sight of him. I saw the weight on his shoulders, a reflection of all that I felt on mine. And I felt him see me too. Into the hole we had torn open in pain, we whispered answers to each other’s thoughts and dreams and basic needs, wrapping each other’s battle wounds in promises of trying harder, bandages of support and communication and compassion. “I want you to know I don’t want you to be last,” we said. “I love you more than laundry and diapers and deadlines,” we assured. We promised to keep talking, to fill the holes and sew them tight. And we whispered good night and held each other until sleep came. That’s how the battle ended. That’s how we made a new start.

Related post: Why I Decided Not To Divorce My Husband

The Issue of Never Ending Kids’ Artwork

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Walking to my 3-year-old’s preschool class today, I was cheerfully directed to a cubby full of my son’s artwork. It was all I could do not to roll my eyes at the teacher as she stood there smiling proudly at the pile of dried paint scribbles. I placated her with a smile I hoped hid my contempt, took the pages lovingly to my car, drove home, and promptly threw the entire stack in the trash.

Horrible mother? Nope, just a practical one.

These teachers send home every damn piece of paper my kid even runs a crayon over, to show me the time the children are spending doing creative things like “art.” I wanna say to them, Honey, let me save you the trouble of going through all that crap. I send my kid to you every day so that I have 3 hours of time to myself. They can be cage-fighting on the playground for all I care, so long as I can get to the gym and the grocery store undisturbed. And forgive me, but I can find very little “artistry” in any of it. I mean, what the hell even is this?

patrick's first drawing

Or this lovely one entitled : Patrick’s Egg Painting…

patrick's egg painting

Is it supposed to BE an egg? Was it painted USING an egg? Is there an egg involved here in ANY way?

And then of course there’s the crap the teachers “help” them do. Look at this nonsense, like my 3-year-old, who can’t even hold a pair of damn scissors, has perfectly cut out these stars and affixed them to the ribbons with scotch tape. The last time that little monster got ahold of some scotch tape, it took me 20 minutes to unwind it from his hair!

patrick's mobile

And you know I’m no prude, but do we really need a penis-shaped rocket ship hanging on the fridge?

patrick's penis rocket

Look, I have saved a box of crap for each of my Tater Tots, just enough so that if A&E needs background shots for a biopic on my future president—or terrorist—I will look like the adoring mother no one believes me to be. And I do look forward to the Christmas ornaments with their little faces on them, and something made out of their handprints on Mother’s Day, but all that crap in between goes right in the trash. Knucklehead Patrick certainly doesn’t care. I held up one of his lovely paint smears the other day and said, “oh look at this art you did for Mommy, can you tell me what it is?” He glanced up from the monster trucks he was crashing into each other with a blank stare of unrecognition, shrugged, and went back to crashing the trucks. So yeah, that one’s worth saving for a lifetime.

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Now that Amazing Grace is a bit older, I do have to be slightly more delicate with her, and thankfully the subjects of her work are significantly more recognizable. I look through it all, making the appropriate coos of praise, and then I shove it all into a cabinet until it’s been forgotten about. Eventually that cabinet starts looking like an episode of Hoarders, and I dump it all in the trash when she’s at school.

A few times she has caught her pictures in the trash and started wailing and carrying on, and I’ve had to just sit her down and explain the situation.

“Look here honey,” I say, “you are a fabulous artist, but I am just not saving every single thing you make. Period. So you need to look at your work and decide if this is really your very best work, and if it is then I will display it, but if it’s not then it has got to go and you can go work on something new.”

She mulls this over and decides that I am right (as always), this is not her best work, and tosses the picture in the trash. (Point for Queenie)

To prove to her that I will take her best work seriously, I have created this kids’ art wall to feature their most fabulous art. We are currently taking the term “fabulous” very loosely with Knucklehead, so as not to give his future therapist too much to work with right off the bat.

patrick's actual art

Remember friends, as brilliant and talented as your tiny Impressionists are right now, in 15 years you will not know what in the hell that picture was and why in the hell it is still taking up space in your house!

Related post: A Letter to My Children Concerning Their Artwork