At Least 70% Of Being A Parent Sucks

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kids-pouting-at-table Image via Shutterstock

Yesterday I coached a swim meet with three other coaches from my team.

One was Cool College Babysitter (CCB), and one was a father of three (FOT) who is about my age.

As I was standing on deck with the two of them, CCB, who is 22, asked both of us,

“What percentage, would you say, of being a parent sucks?”

I thought for a moment.

“At least 70%,” I told her.

“But not more than 97.5%,” answered the FOT.

“Yeah, see? I used to think I wanted kids, but now I’m not so sure,” she said.

And then FOT and I immediately responded with the But that 30 – 2.5%  percentage of non-sucking is totally worth it, blah, blah blah obligatory parent speech.

I was thinking about it last night.

I would like to revise my answer to be much more specific.

Being a parent is an endurance sport.

The most ultra of ultra marathons.

A super ultra marathon with no finish line.

It is physically, mentally, and emotionally grueling.

There are days where the countdown to bedtime starts before the kids have even woken up that morning.

Because there really are days where 97.5% of  being a parent sucks.

In fact, FOT was wrong.

There are days where 99.9% of being a parent sucks.

When your tiny little baby is screaming with no end in sight, for the seventeenth night in a row, it sucks.

When your two-year-old takes the world’s most disgusting crap, removes her diaper, smears shit all over the mudroom floor and her body with her own hands and then attempts to clean herself up with every single clean towel in the closet, being a parent sucks.

When you are seven minutes into your workout at the gym and someone from the babysitting room comes to find you because your kid has been screaming bloody murder for all seven of those minutes, being a parent sucks.

When you had one (or four) too many glasses of wine the night before and your kid wakes up an hour and half earlier than he normally does and won’t go the fuck back to sleep, being a parent sucks.

When you are trying to write a blog post and there is a kid trying to rip the mouse off of its cord and another one is repeatedly slamming a fucking action figure on every key on the keyboard, being a parent sucks.

When your kids have not yet developed that this feeling in my stomach means I am going to projectile vomit all over everything in less than 30 seconds awareness and they puke onto every unwashable item in your house and every crack, crevice and seatbelt buckle in your freshly detailed car, being a parent really fucking sucks.

When your teenager looks you directly in the face and tells you you are a bitch or that he fucking hates you or thatyou can’t tell me what to do, being a parent sucks.

When some motherfucker at school picks on your kid and there is nothing you can really do about it, being a parent sucks.

When your daughter gets her heart ripped out by a pathologically lying, cheating, manipulative, sociopathic douchebag, being a parent sucks.

When your kid is crippled by anxiety and has convinced himself that performing specific rituals is the only thing that will guarantee he gets home from school safely, and there is nothing you can do to immediately make him feel better, being a parent sucks. A lot.

When you are exhausted and haven’t showered in four days and you just can’t take it anymore and totally lose it and tell your kids to shut the fuck up! and then feel like a complete and total failure, being a parent sucks.

When you tell your 4-year-old to stop doing something and she looks directly at you, smiles, and does it again, being a parent sucks.

When, no matter how far apart you sit your kids in the car they still manage to touch each other and annoy the living shit out of each other, being a parent sucks.

When your fourteen-year-old was supposed to be home at 5:00 and at 6:00 he is still nowhere to be found, being a parent sucks.

When your kids lose the twenty-eighth pair of goggles, shove 5 DVD’s into the DVD player at once, and break the last remaining picture that you have hanging on the wall, being a parent sucks.

When your kid does that thing that your kid would never do, being a parent sucks.

And when you and your husband haven’t had sex in three weeks, and you have finally both managed to stay awake after 10:00, and you are 3 minutes into getting busy, and one of the kids breaks into the croupiest cough in the history of the world, being a parent totally sucks.

On the days when all of these things happen at once,

and there will be those days,

those are the days when you are nearing that 99.9% suckage point.

But even then, there is that .1%

That little kiss.

Holding a hand for 5 seconds.

Walking into their room and silently watching them sleeping peacefully.

Seeing the smile on their face when they accomplish something all by themselves.

Watching them cooperate and share and laugh.

Witnessing that game winning catch or that record being broken.

Experiencing a movie or a roller coaster or Disney World or Christmas through their unjaded and innocent eyes.

Hearing the unsolicited I love you, Mommy.

Or the genuine and sincere Thanks Mom.

On the days when all of these things happen at once,

and there will be those days,

those are the days that make you forget all about those ones that suck.

No matter what the percentage is.

Because the sucky days will outnumber the non-sucky ones.

But they won’t outweigh them.

And that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

Related post: Motherhood: The Big Fat Fuck You

Why You Should Invite Kids to Your Wedding

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little-boy-at-wedding Image via Shutterstock

My brother’s wedding was a beautiful affair. It was held in a historic park, and the reception dinner décor was breathtaking as you walked toward the opened barn doors revealing the floral centerpieces. The feeling of romance pulled me in instantly. It was at that moment, at the edge of the parking lot, where I felt that old familiar urge to run. Because in my arms was a 1-year-old who missed his afternoon nap, and at my side was a boy of four already refusing to leave the parking lot because it contained gravel and he wanted to throw it. I was dressed up for once, which felt nice, but I was anxious, nervous, and preparing for the worst.

And I was right. But as usual, I was also surprised, proud, and pleasantly amused by the result of a fancy night out with my boys. My thought that children and weddings may not be the best combination was changed by the end of the night as I walked out into the darkness still holding the one-year-old in my arms, with the boy of four, dirt faced and shirtless, following behind.

1. Because love is patient and kind, so keep it that way for a while.
Everyone who has been married has a unique experience on his or her special day. Although there are many traditions practiced time and time again, each one is done a little differently. During my brother’s wedding, they recited vows to one another that were very different from the norm and unique to them. It was a special moment. It took place outside on a gorgeous afternoon. It was completely perfect until I pulled the ultimate rookie mistake and reminded my son not to make any noise. He started talking at the top of his lungs immediately. I guess he decided that everyone remaining quiet was doing so because they were very interested in hearing what he had to say, particularly regarding what the “Angry Bird” music sounds like. My husband just grabbed him up and started walking. Between vows you could hear the cries and pleas of my son getting smaller and smaller in the distance begging, “Please, I am following the rules. I am a great listener. Put me down.”

I did what any mother would do. I turned and gave a nasty look in their direction and rolled my eyes along with the people who turned around to see the rude little boy. I pretended I didn’t know who the boy was and blended in with the crowd, secretly thinking in my head, “This is the best wedding present I could have brought.” Children truly are the gold at the end of the rainbow; you just may want to delay the rain dance for a while. A reminder to the happy couple that although kids are funny, they are also troublesome. And they should enjoy the moments they have without them before they are sharing their bed with a puking toddler and becoming experts at grabbing the chicken nugget mid-air in the restaurant before it smacks a guy in the face at the table behind them.

2. Because there’s no better day to begin practicing the art of dancing in the rain.
Weddings can be very expensive. The venue, the flowers, the band, and the list goes on and on. And adding children to the guest list can be a huge gamble, particularly because most are programmed to seek and destroy. My anxiety slowly eased after the ceremony once the mingling commenced.

But before I was able to make it to the bar for a drink, I watched in horror as I looked over to see my son holding onto the cigarette depot. To him, it looked like a tall tower and he swung around it like a maypole before I could get there and then I’m on the ground putting cigarette butts back into the container. But eventually the kids started running around and playing with each other. Everyone looked at them with smiles. Watching them all play and dance was mesmerizing, especially after a few vodka and cranberries.

Then, as I’m chatting it up with a family member, I look over to see my son chatting it up with the bar tender. I got closer, observing more than anything, to hear him saying, “I want two more of the soda called Diet Coke.” The bartender is laughing. I said, “Slow down there buddy, you may have to drive home.” After the bartender told me this was his third soda, we decided he should be given the rare pleasure of drinking a club soda. The boy was psyched. Needless to say, he never asked for another soda, but continued to provide amazing entertainment to the guests. The more I realized the pure hilarity of my son’s actions, the less I was less concerned about him ruining the event, and more with watching him work his magic.

3. Because marriage will never make you wealthy until you have something you can’t buy.
Even though we say it won’t happen to us, we inevitably lose touch with certain people after having children. As much as I didn’t intend for it to happen, I have become disconnected. As I watched people from my past interact with my kids, I just felt really good.

Weddings are a beautiful opportunity to connect and confront your past. It is a chance to dance and marvel at how much you love your family (who you now are convinced are complete lunatics). You hear stories about your past that you’ve never heard, and yes, after all this time I still have people tell me they can’t believe I have two kids because they remember when I was just a baby.

My son does not sit down easily, but once the cake was brought out he sat for at least 3 minutes and ate it. I can’t tell you how many people said to me, “Wow, he does sit,” or “You better take this opportunity while you can.” In a short time, people got my son. Even though I was concerned about what people would think, most commended him on his spirit. They wished they had his energy and tenacity. It was nice to hear, even if behind my back they said, “Damn, that girl is in for it with that one.” Regardless, it was nice to see people and introduce them to my boys, my proud contribution to the dysfunctional (yet functional) family started generations before me.

After the wedding was over, I caught myself reflecting on the night. The night I began by telling my husband he was going to have to take our son back to the cabin we were staying at because his behavior was too out of control. As usual, I was letting my anxiety get the best of me and I wasn’t giving my boy a fair chance.

I also thought about my wedding almost 8 years ago. I did not allow children to come. I was younger, didn’t know many people close to me with children, and I was afraid that if children came, their parents would want to leave early. Now, think I was wrong. Having the kids there made it perfect. After all, marriage and children are very similar. You have no idea what you are getting yourself into in the beginning, but the result is quite beautiful.

So, my advice? Include children at your wedding… also include a full bar.

5 Things You Should Know Before You Have Kids

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two-boys-hiding Image via Shutterstock

We know “what to expect when we’re expecting” … but then what about afterward? Is parenting harder because we don’t know what it’s actually like? Before parenthood, we can only speculate about what raising a child will entail – and usually, the idea and the actual experience are vastly different. Like how I once swore I’d only give my kids a perfect, healthy diet, yet now I find myself looking up things like “do pickles count as a vegetable?”

Parenthood is full of the unexpected. I thought about things I wish I had understood about having kids before I had kids. Things that might have brought me a little insight, a bit of clarity, made the journey a little easier. Things such as …

1. You’re not as knowledgeable about kids as you think you are. Before I was a parent, I smugly considered myself an expert on kids (I know … if I could time-travel, I’d slap me). I have more nieces and nephews than I can count on both hands. I started babysitting by the time I was ten. In college, I took child development and child psychology classes. I volunteered at the campus child care center, and after that, worked as a preschool teacher. Kids? Oh, yeah. I knew all about kids.

Only, I didn’t.

Books can tell you a lot. Babysitting can teach you how to change a diaper or mediate an argument over whose crayons are whose. But the experience of having your own child, whom you love with every fiber of your being, is completely different. You are acutely aware that every parenting decision you make can directly affect them for the rest of their lives. You are bombarded with advice from every angle – some decent, some ridiculous – and it’s your job to determine which is which. Throw in the worry, the pride, the frustration, the all-encompassing love, and the different personalities and circumstances of each individual child, and it’s like you’re playing  a ranked chess match while someone throws basketballs at your head. No matter how much you think you know, you have no freaking clue. Parenthood is largely trial-and-error; go in with flexibility and an open mind. You’re going to make mistakes, so allow yourself to feel okay about that, because everybody does it. And anyway, as you’ll find out …

cambouncer-1

2. They aren’t as fragile as the Internet makes them out to be. When my oldest was born, I hunched protectively over him at the slightest gust of wind. Hauled him to the pediatrician if he coughed. Eased him ever so gently into his crib and his car seat and his bath tub. Followed him around obsessively as he took his first steps so he wouldn’t bump into the coffee table.

By the time my fourth son came around, I brought him home from the hospital, plopped him into a beanbag on the living room floor, and let his brothers pummel him for about ten minutes while I laid on the couch staring tiredly at the ceiling. Okay, maybe not pummel, but they got all up in his face and poked at him a lot. And it was okay. He still loves them, and he’s not missing any eyes, so there’s that.

Horror stories abound on the Internet. Take them with a grain of salt (and stop Googling everything because that is the fastest route to a freakout). Relax and let your kids be kids and use your intuition. If you listen to your gut, it will tell you a lot more about what they need than any book or website.

You will miss your pre-parental life … and you will feel guilty about it. It will happen when you’re elbow-deep in baby poop and knee-deep in toys and your childless friend calls up like, “Oh yeah, I just left the salon and now I’m heading to dinner and then we’ll probably hit the club after that. Give me a call tomorrow. Oh but not too early because I’m planning to sleep in.” You’ll look at your poopy, cluttered surroundings with the Dora theme song playing in the background, and you’ll want to cry because you wish you were somewhere – anywhere! – else. And then, like a knife twisting in your heart, you’ll feel like crap because oh my gosh what kind of terrible parent am I?!

News flash: it’s okay to miss those things. It’s normal to miss those things. You can love your kids and want to be away from them at the same time. And trust me, no matter how much you love the little darlings, you’ll fantasize about doing things by yourself again. Because …

Kids can be dictators and jerks. You’d never work for a boss who woke you up in the middle of the night with ridiculous requests, or demanded that you shape your personal life around his schedule. If he asked you to wipe his ass or threw his lunch all over the room and expected you to clean it up, that’d be a deal-breaker. Yet that’s basically what you do as a parent. Thank goodness you adore your kids, because they can be like tiny little tyrants. You will find yourself, for example, frantically searching for things – no, the red cup! – nooooo,the red cup with the picture of Mickey Mouse! – Nooooo, not milk, juiiiiice! – while your own breakfast scorches in the skillet. Oh, and also?

3. You will go without things you never currently go without.I’m not saying you should neglect yourself for your kids’ sake. In fact, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself, because a happy mom is a happy household. BUT. If you’re used to weekly manis and pedis, or getting your hair trimmed religiously every six weeks, or regular massages, or buying a bunch of new clothes every season … you might want to realize that kids are freaking expensive. And unless you are rolling in expendable income, your “me” budget will dwindle to virtually nothing because of stuff like bills from the pediatrician, school lunches, clothes and shoes and backpacks that will keep wearing out, and the “whatever-toy-is-currently-being-shown-on-TV-a-million-times-a-day” that they just have to have.

Case in point: the photo you see here.

These are my actual shoes. That is a hole big enough to stick my finger through. The hole appeared four months ago, yet I still wear the shoes three times a week when I teach Zumba. If you’re wondering why I haven’t just gotten new shoes, re-read the previous paragraph. And then read this: kids. Are. Not. Cheap.

4. Nobody cares as much about your kids as you do and it will piss you off. I distinctly remember my first experience with this phenomenon: my first son was about six months old and had just learned to wave. We’d go to the grocery store, and he’d wave at everyone he saw. Sometimes, people waved back – but other times, they’d just look at him and walk on. And I wanted to be like, “He’s waving at you, you big jerk!” I mean, how could you be waved at by an adorable baby and not even bother to wave back? Ugh.

There are entire websites devoted to ridiculing parents who talk about their kids too much. The sad but harsh truth is, no one will ever think your child is as cute or as smart or as witty or as amazing as you do. The only exception: their other parent, and their grandparents, and maybe their aunts and uncles if you’re lucky. Find one of these people to brag to when Junior chooses peas over pudding or uses the toilet for the first time – because even though you’ll want to shout it from the rooftops, other people don’t care, and it will make you feel disappointed inside.

5. Your tolerance for grossness will increase because it absolutely has to. So you’re a little squeamish? Don’t worry – because having children is the best remedy. Being squeamish isn’t an option, and parenthood is like a crash course in getting used to disgusting things. Luckily it starts out with smaller, easier-to-manage messes: the occasional newborn diaper blowout, a little spit-up here and there, some drool. By the time you get a few months of practice with the rookie-level grossness, your child gets older and ups the ante with man-sized dumps, and vomit (which, until they learn to sprint to the toilet, means that you get to clean it off of beds, out of couch cushions, your hair, or wherever), and six-inch smears of snot on the thigh of your pants. They’ll play in their poop.

They’ll urinate in weird places (such as inside a water gun, which they will then stash in the corner of their closet for a month until the pee turns rancid and you make a most unpleasant discovery when you tip it over onto your foot). They’ll bring you boogers the size of Brazil (or just wipe them on the wall). When they get older, they will come crying to you with blood-dripping injuries – but by that time, you’ll be such a seasoned pro that the first thing out of your mouth will be, “Don’t bleed on the carpet!”

By nature, parenthood is surprising – and this is just the tip of the iceberg of things you’ll discover when it happens to you. But I figure the more we can take the mystery out of it, the better equipped new parents will be to handle the challenges their kids throw at them.

… Until you spill a water gun full of rancid pee on your foot. Nothing can really prepare you for that.

Trust me.

Related post: Everything I Learned About Parenting (But You’ll Have to Discover Yourself) 

You Are Not Keeping This Baby

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teenage-girl-pregnant

“You are NOT keeping this baby,” I told her.

My 20-year-old daughter steeled her gaze at me. The battle of wills had begun.

This was not Zoe’s first trip around the playground.

Two years earlier, at age 18, she had given birth to her first child, a son, whom she placed for adoption. I cried all the way home from the hospital. Zoe plunked down on our living room couch and remained there for weeks, recovering from a C-section and sleeping to forget her pain.

With this pregnancy, Zoe joyfully announced her “big news” and immediately began choosing baby names. Her two younger sisters’ mouths hung open in shock and disgust. Her well-meaning roommate declared she would help raise the baby when she wasn’t working. Or sleeping off a hang over. Three months later, she helped kicked Zoe out of the apartment they shared with four creepy friends. So much for that plan.

From creepy apartmentville, Zoe lived at my in-law’s house for a few months, then landed a spot at a homeless shelter for pregnant women and their children in the city. The shelter touted itself as a “boot camp for pregnant women”. It was clean, and safe, but crowded and loud. Zoe was “asked to leave” just weeks from her due date, for not following the rules.

“Well, that doesn’t surprise me,” I wanted to snap. But, I bit my tongue.

Zoe cried quietly into the phone.

But, for the past seven months, I had watched this oldest child of mine persevere despite the odds. With quiet courage, she had gotten herself some maternity clothes, gotten on Medicaid, and made it to every pre-natal doctor’s appointment. She attended parenting classes at the shelter, and kept the handouts organized in a notebook. She had started collecting personal care items, free diapers, anything she felt she or the baby would need. And, for the first time ever, she had begun asking for help when she needed it, and showing gratitude when she received it.

I listened to her cry, and sensed her fear, her weariness, her hormones. Her need for a mother.

“You’ll be okay,” I told her.

Evie Lynn was born Monday morning, August 12, 2013, at 10:30AM She weighed 8 pounds, two ounces, and was 20 inches long. She was healthy, and pink, and came with a strong pair of lungs. I fell immediately in love.

I brightened Zoe’s hospital room with balloons, and slept on the couch until she was discharged. When it was time, I drove her and Evie home, and helped her give her newborn baby her first bath.

Today, Zoe is a single parent, attending weekly counseling sessions, and gratefully receiving some government aid as she works hard to gain solid footing in her life. She plans to attend cosmetology school. She is a loving, capable, protective mother.

They say it takes a child to raise a responsible adult. I’m privileged to have witnessed this truth.

Related post: Yes, I Bought Condoms For My Son