Once upon a time, I didn’t have children. So, naturally, the idea of having children was that kids are simply an addition to one’s current lifestyle, like a house plant. You did not adapt to your child. Your child adapted to you. Then, I had kids. We no longer have houseplants. They succumbed long ago to the pressures of daily life around here, because if you can’t yell for what you need, you don’t get attention (squeaky wheel and all that).
After I became a parent, I swallowed my pride and made a lot of phone calls to friends, apologizing for not being more patient or understanding. Here are a few examples of things I used to say to people and what I know now that I have kids of my own:
1. Why don’t you ever answer the phone?
Because the second I pick up the phone, I have kids materializing out of nowhere asking for help, telling me a story, tattling on someone, or chewing on my pant leg. If I set the phone down, they all scatter like ants in mismatched pajamas, never to be seen again—until I try to make another phone call.
2. Can’t you just bring her with you?
Yes, if you want to…
a) watch us spend five minutes unloading, come inside, unpack, have an epic meltdown because it’s nap time, pack up, load back into the car, and go home only 15 minutes after we’ve arrived.
b) talk to yourself for an hour while I chase my toddler around Starbucks.
c) be continuously interrupted, because my toddler has to tell you, “Hi,” after every third word you say.
d) All of the above.
3. Why don’t you ever visit anymore?
It’s just easier to stay in my house—my bubble, prison, circle of safety, insane asylum, whatever the kids are calling it these days. I rely heavily on our schedule and our routine for my sanity, so much that I will get thrown out of whack if we are off by even 10 minutes and the very fabric of the universe will tear into little bits and shreds that will be strewn all over my house just like the toilet paper.
4. Can’t you just get a sitter?
You say that like I can just run into Target and pluck one off the shelf. Not only is it amazingly difficult to find a sitter for three children, but it’s also difficult to find one who’s smarter than my children.
5. You’re so different these days.
It’s called Stockholm syndrome.
6. Why don’t we ever hang out like we used to?
Because I have kids, and they won’t let me.
7. What’s so hard about kids that your entire social life has become this complicated thing that requires me to make an appointment to see you?
Parenting is a lot like walking and talking while rubbing your stomach and patting your head. Only instead of it being your head, you are trying to pat a child’s head, who also happens to be running after the cat with a pair of safety scissors. Also, you’re holding snacks, dirty diapers, four Sippy cups, possibly another child, and a phone that won’t quit ringing because you won’t stop calling.
8. Can I come over when your kids are napping?
No. 90% of parenting toddlers is dreaming of being alone.
9. What do you mean 7 p.m. is too late to go out?
7 p.m. is bedtime in my house. It is also the beginning of my quiet time. I do not wish to spend my quiet time at a bar or restaurant. I already ate off my children’s plates at 5 p.m., and I want to lie in bed and watch Shark Tank until my eyes glaze over, doing absolutely nothing but marvel at the fact that I do not need to be doing anything—before I have to do it all over again tomorrow.
10. Call me back in 10 minutes, OK?
If by “10 minutes” you mean in 5 to 12 weeks…possibly. Depends on how close to 7 p.m. it is and if my kids hear me pick up my phone.
So, for all my friends with kids, I’m sorry I was such a jackass back then. To all my friends with no kids, who constantly ask me the questions above, consider yourself answered and don’t forget to water your house plants. I’ll call you in “10 minutes.”