I recently read that parents are so busy these days that some are beginning to outsource a few of the most challenging and time-consuming parental tasks. You can actually hire an expert to potty train your child or end a pesky thumb-sucking problem. This got me thinking: if I could have outsourced any parental duties, which would I have chosen? Here are the ones that make the top of my list:
1. Shoe Tying: Don’t be fooled by the “bunny ears” trick or the cute rhymes, this seemingly innocent skill is not as simple as it appears. Just when you think your child has figured it out, she overcommits to the loop and unravels it all, and you’re back to square one for the 306th time. I even bought one of those boards with a picture of a shoe on it and real laces to “practice” on. What was I thinking? How is that different from a real shoe? Unless it comes with a cardboard cutout of a mom with a smile plastered on her face to sub for me, it’s not going to help. Oh, and don’t think you can convince your kids that velcro Elmo light-up sneakers are cool just to avoid laces. By 6th grade they will figure out that you are lying to them. Trust me, I tried.
2. Bike riding: Nobody told me that you need to be in peak physical condition before teaching a 5-year-old how to ride a bike. I’ve been a runner for years, but nothing prepared me physically or mentally for the grueling demands of supporting the dead weight of a 40 pound child on a 25 pound bike while running awkwardly, holding him upright and yelling supportive comments as he screamed I CAN’T DO IT in my ear. In fact, when somebody tells me they recently completed a triathlon I respond, “Oh really? Because I taught two kids how to ride a bike.” It always shuts them down.
3. Sex Education: In many cases, this is automatically outsourced to the 5th graders on the elementary school bus. Recently my 4th grader came home and informed me she had been fully educated by a group of helpful neighborhood boys. Of course I was horrified, but then I thought, “Whew, check that one off my list!” Ultimately I realized I better do a quick review to make sure they had covered all the details (it’s a short bus ride). For the most part the information they shared was correct, except for the part about the belly button. As most of us know, the belly button is rarely involved in sex (unless you’ve had too much to drink). Guess you can’t trust 11-year-olds to get everything right. Thanks for nothing, Henry from one street over.
4. Telling time: With iPhones and digital clocks, I wonder if telling time on an analog clock is even relevant to kids anymore. I guess it’s still an important skill to learn (for the two times in their lives when they will be naked in the desert without cellphone coverage). Learning to tell time in our house went something like this:
8-year-old: “So it’s 10:09?”Me: “No, it’s 10:45; or quarter ‘til 11.8-year-old: I thought a quarter was worth 25?Me: Yes, I know ‘quarter’ means 25 cents with money, but now it means 15 minutes. It’s like a pie, divided four ways…8-year-old: Can we have pie for dinner?Me:
5. Standing in line: This specifically applies to long lines at amusement parks. Even more so when the purpose of the line is to get an autograph from a person who is dressed up like a cartoon character. I hate to ruin the magic here, but am I the only one in this line who’s aware that this 23-year-old has done nothing noteworthy other than put on a Jasmine costume? There really should be body doubles who will stand in line while parents chillax at Mickey’s La Cava del Tequila.
6. Using a steak knife: Because they’re knives… that cut through steak. What could possibly go wrong? I’ve decided it’s much safer to teach our kids to pick up the entire steak with a fork and eat it Fred Flintstone style. Just kidding. (Sort of.)
7. Reviewing math facts: It feels like we’ve been reviewing math facts in our house for 18 years, and we only have two kids. Clearly I must be doing something wrong. Here’s a typical session:
Me: OK, so 9 x 4 is 36. So let’s review: what’s 9 x 4?9-year-old: 48?Me: So close. It’s 36. Good try. Keep it up…only 56 more flash cards to go!And then, just when they start to master the basics, you realize they need to learn them in reverse order.Me: What’s 4 x 9?9-year-old: 48?Me: Yes. I’m tired, so for tonight, it’s 48.
8. Swimming: I tried to teach my kids the basics of swimming and it sounded like we were starring in the aquatic version of Dancing with the Stars: “Bend your arms, but keep your legs straight. Now move everything together while holding your breath. Let out a little air, but not too much. Move your arms! Don’t forget to kick! Blow bubbles! Hold your breath! Why aren’t you doing what I said?” Oh, that’s right, you can’t hear me because your head is under water.
And the one duty I will absolutely outsource when the time comes….
9. Driving: Thankfully there are Drivers Ed classes, but what about the “permit” period when we are supposed to review their freshly minted “skillz”? I’m not sure I want to be in the passenger seat when a 110 pound person is operating a 3,000 pound vehicle. Especially when she says things like “totes adorbs” and occasionally still watches the Disney channel. I’m handing this one over to my husband. Let me know when you’ve learned to merge onto the highway at rush hour. Text me some photos. But not while you’re driving. Suddenly math facts aren’t looking so bad.
Of course all childhood achievements are pretty awesome, and it feels great knowing we helped our kids reach them. So I’m actually glad I didn’t outsource anything. I just wish we could outsource the bad backs, the blistered hands, the scars, the wine habit and the chronic headaches that come with them. Actually, I’ll hold on to the wine habit. Let’s not get crazy.
Related post: 10 Futile Tasks That All Parents Keep Doing Anyway
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