March 31, 2011

Lessons I've Learned From My Children

I've been a parent for 12 years now and I am proud to say that I have actually learned something from my children. In an effort to help those who may not be as far along in the whole parenting thing as I am, I thought I would share those life lessons my children have been so good as to impart upon me.

Lesson #1: No One Will Die From Eating Food Off The Floor Yeah, I know, the 5 Second Rule kinda grosses me out, too, and I'm not saying I'm about to serve up dinner on my linoleum (although it would make cleanup a lot easier) but I've seen my kids eat any variety of foods off some pretty questionable surfaces and none of the little minions has gotten sick. Yet. With the first kid you're the germ police, watching your little angel every second to make sure he doesn't accidentally touch any public surfaces for fear of contracting E.coli. By the time the 3rd one comes around, you're willing to let them eat the ice cream that dropped on the carpet in the minivan as long as they pick off the chunks first because that means a happy kid--which in turn means a happy mommy. (Um, true story. Happened last night.)

Lesson #2: Man Truly Can Survive On Bread Alone Or in our case, PBJ and tomato soup. For 2 years straight, Howdy ate the exact same thing for lunch--PBJ and apple slices. Bubba's menu consists of things that are tomato or cheese based. That includes cheese pizza, quesadillas, tomato soup, and ketchup but does NOT include fruit, veggies, pasta, or any meat that he can actually see (i.e. anything not breaded). Despite the lack of a balanced diet, they are growing and developing just fine.

Lesson #3: Whatever Behavior You Are Hoping For, Plan For The Opposite Need the kids to mellow for Grandma? Forget it. You can guarantee they will be wired and crawling up the walls. Want Daddy to see what rotten brats you've been having to deal with all day and therefore were unable to get anything done around the house? I promise that will be the day they finally choose to do their chores without being screamed at. Want to surprise them with a day at the park? They will whine that they can't stand to be outside because there might be "buuu-uugs". My advice? Keep a camera recording 24/7 so that way you will have hard evidence that they really are the angels/devils you keep telling everyone about.

Lesson #4: Mom May Have Known What She Was Talking About I know, I know, it's a hard pill to swallow. What do we all say when we're growing up? "I will never be like my mother." And then one day we find ourselves at the end of our patience with children who keep asking "Why? Why? Why?" and then we burst out with a most eloquent, "Because I said so!" And you know what? It works. The pestering stops temporarily. Pretty soon we find ourselves saying things like:
"Were you born in a barn?"
"If your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you jump, too?"
"Keep making that face and it will freeze that way."
"You want me to give you something to cry about?"
And my personal favorite:
"Don't make me come over there!"
We tout the struggles of the starving children in Africa who would be grateful to eat the vegetables being served with dinner and we warn our children of the dangers of sitting too close to the television. Then one day, we hear ourselves yelling, "If I have to tell you ONE MORE time...!" and in the silence that follows we hear our mothers' voices echoing back to us. Could it be that our mothers may have actually known what they were doing when they were raising us? I mean, we turned out alright, didn't we? And the next time she offers us parenting advice, maybe we actually listen instead of dismissing it outright.

Lesson 5: Their Imaginations Are Endless In this day and age of electronics saturation, this is a hard lesson to learn only because it doesn't always present itself. It's only been in the last 2 years or so that my children have had video game players. They actually had to depend on other ways to entertain themselves. This included dressing up, drawing, listening to music and (gasp!) reading. I remember one day Howdy and Sassy came tearing through the kitchen and down the stairs yelling "Avalanche!" the whole way. Luckily, they managed to unbury themselves and hike back up to the top of the mountain for another go at it. Before we had a DS, the kids would play on imaginary video games in the car.
"What are you playing?"
"I'm playing Spider Man, how 'bout you?"
"I'm playing Star Wars and man, I'm winning!"
"Cool!"
They can imagine any sort of game or scenario to keep themselves entertained. It's harder nowadays since they've come to depend on their video games so much but the ability to weave together a complex story involving aliens or battle droids or even a family of kittens out of thin air still exists.

There are many other lessons I've learned from my kids over the years such as keep a clean diaper very close when changing a baby boy, kids are more likely to eat new foods if they're dipped in ketchup, and no matter how many good lessons you impart on your children, they will always remember the one time you lost your marbles and said that word that should never be repeated. And they will repeat it. In front of your mother-in-law. I know, it's not always easy and sometimes it's tempting to throw in the towel and let them delve into Lord of the Flies territory. That's when it's good to step back and remember that although it's our job to teach our children, we can learn just as much from them.