There are very few absolutes can apply to everyone when it comes to parenting. Or maybe I just haven’t been a parent long enough to discover more than a few, like the fact that you can put a toddler on the potty, but you can’t make them go. The internet is full of people listing things that are FOR SURE THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH about darn near anything out there. It seems to me that one of the fastest ways to be proven wrong about something is to state it as fact to a large audience.
So, the following list would most aptly be titled ‘Things I Have Found To Be True About Parenting, But Which May Not Be True For Anyone Else.’ Since that isn’t all that catchy, I’ll go with:
Ten Things Parenting Has Taught Me:
1. Coffee and children are better when nobody else is around. The coffee gets to be finished off before it goes cold and the children save their worst behavior for public outings because that’s just how the universe works. That’s also why you should drink coffee alone in the mornings before anyone else is around—especially if you have any outings planned with the kids.
2. When considering how much it costs to raise children—it would be wise to factor in $1 million for reusable water bottles and hair accessories. I’m pretty sure we have purchased enough of both to keep the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team hydrated and the hair out of their faces for their next four World Cup runs. I don’t know anybody who knows what happens to the sports bottles and the hair thingys—my theory is that they’re with the missing socks.
3. It’s better for your dignity to consider owning a toy that has been pulled from your outdoor garbage can a parenting rite of passage. You’ll think you’ve adequately covered all the toys you purged from the playroom—but something with batteries will give you away. When your kid hears it, you have only one option: retrieve the toy as fast as possible without them seeing the other toys you’ve trashed and blame your spouse for accidentally throwing it away. This works with the mounds of school ‘artwork’ they manage to find under damp paper towels in the kitchen garbage as well. The first rule of tossing toys is never admit to tossing toys. The second rule is to always remove the batteries and take the garbage can to the street immediately.
4. Unless you’re one of those people who makes pie on March 14th, also known as Pi Day, then there will probably come a point when you are no longer able to help your kids with their math homework. This is when you say, ‘You’re going to have to figure it out on your own. I’ve already been through school and this is your responsibility.’ If you’re lucky, they’ll make it through middle school before they figure out you’re just covering for a complete and total reliance on calculators and Google.
5. Your relationships could be tested in the most unexpected ways. For almost 10 years my children believed that the only option available when you had strep throat was to get the penicillin shot. The pediatrician and I had a deal—he didn’t mention the oral antibiotics I would have to remember twice a day for two weeks and I kept my kid from kicking the nurse administering the shot. And then my husband ruined everything faster than you can say ‘bubblegum amoxicillin.’ We were out of town and Percy took our oldest to the doctor without explaining ‘the arrangement’ and now my kids are at risk of their strep throat turning into rheumatic fever because who can remember medicine twice a day every single day?? Whenever I think I have forgiven him for this transgression—somebody gets strep throat again.
6. It has been my experience that there are few drivers on the road more dangerous than a parent with kids in the car. Legislators can outlaw using your phone and create apps for blocking texts and calls all they want, but until soundproof, privacy barriers are required by law in the same way that infant car seats are—the roads are not as safe as you may believe them to be. I am convinced that sibling warfare, sudden stomach virus outbreaks, and a newly potty-trained toddler saying, ‘I need to go potty,’ have worn out more pairs of brake pads than 5 o’clock traffic on I-55 North.
7. You can be the kindest of parents who chooses the gentlest of ways to speak to your children—but sooner or later you’ll probably say, ‘You do not want to be the kid with stinky breath—go brush your teeth again and this time use toothpaste!’ You can talk to them about how you should always be kind to everyone, even if they have stinky breath, and how we don’t talk about other people’s hygiene later to make up for it.
8. Reserve all judgment for the cleanliness of other people’s homes until your child has reached the stage of crawling. If they make it to walking without you having to retrieve at least 10 life-threatening objects from their mouths, then you can think snarky thoughts about how often Karen must vacuum. But parenting karma is real, so don’t be surprised if Karen’s kid is the one your kid decides to bite at Mother’s Morning Out. Karen may have messy floors but nobody is whispering behind their hands about her kid being ‘the biter’ in the class.
9. The five minutes it takes my husband to change clothes when he gets home from work are the longest two hours of the day. I don’t need anyone to explain that it’s only 300 seconds, because my heart and my sanity know that these are not normal seconds. They are the kind of seconds that take eons and last long enough for mothers to make horrible decisions and say terrible things like, ‘Sure—you can get the Christmas decorations boxes out. Have at it.’ Or, ‘Fine, even though I’ve said no the first one thousand times you’ve asked for Cheez-its before supper—I’ll say yes this time. Just use a bowl.’ Or possibly, ‘Yes, we can make slime after supper.’ Things happen during those post-5 p.m. five minutes that just don’t usually happen. (Side Note: The only instance when the passage of time might rival these five minutes is after a toddler says, ‘I do it myself.’)
10. There are few things more hilarious than a kid trying to learn how to wink.
Elizabeth Quinn makes her home in Northeast Jackson with her husband Percy and four children.