This was written in response to an e-mail I received regarding my newspaper columns:
This past week I received a very helpful letter from a well-intentioned reader. After reading about all of my children’s shenanigans, she thought I might need some help in getting them to “toe the line.” While looking through all of her tips, I realized it was entirely possible she had completely missed the point of my column. So here it is…
I don’t think that anyone would dispute that raising kids is the hardest job on the planet, and I am attempting to encourage other parents who are in the trenches of parenthood doing their very best to keep their kids out of juvie. I could tell you about all the good days we have, how perfect my kids are and what a good mother I am… but who would that help? It might make me look better, but I’m not perfect and neither are my kids.
Most of the incidents I describe are a very short snippet of our lives and I rarely write about what is mundane and boring, i.e. good behavior. Who wants to read “Today we got up, ate a high fiber breakfast, took naps, everyone was great, The End?” Anyone can enjoy those moments on their own– I know I do. It’s the stuff that makes you want to pull your hair out in your own home that you can ONLY laugh about when you realize someone else is going through the exact same thing.
For example, last Thursday I took all three of my kids to the pediatrician’s office for well child check-ups. Everyone was on their very best behavior as we waited to be seen and I actually had a few moments of self-satisfied gloating, as they sat quietly and gazed into the fish tank.
They started getting restless once we got to the exam room, but things were still manageable, until Aubrey heard someone say “vaccine.”
“Momma! Am I getting a shot?” She asked.
“No, you aren’t.” I muttered.
“Oooo! Emma! You’re getting shots!”
Emma, my 4-year-old, spent the next hour crying in anticipation while Sadie, 20-months-old, literally rolled around on the floor and refused to keep her shoes on her feet. I was singing songs and doing my best to distract Emma, while trying to keep Sadie off of the floor and Aubrey’s mouth shut.
We were all sent to the restroom to collect a urine sample from Emma. The bathroom door wouldn’t lock from the inside, so I began playing Mommy Twister by holding the door shut with my right foot and lunging towards the toilet with my left foot. My left hand was in the toilet holding the specimen cup and I was using my right arm to counter balance and attempt to keep Sadie off of the bathroom floor.
Aubrey yelled, “Momma! She’s gonna pee on your hand!”
Emma couldn’t pee with all the distractions in the tiny room and Sadie knocked the huge metal garbage can out of the wall and onto the tiled floor with a BANG that rattled my teeth and the foundations of the building.
I threw the cup in the trash when my right leg started cramping and shook my head at the nurse waiting for us outside the door.
I wished there was a parenting book I could pick up to know the best way to pull Emma out from under the exam table and hold her down to get her four shots, but even a bachelor’s degree in nursing failed me there. I tried calmly explaining the situation to her, but it seemed she really didn’t if she could contract Hepatitis or the measles without vaccines.
I was cooking dinner for my family later that evening, my husband had a late night business meeting and I had to go to preschool orientation for our two youngest so we were eating in shifts. Sadie, who had been using the potty all week long, chose that moment to take her diaper off and poop on the floor. It looked like somebody had dropped their ice–cream cone, except it wasn’t Rocky Road sticking up 90 degrees off of my kitchen floor.
I turned the stove off and picked her up, right as she grabbed her tiny butt then rubbed her eyes. I was headed for the bathtub when I received a text from my babysitter saying she wasn’t going to be able to make it… ten minutes before she was supposed to be at my house. I was ready to introduce some adult language to my children, but I bit my tongue and called my husband to let him know he would be coming home for a few minutes.
I ran to the school, filled out forms, smiled at other parents, met teachers and tried not to let my crazy show. I screeched into the driveway to trade places with my husband who was playing in the yard with the kids, including the one I had already bathed. Sadie was strutting around the yard barefoot and covered in insect repellant, which on any other day would have been no big deal. But Zeb was about to leave and I was going to have to bathe her again to keep her from having an eczema breakout. So I did what any supermom would do, I cried.
If you want advice on how to raise your kids, there are plenty of books out there– I’ve read stacks of them. I am a humor columnist, not a parenting expert and while I am imperfect, I’m not the least bit afraid of disciplining my children in the bread aisle at Wal-Mart or sharing my downfalls with you. My kids act like kids and I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world. If you want to learn, go buy a parenting book. Want to laugh? Just stick around.