I think one prerequisite of parenthood, or maybe it is just a highly developed coping mechanism, is the ability to stay sane despite the many opportunities provided throughout your child‘s lifetime to totally lose your mind.
There are those early years where lack of sleeps, toxic diaper changes, midnight feedings, and the incessant cries for food, diaper changes, snuggles, binkies, illness (that many claim to be able to distinguish from each other, but I feel is really just a crock of bull to make them feel like they are doing a great job despite their novice parenting status), give the words “Calgon take me away” whole new meaning.
Then those cute little motionless beings start to walk, talk and develop thoughts and feelings all their own, and you are banging your head against the wall for the umpteeth time after hearing yourself say to your toddler once again, “Listen you, I’m the mom. You can’t boss ME around,” and you begin to wonder how you couldn have gone so wrong in just a few short years.
Next comes the school years, Yippee, when you get six hours of freedom to cook, clean, do laundry, organize toys, clean out closets and dressers overflowing with outgrown clothes, buy groceries, donate to goodwill, volunteer in the library, bake your famous chocolate cupcakes with vanilla Coolwhip frosting for the class party, attend the biannual music concerts crying as your second grader sings “Frosty the Snowman” and cringing as the school band sadly struggles through a unrecognizable rendition of “The Harry Potter” theme song. And that all takes place between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. before the kids come home. Then there’s homework, dinner, soccer practice, dance rehearsals, guitar lessons and tutoring to attend to. During these years your walls are filled with giant Mommy calendars filled with multicolored activities penned in, penciled in, crossed out, written over, and rescheduled. Your cell phone alert dings constantly reminding you of the dentist appointment you forgot, the pediatrician appointment to be scheduled, the medication refill to be picked up and the carpool to be driven after school. Weekends are spent in and out of the minivan or SUV as you shuttle kids and friends to various basketball games, ski meets, bowling leagues, choral rehearsals and birthday parties, and date nights with your spouse or significant other are virtually non-existent. And this schedule only applies to the approximate 5.6 million moms (according to a 2004 estimate) who choose to or are are able to stay home with their children. These things still have to get done sometime even when you are one of the 33 % of women with children under 5 in the workforce and the nearly 80 % of mothers who make up the work force by the time their youngest is 12 or older. It’s a wonder hospital wards are not equipped with a specific section of the psych ward that merely has a sign on the front door that says, “Are you a mother? Enough said. Come on in!”
Now my husband and I are smack dab in the middle of the preteen/teenage years, and these seem to be some of the best times for screwing with the parental mindset. We are often heard asking the question “Who didn’t put away the cereal this morning?”, which is met with the blank stares of three children who still have the remnants of Cocoa Puffs lingering on their lips, while the hint of chocolate milk dribbles down their chin, followed by three “Not Me”s. Perhaps those cereal gremlins are at it again and planning a coup along with the same creatures who take finished homework from the homework folder, or steal clean sports uniforms and throw them back in the hamper. If you are a parent of a preteen or teenager perhaps your morning are met with a child whose voice raises in response to ANY morning question ten octaves and the tempo increases to triple time, or the child who merely greets your “Good mornings” with the narrowing of his eyebrows and a low grunt, so that communication is absolutely impossible, and regardless of your attempts to maintain a structured a.m. schedule, your children are still late to school at least three mornings a week. Or maybe you’ve had those conversations with a child who tells you he has no homework, but is then running downstairs after he’s already been tucked in bed for the night to “just print a map he needs for school,” never mentioning that the reason he needs it is because he forgot to study for the Northeast map test scheduled for early the next morning. My favorite “put a parent over the edge” type of interaction with my kids are the multiple conversations with my almost-13-year-old daughter where she is short, and snotty, and meets me with the expression and tone of someone who would love to be anywhere else than engaged in a verbal exchange with her mother, where she tells me I’m wrong and that she didn’t snap at me just moments before, even though I have taken to recording it just so I can prove to myself that I’m not, in fact, entering into the beginning phases of Alzheimer’s.
For those of you who are more skilled at maintaining your composure, sanity and mind during the many perils of parenthood threatening the utter and complete upheaval from everything you have ever known, congrats! Bottle whatever it is that is making it work and patent it quickly. For those more like me who require constant check-ins with a therapist, healer, psychic, naturopath, friend, family member, the department of social services, teachers etc. etc. to ensure that I haven’t tipped the scales more in the direction of CRAZY … there are these great oversized wineglasses compliments of Pier 1 just waiting to be filled at the end of each day. Cheers.