Politics and parenting have one thing in common: they bring out the crazy in everyone. Both tend to produce rigid and self-righteous thinking even among friends. We need to remember that parenting is a hard gig and as many people have reminded me over the years, seriously lacking in concrete instruction.
I thought having a degree in Child Development and Family Studies from a distinguished university would guarantee that my children wouldn’t bite (they did), suck their thumb (ditto), fight, hit, have anger issues, special needs, allergies, or struggle in school. Are we all chuckling yet?
Being a mother of four children has allowed me to practice traits and qualities I never thought I could develop: patience, the ability to function on little sleep, patience, charity, patience, but most importantly, the ability to empathize with other parents who at the snapshot moment I see them, might be struggling.
Years ago, I took my two oldest (then 6 and 3) to the dentist and showed a major lack of judgment by taking our third child (then 18 months) during her naptime—total rookie mistake.
As my two oldest returned with the hygienist and their little treat bags, the toddler instantly grabbed the bag while screaming “MINE, MINE, MINE, MINE!!!!” growling like some hyena guarding its bloody gazelle from anyone who dared to come near.
I was tempted to run in the back, slyly pass the hygienist a Lincoln like the Mommy Mafia that I am and grab a third bag to end everyone’s misery. During the checkout process, little loud Miney opened her loud mouth again as the receptionist handed the two patients gold coins to cash in at an oversized gumball machine filled with plastic-cased Wonder and Merriment. Whereupon a chorus of “That’s MINE! “SHE TOOK IT!” and “AUGGHHHALDKFJASLJ” bounced off the mauve wallpaper.
While the heavenly disharmony behind me made me want to run and beg for a root-canal, the receptionist tapped her manicured nails, impatiently waiting for me to pick a date 6 months from now to bring these hooligans back.
The girl, who looked to be around 20 years old, wore size two fancy pants, was unmistakably tan in the dead of winter and had zippo sympathy for me; the gray-roots showing harried lady, size twelve pants with pasty white Tasmanians running amok in the waiting area.
There was no smile, no comment, no nada. I finally gave up, said I’d call back to schedule and started to herd them into coats, hats, mittens, gloves and straightjackets while growling at them to stop hitting the handicapped door button over and over and over.
We started to escape when I realized I was missing the wild toddler. I turned to look for her and as if my life was a sitcom, the entire waiting room with twelve people, on cue and in unison, pointed to where she sat looking at an article entitled, “How I Drove my Mother to the Edge in Six Short Weeks and You Can Too!” I nodded at the helpful crowd, whispered “Thank You”, and back out with my mother ego in deflate mode.
When I look back now at “My Life: The Sitcom” replay, I laugh, but then I was thinking the whole way home:
1) Why do I have so many children?
B) Why did I bring them all today?
Tres) What am I doing wrong that they can single-handedly entertain an entire waiting room while providing endorsements for birth control?
It is hard to believe that since then we have added one more munchkin (who is now eight) while our oldest is cresting the hill of high school and we still provide much entertainment to all who linger near us.
I secretly hope that size two fancy pants receptionist has since been “blessed” with wild and crazy quadruplets who have colic and are allergic to everything under the sun.
Now, I don’t mean to be ugly, but I really hope one day that she experiences the craziness, wonder and merriment that parenthood can bring. The miracle is that even when they embarrass you and turn an entire waiting room into a court room, you still love them. You still kiss them good night and pray tomorrow you’ll handle it all a little better and you’ll earn less gray hairs.
And though your body changes and bloats, you would never dream of going back and undoing all the stress and screaming because it’s a package deal: the good with the wacky, the hollering with the kisses, the hugs with the tantrums. They are yours—your very own skin-encased packages of wonder and merriment.
So, let’s be kind and gentle to one another on this joyous, confusing, wonderful yet sometimes challenging road down Parenthood Lane. I might be an expert with my children, but I have to remember that I am not an expert on yours. There is much latitude between under and over-parenting with enough variety in-between for everyone.
I never again scheduled dental or doctor appointments during the hallowed nap time block. Lesson learned. Let’s keep the crazy “know-it-all” attitudes in Washington and remember that we’re all on the same team. Don’t we all need a cheering section instead of an inquisition? I’ll take that over gold coins any day