10 things I learned as a parent

As parents, it is our job to guide our children and teach them important lessons in life. But sometimes it is our kids who are teaching us. Here are some very important lessons I have learned from my children.

1. Girls don’t always dress like girls.
My daughter was the very first girl of the family. This resulted in piles of pink clothes with frilly lace being thrust at me from all directions. Me? I was never a girly girl. I preferred to dress my new little girl in neutral colors and overalls. And when she got older, she abhorred pink with a passion. But her grandparents always tried. She’d receive pink shirts and pretty dresses – all of which would end up in the back of her closet or in a pile of clothes to return that would just end up going into the Goodwill bag because I was too lazy to make it to the store. Did I wish she would dress more like a girl? Have I tried to sell the idea that pants can still be worn under dresses to make them somewhat less girly? Have I bribed my daughter with money to make her dress like a girl for one week? Yes. But still, my daughter’s preferred look consists of black shapeless t-shirts and jeans, and she refuses to wear a swimsuit without boy’s swim trunks in the summertime. But is she happy and like the way she looks? Yes.

2. Having the kids help clean the house may mean that the TV remote and your linens may end up in the bookshelf.
We have been really good about our 30 minute clean-ups. Every night, the electronics get turned off, some cleaning mood music goes on, and everyone pitches in and cleans an area of the house. I usually reserve washing the dinner dishes and clearing the kitchen table during this time. My daughter will resign herself to the bedroom so that it gets cleaned her way. And my son is left to clean the living room since it’s all his crap that is littering it up. At the end of the 30 minutes, the house looks decent enough that I’m not embarrassed to open the door to anyone who comes by. But once they go to bed, I realize I can’t find anything. And it is soon discovered that nothing was put in its proper place, but was instead hidden in little pockets of the house. The roll of tape that you couldn’t find the week before when you were wrapping their birthday presents is safe and sound in the Lego’s box. All the little Lego’s, that have caused the most colorful language to roll off your lips as your bare feet land on a *$&%  little piece of plastic that is 2 feet away from the Lego box, are now under the couch. And the book shelf holds more junk than books. Good idea – getting your kids to help you clean. Better idea – checking their progress (and under the couch, in the bookshelf, and in every single nook and cranny of the house) before you let them go to bed.

3. According to your child, it’s never his fault.
“How did you do in school today?” I ask the Taz every day. “My teacher hates me,” he’d tell me. “For no reason at all, I had to sit on the bench at recess while the other kids played.” “Well, why is that?” I asked him. “Billy was talking during class, and when I told him to be quiet, the teacher told me that I was interrupting the class. When I tried to tell him what happened, he told me I had to sit out at recess, and Billy didn’t.” Upon further investigation, it came to light that my son was being a distraction to everyone around him, and that his seatmates had ceased talking when the teacher told them to the first time. Then there was the time that the principal called to let me know that my son had been misusing the bathroom – again. He had been caught flickering the light switches off and on. He had to call me from the office to tell me what he’d been up to and then hear a lecture from me and from his principal. But I was proud that he had fessed up and was taking ownership of the misconduct, as small as it was. That is, until he got in the car. “I lied in the principal’s office,” he stated. “Oh? How so?” I asked him. “I wasn’t really fooling around in the bathroom. It was all Billy. I just didn’t want to get him in trouble.” Oh, my son the martyr… Too bad he had been caught red-handed…

4. Great!  They are making their own lunches.  Sort of…
This past year I have given over the task of packing the school lunches to the kids. I figure that not only will it save me time as I get ready for work, it will allow them to pack the things that they want to eat so that we are wasting less food. But it’s not foolproof. “I’m concerned about the Taz,” Mr. M told me the other week. “By the end of the day he is too tired to keep his head up off his desk, and he seems to be eating his clothes.” Sure enough, there were bite marks on the stretched out end of his sweatshirt sleeves. “What’s going on?” I asked the Taz. “I’m just hungry,” he said. “Well, what did you pack in your lunch?” I asked him. “A cupcake, some goldfish crackers, and a Capri-sun.” There was no sandwich, no fruit, nothing nutritious at all. And yet, I had been making sure that there was plenty of stuff in the fridge for them to pack something. Now I ask the kids what they have packed before we leave for school, sometimes resorting to making their sandwiches just so that they have something in there that will hold them over. Of course, it’s probably just ending up in the garbage anyway. But at least the lunch meat isn’t being wasted in my fridge.

5. Just because he said he brushed his teeth doesn’t mean that he did.
Once the kids took over the brushing of their teeth, it was easy to assume that they were doing it. It’s a natural routine in our house – teeth are brushed every morning and every night. Once they are 9 and 12, you’d think that you don’t need to give them that twice a day reminder. But when the Taz smiled at me and all I could see was a layer of gunk on his teeth, it was obvious that he had skipped the routine for several days. But it gets worse. I give the reminder, and he swears that he’s done it. And when I ask him to smile at me, the gunk stands out like orange rust. Either his toothbrush is seriously malfunctioning, or the kid is a little liar. So I have him do it again. Another smile and it is obvious that I am going to have to do it myself, or just get out the chisel. So I hold his head in a headlock, pry open his mouth, and brush every one of his teeth till they are gleaming. He, on the other hand, is squirming and twisting and trying to get away. And when we are done I ask him, “Don’t your teeth feel better now?” “No,” he tells me. Job well done.

6. Sometimes we parents are an embarrassment to our kids.
“Goodbye sweetheart!” I said as she left the car. “Give me a kiss goodbye,” I instructed. “Mom, no!” she cried, trying to get away from me. “Come on!” I said, wiggling my toes in my slippers and running a hand through my unbrushed hair. “I love you!” I called out as she shut the car door. She ignored me and walked away as if she didn’t even know me. After school, she waited on the sidewalk talking to her friends. “Sweetie!” I called. “I’m over here!” I waved wildly, hoping to get her attention. “Honey!” I called. I got in the car and pulled up closer, honking the horn. Her attention was caught, and the look on her face told me that she wanted to sink into the ground. “Did you have a good day?” I asked her. “Mmmmph,” she grunted. That night I found a really cute picture of my daughter and her brother when they were little. I posted it on her Facebook so that all her friends would see how cute she was when she was 3. And then I wrote a blog about her when she was little. I included a link to it on her Facebook so that she would be sure to find it and read it.
Am I doing this on purpose? Am I aware that this is mortifying to her, that to her I’m just an ignorant mom who makes her life miserable? Hey, as the mom of an almost teen, I am already the most embarrassing and clueless person on the planet. I might as well have fun with it.

7. As a mom of a boy, sometimes I miss diapers.
Skid marks. Enough said.

8. Your kids think you’re the best cook in the world.
There’s a stipulation, of course. The quality of your cooking is directly proportional to how long you spent on it. If you spent all evening making a meal from scratch that is sure to fill them up and it fills the house with heavenly scents, your kid will hate it. But pop some fish sticks and French fries in the oven and serve it up with some ketchup, and your kid will rave about your cooking and let you know that this is the best meal they ever had.

9. Reading is reading.
Every week my kids are assigned to read a book for 20 minutes a night. My daughter will read fantasticly long novels, getting completely engrossed in them. And she reads a lot longer than the 20 minutes allotted. My son, on the other hand, hates reading. Well, actually, it’s not the reading that he hates. Once engrossed in a book, he thoroughly enjoys it. What he hates is that it is getting in the way of his free time. So reading has to be just as fun as going out. Comic books, silly stories with superheroes in underpants, diaries of wimpy kids, poems that are more funny than literature – they’re all words that have to be read. They may not be Mark Twain or Hemingway, but they are still helping him with his reading. He has to get 20 minutes in, right? If he likes what he’s reading, there’s less of a fight. Problem solved.

10. Even when their belongings are stolen, your child will still leave their items in your front yard.
My parents used to threaten me with this logic. I would leave my bicycle out on the front lawn, and my parents would tell me that if I didn’t put it away, some kid was going to come along and steal it. Being that we lived in a quiet neighborhood with no through traffic, this logic was a little ridiculous. Nobody was going to steal my bike. But just to get my parents off my back, I’d put it away. Now that I have kids, I can hear my parents echoing in my words as I tell my kids the same thing. “Put your bike away,” I tell the Taz. “Somebody’s going to steal it.” Of course, in our neighborhood this is perfectly plausible. We live on a busy street with lots of people passing by our front yard. A bike out front is an invitation for some kid to suddenly have a new green bike, and for my son to suddenly have none. But still, he wouldn’t. A week ago I was getting the mail and our next door neighbor’s kid rode by on a very familiar green bike. “Did the Taz let you ride that?” I asked him. “Uh huh,” he said. “Whenever I want.” I called the Taz over at his dad’s house where I was informed that no, the Taz had NOT given permission. Thing is, this wasn’t the first time the bike had gone missing, or the first item. Skateboards, our newspaper, basketballs, soccer balls – they all had gone missing and were either returned from whoever “borrowed” it, or were never seen again. And still, the Taz refuses to put his things away so that they are safe. As much as I lecture him about it, having his stuff stolen is not teaching him any lessons, and it is only wasting my money. So sometimes it just makes more sense to put it away myself. And the bike? He gave it to a girl only days after telling the neighbor boy he couldn’t ride it. Go figure.

What lessons have your children taught you?

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