Posted by: peterhact | June 7, 2011

Parenting pitfalls (what your parents never tell you, because they are laughing too hard)

Parenting is a great opportunity. You get to teach your kids about life, their place in the world and what is right and what is wrong. You are the moral compass creator and, sometimes, you get to see it on the humorous side.

From the first time you hold your newborn child, a bond is forged. They will trust you, come to you with problems, triumphs and everything inbetween.

My parents told me that they hoped I had a child like I was to them when I was little. Mischevious, laughing all the time, a happy child.

I didn’t realise the mischevious bit till now.

There are some rules that my parents could have taught me to prepare me for my kids, but they neglected to mention them. or they chose not to. These rules could have prevented me from the loss of arm, leg and head hair.  They could have saved me from the loss of eyebrows after one child taped my eyes shut with sticky tape – they grew back eventually.

They could have prevented me from finding the wet nappy on the floor discarded by a child in a rush to watch TV after getting up in the morning, skidding across the floor like a sleep deprived learner ice skater.

They certainly could have prepared me for the reaction of the search and destroy cat module, my furry overlord, when confronted by tiny mobile people. He is a great big fluffy coward. He detects the area they are in with pinpoint accuracy. Never an outside cat, suddenly he is braving frost and fog to cower at the bottom of the garden, out of reach. Other cats seem to be able to detect his air of dejection and leave him alone. (he doesn’t go far from the back door normally, as the resident tom is bigger than he is and delights in knocking the snot out of every other cat)

These rules are very simple. (Or I think so, anyway)

1. when the kids are awake, so are you. This is an important rule. If you are asleep and they are awake, and they remember daddy making pancakes, they will “help you out” by mixing up what they think is flour with water, the kitchen floor, a plastic bowl and strange white patterned footprints throughout the house. If you succumb to exhaustion whilst you are alone with them, they will test your pain threshold by yanking out hair. If you don’t want to find the contents of the fridge, the cupboard and the pantry on the floor in a mountain reminiscent of the movie “close encounters of the third kind”, you will never fall asleep in their presence.

2. just because you have said “don’t do that to the cat, he doesn’t like it” doesn’t mean that they will pay attention to you. this is fraught with danger. The search and destroy cat module is not a fluffy kitty, no matter how much the kids think he is. He doesn’t react well to being in the same room as the kids, and isn’t averse to leaping onto the curtains in a desperate bid for freedom. He never takes his lumps, never doles them out to the kids, instead, saves his deep seated hatred for me, his minion.

Sometimes, after a particularly amusing game of “catch the terrified fluffy kitty” where I have laughed out loud, he exacts his revenge by getting comfortable on my recently washed business shirts. I swear that he has an auto moult setting. one second, no hair, the next a cloud of hair that settles into my shirts like spears / needles / prickles. I always find that one hair I missed when in particularly important meetings, when the burning itch starts between my shoulder blades.

3. If the lemon tree has lemons on it, and they are all yellow, one of your children will have a favorite color. Can you guess which color? . I hope you are good at making Lemon Butter, Lemonade, Marmalade, Lemon Tarts, Lemon Pies. Those lemons aren’t on the tree, they are suspiciously arranged on the kitchen table. Not to be outdone, every single leaf has been stripped in the pursuit of the yellow fruit. Telling the child in question not to pick all the lemons has no effect – they just wait till another child distracts you by trying to capture the fluffy kitty, then the tree is bare.

4. When playing at the other end of the house, near the sliding door in a lounge room or playroom, stopping to go to the toilet isn’t an option. You know how it is. You are a small boy, playing with your toys, when you get the urge to pee. instead of going to the toilet, yes, you know it is designed for that, you open the sliding door, and pee onto the garden. Daddy finds out about this behaviour when the bush of choice either dies or leaps into life, in the middle of winter. For some reason, number twos always are consigned to the toilet, don’t ask me why. I once tried to get the boys to pee on the earlier mentioned lemon tree, but this was a dismal failure – after all, if they peed on the tree, how could they pick the lemons? Silly Daddy.

5. “Because” is not an answer, it is a descent into madness. I tried the tactic of saying “because” to every question once.  I used other words as well, but they just focused on the because.

“can I have a lolly?”

“no.”

“why?”

“Because I am about to serve dinner”

“Because it is too early for lollies”

“Because you haven’t had breakfast”

“Because you just brushed your teeth”

“Because I don’t have any lollies.”

“why?”

aaaargh!

I have imposed a rule in the house. no lollies. Thinking this was clever, I felt secure in the knowledge that I had won.

Then came rule 6.

6. If you get invited to six parties in a weekend, be selective. Don’t try to go to all of them. Firstly, six parties means six presents. It also means six lolly bags, filled with pure, refined hyperactivity. (known as sugar) The kids don’t come off the sugar high for days, weeks, months. Keeping children under control when they have come down off a high, and become lethargic is akin to teaching the search and destroy cat module that he really is a fluffy kitty, destined for dolls clothes and prams. It is never going to happen, so you might as well just deal with the fallout as best you can.

7. Taking kids shopping is a notion for non parents. Shopping introduces you to the fine art of multitasking. Stopping child 1 from throttling child 2 whilst preventing child 3 from clearing the shelves is a feat that has to be witnessed. Some parents try to involve the kids in getting things off the shelves for them, and putting them in the trolley. This has a very high failure aspect. Firstly, getting the item off the shelf and into the trolley means that one child is singled out from the others. This invariably leads to fights about who gets to put it in the trolley, whose turn it is to sit in the trolley seat  and “we don’t like that cereal / baked beans / milk brand.” Want to shop with your kids? order online.

8. Video stores – or I can’t find a movie I want to watch. Video stores are the place where you take kids in desperation. You need to cook dinner, wash clothes, wash dishes, load or unpack the dishwasher or actually have a phone call without constant demands to “speak to granny / mummy / the telemarketer.” Sometimes, when in a particularly funny mood, I unleash the kids on the telemarketers. Poor buggers. small kids have no concept of time. they just like to listen and not talk, whilst the telemarketer fills the void with a one sided conversation.

Back to the video store. kids will take longer than an adult to find a video. they have to ensure that it is worth watching, isn’t a series that they will get bored with, and need to argue the toss when told that they can have one movie each. Some parents cave, but I have found that this leads to massive purchases of movies and fines when you can’t find the case, the disc or the pair.

The kids are a source of amusement, entertainment and joy for me. nothing compares to the goodnight cuddle, the morning cuddle, or the hello kiss on the cheek. I just think that if I had just a couple of rules from day one, I would have had less stress, and more fun.

As one of the parenting books mentions, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” I add, try to see the funny side of everything.

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