Thursday, March 12, 2009

"No Swords at the Table" (Part 2)

When you are expecting your first child, you have all these blissful daydreams about cooing, snuggling, and playing with your newborn. Remarkably, your eyes never tear up at the thought of projectile vomit and diaper blow-outs, though. Parenting is never quite what you think it will be. To add to my previous "No Swords at the Table" post, here are

5 More Unwritten Rules of Parenting:

1. You will turn into your mother.

No matter how many times you think, "When I'm a parent, I will never do such-and-such," you will. Despite your best efforts not to channel your parental role models, you will say, "Do I need to pull this car over!" and any other number of parenting comments. Even more, your house- from the laundry room to the bathroom- will turn into the house you grew up in. A few weeks ago, I just stood and looked at my pantry in awe. I now have my parents' pantry, chock full of soup cans, bread crumbs, pastas, and all sorts of other actually useful items. My husband and I have certainly come a long ways from the days of only having beer and Ramen noodles in the fridge and pantry.

2. Always check pockets before doing the laundry.

I frequently forget to do pocket-checks, so hopefully this will remind me to improve my pre-laundry routine. The obsessive-compulsive person that I am checks my pockets when I undress, so I incorrectly assume that everyone else does, too. I cannot tell you the number of rocks, matchbox cars, and coins that I have found in our washer and dryer after doing laundry. The worst offense occurred this past Monday, though, when Car Guy left a tube of Chapstick in his pocket. When I discovered the hot balm in the dryer, I did the stupidest thing I could have possibly done. I opened it and promptly covered my hands and legs in very hot liquefied Chapstick. Not a good thing. Needless to say, that evening I reminded everyone in the family about the importance of checking their pockets each evening.

3. Support your children's hobbies, no matter how strange they may be.

Strange hobbies, that is, not your children. Every child embarks on some rather odd undertakings from time to time. If it isn't collecting rocks from the yard, it's having a mock battle with a large tree branch as Car Guy attempted the other day. If it isn't creating notebooks of fashion designs, it's writing in Dwarvish and Elvin as Curly Girl has been doing lately.

Car Guy's fascination with designing seize towers, airplanes, cars, or anything else from recycled materials has been one of the most interesting hobbies my children have taken on, though. Car Guy gets so into his "found-object art" that I have caught him rooting through the recycling before it goes down to the curb. So he no longer goes dumpster diving, we now keep a staging area of recycled items in the garage for him to use. For Christmas this year, Car Guy even received a box full of trash as a gift. I know that sounds bad, but he loved it and started jumping up and down and screaming "Trash, trash, yeah" when he opened the box. His "found-object art" has come with some drawbacks, however. He does occasionally make items for family members to wear, such as the Sapphira costume he made for Curly Girl when he wanted her to act out Eragon with him. Knowing Car Guy's love of recycled materials, family members now save their toilet paper and paper towel rolls for him. Yes, it is a bit embarrassing to leave your cousin's house carrying a grocery bag full of toilet paper rolls. We also constantly run out of tape because Car Guy has used it all on his creations. But, when you see how proud your child is of his creations, you ignore the irritation and embarrassment and just keep buying tape and bringing home your family members' bathroom cast-offs.

4. Listen "attentively" to your children babble about topics that fascinate them.

Being a parent means becoming engrossed in whatever topics your children are interested in at that moment. Aside from his trash fixation, Car Guy is obsessed with cars, especially BMWs. He will speak at length about the characteristics of the different BMW models. Sometimes, I really get tired of hearing the play-by-play of every vehicle we see on the roads. Admittedly, I frequently half-way listen and nod my head while letting my mind wander elsewhere. Yet, I dutifully "listen" and hope that he will want to keep talking to me as he grows. At a more innocent age, Curly Girl pined for the Teletubbies and Barney. Now those interests have morphed into discussing the merits of Nick vs. Joe Jonas. I just hope that listening attentively now transfers into deeper discussions in the future.

5. You won't care if your children wear costumes in public.

This doesn't count on Halloween when everyone wears costumes. I mean wearing costumes out and about on a regular day. My kids have a long history of dressing-up. In the early elementary years, Curly Girl spent lots of time dressed up in my old, itchy dance recital costumes, and she even sometimes dressed up her brother. Car Guy is a big costume guy and has a closet-full of costumes to prove it. Some days he is a cowboy; other times it is Superman or a Ninja turtle. Yes, I have let him wear his costumes in public, and he was especially cute when he modeled his Incredibles costume at our local burger dive. It just doesn't bother me if he wears his costumes out and about. The only people who turn their nose up at him are those people who don't remember what it is like to be a kid, and I don't care about them anyway.

Being a parent is never what you expect it will be. Children make your best-laid plans go awry. But that's okay because often the best things are the unexpected ones.

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