Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"No Swords at the Table"

Yes, I said it. The other day I actually said, "No swords at the table" to my son as he came to dinner clothed completely in his gladiator costume- chest plate, helmet, and sword. I certainly did not find "No swords at the table" in any parenting book I have ever read. But there are lots of unwritten rules of raising kids that no one tells you about before the little ones are born. So for those of you who are thinking about having kids, have sweet infants that you can never picture doing anything wrong, or if learning about real kids is a form of birth control for you, here are

5 Unwritten Rules of Parenting:

1. Boys turn everything into a weapon.

Before having children, I told my husband that we would never have weapons, including any form of toy weapon, in our house. Our family members wouldn't need or want weapons; we were going to be all about "peace, love, and understanding" (with a nod to one of my favorite Elvis Costello songs). Well, I have eaten my words. Seven-year-old Car Guy now possesses a wide array of toy hatchets, muskets, pistols, holsters, battle-inspired costumes, and light sabers, along with a dedicated weapons baskets to store them all in his room.

2. What sounds good in theory doesn't always work in practice.

I, too, pored over the parenting books and magazines looking for the one magical trick to create perfect children and a harmonious home. But you know what, that trick doesn't exist. A few years ago, a friend informed me that her family was going to run democratically with everyone, including the children, having an equal say in family matters and decisions. When hearing this I just sort of snickered to myself and thought, "Yea, we'll see. I've been there. I've tried happy and sad M&Ms, time outs, stickers, positive reinforcement, you name it. Some of it worked some of the time, and some of it worked none of the time. The only thing that succeeds is consistent discipline and hard work on the part of mom and dad." Feel free to try out those new-fangled child-rearing theories, but the tried-and-true old-fashioned ones are tried-and-true because they work.

3. Your children will magnify every negative trait you have ever had.

As my children got older, this rule shocked me. When you are cradling your infant in your arms, you can't imagine that he or she would ever backtalk or intentionally disobey you. But let me tell you, your children will do all that and more. To make it worse, they look like little versions of their parents when they are up to no good. I always found my quick temper and tendency toward bossiness with lots of sarcasm tossed in to be adorable until those traits came right back at me via Curly Girl and Car Guy. Believe me, it is not a pretty sight to view yourself in the mirror of your own children.

4. You will do unimaginable things just because your children will love them.

Since Car Guy has been a toddler, I have done some things that I swore I would never, ever do. I have accompanied him to several Nascar race shops, gone on a tour of a racetrack, developed whiplash on the Indy Speedway at Magic Kingdom, and attended an extremely long, noisy session of short-track racing complete with monster trucks and a demolition derby all in the name of entertaining my son. I have also noisily cheered at the pig and duck races at the state fair, dressed innumerable Polly Pockets and Barbie dolls, and faced dehydration at mid-summer swim meets to bring a smile to Curly Girl's face. My husband even bravely accompanied Curly Girl to a Jonas Brothers concert teeming with screaming tween girls last summer all just to give his daughter a happy birthday. A college friend even recently signed herself and her daughter up for a mother-daughter hip hop dance class. Hey, when it comes to making your kids happy, you'll do almost anything.

5. Your life will change.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a pregnant friend say, "My life isn't going to change after having this baby. I'll still get to go out." No, you don't have to cloister yourself in your house after having a baby, but your life will change. You can no longer just hop in the car to go to dinner and a movie. Life will take some planning now. You will no longer be number one; your child will. Furthermore, babies may not be so welcome at your previous haunts. Hear me on this, "Babies do not go to bars."

You see, parenting is fraught with many unwritten rules that no one bothers to tell you about. I'm still mulling over some more of these and will probably blog about them next time.

Happy parenting!

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