The Hidden Side of Parenting

When it is time for Madeline to go to sleep, she revs up the speed and urgency of her conversations monologue so as to fit in all of her millions of words before bedtime. Tonight Madeline prattled off all of the things that she is going to teach her new little brother when he's born.  Here is a SMALL sampling of her list:

I will teach him how to hold up his head. I will teach him to talk. I will teach him to sit facing forward at the table. I will teach him not to throw his food on the floor. I will teach him not to splash in the toilet. I will teach him how to have a tea party. I will teach him not to hit Jasper with my cane. I will teach him not to crumble styrofoam into little balls on the floor. I will teach him not to empty Mommy's wallet. I will teach him to sing all the Steven Courtney songs. I will teach him about Charlie and Lola. I will teach him not to put lip gloss on the walls. I will teach him not to draw on the table. I will teach him to dance. sing. run. play train sets. wipe his bottom. not hold the sharp part of a knife. not throw books. read braille. not pull the stuffing out of his animals. not to eat things out of the garbage can. jump. spin. twirl. leap. scream.......

As she was chirping on and on AND ON, it dawned on me:  Madeline, in her best bedtime procrastination efforts, had inadvertently stumbled upon the hidden side of parenting.

Everyone knows that parents clean, cook, run errands, blah blah blah.  But so does everyone else.  So what's REALLY making parents so frazzled and brainless and busy that we can't find the time (or energy) to shower regularly?

Madeline nailed it.

We have to teach our kids not to eat potting soil.  Parents don't know this until we're in up to our eyeballs because NOBODY BOTHERS TO MENTION THIS KIND OF STUFF, but that's why we're so freaking tired all the time - because we're busy teaching our kids not to eat potting soil.  You would think that they would figure this out by themselves.  You'd think after one taste they would stop and say, "No, this is not a food," but that is not the case.  You have to teach them not to ingest it in great quantities.  I won't say how I know this.

 Did you know that you have to teach boys not to dig hair out of a shower drain and eat it?  Because you do - you actually have to spend minutes of your life that you'll never get back teaching them not to do that.  (I'm finding that parenting little boys is largely about teaching them what they are and are not allowed to eat.)

We parents are brainless and frazzled and running on E because we planned to teach them self-help skills: feeding, dressing, bathing.  We expected to teach them manners, vocabulary, grammar, respect.  We knew we would instruct them in common sense, wisdom, and kindness.  But the hidden side of parenting snuck up on us and as it turns out, we also have to spend a great deal of time (our shower time) teaching them not to stick pencils in their eyeballs.

Why haven't I been to the post office in three months?  Because I've been busy teaching Sam not to use the plunger as a walking stick all over my living room carpet, that's why.