One day in September I was at work. The next day I was at the hospital for a medical procedure. On the third day I did not rise up, but rather embarked on a crash course in parenting when my son was born two weeks early. To be honest, if he had actually arrived around his October due date, I would not have been any more prepared. During the mere 26 years that I have been parenting there are times that I pat myself on the back for doing a good job. At least, that was until my offspring told me, in no uncertain terms, that they have more experience than I do. I guess that the Smarties candy they ate every Halloween gave them the know-it-all to lecture their mother and father on parenting.
I first heard this comment from my 21-year-old, who believes that water conservation means taking less showers after he has been taught proper hygiene. Thank goodness he is a swimmer. At least I can count on the chlorine to clean him off! My jaw dropped open as wide as a shark’s as I listened to him rant and rave about my poor parenting skills concerning his 17-year-old brother. What could I say as he held his bated breath waiting for a reply? I was speechless as I thought back in time to when my kids slept with their mouths wide open, inviting the flies to come in and feast on the leftovers. Blowing out hot air then simply meant bad breath, not buzzwords.
Even though I exhibit signs of the walking dead I am only human. I parent on a wing and a prayer. When it comes to child rearing I play Jenga. I place one block on top of the other with the goal of building a strong tower, but then I have to take a chance and pull one out from here and another one from there. Sometimes, the whole thing comes tumbling down. That’s when I have to roll the dice and start the Game of Life all over again.
As an equal opportunity employer I have prided myself on being fair to all of my kids. But while they were growing up and out of clothes and shoes, passing the hand-me-downs to their younger siblings, the size was not always a true fit. The shirts and pants did not hang the same way. While I realized this, my children had blinders on and were sponsoring a ruthless race in which their siblings left the gates to run neck and neck with each other, looking to cross the finish line nose to nose.
Surprising, even to me, the sibling rivalry continues as they age up. You made me take honors classes and Advanced Placement courses for college credit. How come he didn’t have to? Because he wasn’t going to study as hard as you did. Well, why didn’t you make him? The way I can make you be on time? You let him get away with more than I did. You don’t know what is going on with him. He’s watching movies on his laptop and playing games on his phone when he tells you he is doing homework. Why didn’t he take the Water Safety Instruction Class so he could teach private swimming lessons? Because, quite simply, your flipper was not going to fit on his foot. She got more stuff than we did. Well, she is the only girl in a family with four boys. The boys are so selfish. They think it is all about them and they are almost adults! She didn’t work as many hours as us. No, because she was a camp counselor, not a lifeguard. She also had to work two jobs seven days a week to earn enough money to pay for college books, one of which started in the spring, while you only worked during the summer.
Yes, you all heard the advice loud and clear from the mouths of babes. I feed the bigger mouths with more food, and the more food I put in the more energy they have to spew out opinions gleaned during their young lifetime. However, even though we are not always on the same page, we can finish Parenting 101 together by accepting each other’s limitations. Then we can close the book on the subject more in tune than when we started.