Sunday, January 10, 2016

Fun Advice 19-21: Coffee, Criticism, and Curveballs

            #19  Always remember , “Coffee is your friend!”  And when all else goes wrong, “Chocolate never fails!”  Just make sure that you have enough for the kids, too, unless you eat it in a soundproof, airtight room.
            However, I would like to add a caution.  If you are not a coffee drinker, then don’t start.  Coffee may be a friend, but sometimes that friend is like a giant, belligerent gorilla that you willingly strap yourself to with a heavy, fifteen-foot-long chain.  Sure, you can go about business as usual, but only within sight of this demanding beast.  You will go from a happy, relaxed sunshine-greeter to a sullen, foggy-eyed grunter doing the zombie-walk to pay homage to your ape friend first thing in the morning, before he gets angry and begins ruthlessly whipping that chain around.  Then you’ll be sorry!  So I really can’t, in good conscience, recommend this to non-coffee drinkers.  Fair Warning!            

            #20  (We’re almost to the end!)  Here’s one that you only learn way after the fact.  Never - ever - comment on or criticize another person’s kids.  I promise you, it will come back around.  Never say, “Wow, look at the giant head on that kid,” unless you want Humpty Dumpty for a son.  (Now, I don’t have a Humpty Dumpty, but my oldest was in adult hats by the time he was five.)  Don’t say, “Man, So-and-So’s kid is a terror.”  That particular one led to the Lord blessing us with feisty child #2 and wild child #3.  (Alright, Lord!  I get it already!)  Or there was the time that I commented on how loud someone else’s kid was.  Just a comment, not a criticism!  Well, yes . . . again may I introduce you to Ryder?  (That poor kid!  He’s really a delight in so many ways.  But he does have his . . . um . . . quirks.)

            I truly think that if I had just kept my mouth shut about other people, I might just have had quiet, clean children who willingly help with cleaning my already spotless house, and my hair would get brushed before my husband comes home from work.  But I’m learning! 
            #21  And lastly, never get too comfortable or too sure of yourself as a parent.  Kids throw curveballs, and they usually do so in front of other people.  We were at Jellystone in Wisconsin Dells for a family vacation one year, and it was time to line up for the “Hey” Ride.  We stood there, just minding our own business, with a lot of other families who were just minding theirs.  There was some time to kill.  (I love campgrounds!  There’s such a closeness with others: community bathrooms, wearing a swimsuit around other people after having children, eating meals and scolding children in front of the neighbors, and singing the “Hey Ride” song way off-key together.  Seriously, we all sound like a bunch of drunk sailors.  It’s great fun!) 
            Well, we sat there in line with our three kids, trying not to zone out and watch anyone else too closely.  There was nothing else to do but wait.  Everyone was so quiet.  Everyone . . . except Ryder.  And Ryder, for some reason, kept sticking his finger in his nose.  Ok, so he’s only a few years old and that’s expected.  But it doesn’t look good and it’s not hygienic. 
            “Ryder, keep your finger out of your nose.”  We didn’t want other families to notice as we had to pull his finger out of his nose a couple more times. 
            Then, even better, he starts to dig in his pants.  “Ryder!  What are you doing?  Get your hands out of your pants,” I hissed. 
            But he starts howling, “Owww, my butt hurts.”  Casting an embarrassed, apologetic smile at the other parents, I shush him and adjust his underwear.  It doesn’t work.  Then, as if that is not enough, he begins trying to fight me to get his hand back in his underwear and keeps yelling, “Oww, my buttcwack!  It hurts!  It hurts!  Oww!  Oww!  My buttcwack!”   
            My face begins to get hot, as I can only imagine what others must be thinking.  So I do my best to look like a normal, decent person, and say, “You must have wiped too hard or not well enough.”  And I take him to the bathroom to remedy the situation. 
            When I come out, I feel like everyone’s eyes are on me because they now think that my child is a grimy, little, non-butt-wiper.  And I begin to wonder if we have just a little more space in line.  Hey, he did just wash his hands, and so did I.  But I wouldn’t even want my kids near him right now if he wasn’t mine.  So we resumed our waiting, feeling about two inches big.  I would be rolling my eyes and raising my eyebrows at us right now.
            We just get Ryder settled, and then I look down to see one of my older sons (who shall remain nameless!) squatting and fiddling with something in his pants.  (Oh, yes, folks!  It gets worse!  How long is this wait?)  Now, I knew that he just won some bouncy balls, and that they were in his pocket.  But as he squatted there, with his hands outside of his pants and fiddling with them through the clothes, it didn’t look appropriate.  We already had the nose picking and butt-digging episode.  We didn’t need this mark against us, too.  So I leaned down and discreetly began to whisper, “Honey, you need to stop doing that because it looks like . . .”             
            He, however, cuts me off and belts out in protest, “I’m just PLAYING WITH MY BALLS, MOM!”  My shoulders slumped, my head dropped in shame!  I was laughing hysterically, of course, but I wanted to crawl in a hole.  But there was nowhere to go and it was pointless to try to defend myself again.  And so I resumed avoiding eye-contact until the stinkin’ Hey Ride finally pulled up. 
            These are the kinds of things that kids will do in front of other people.  When I used to hear kids screaming in the store (before I had my own), I would think, What is wrong with the discipline in that house?  Why can’t you control your child?  Now I think, Thank God it isn’t mine right now.  Poor mother!        
            It’s like there’s this big mud-pit called Motherhood.  It’s a good mud-pit!  But it’s deep and messy and slippery; full of embarrassing and humbling moments and endless tasks like meals, dirty laundry, dirty dishes, runny noses, dirty diapers, sticky fridges, sticky tables, sticky little faces, and piles and piles of unsolicited junk mail.  (What a waste of trees!)   
            Before you have kids, you are standing at the top and looking down at all the tired, weary mothers trying to claw their ways out of their slippery messes.  Some are continually trying to tidy up their little space in the mud-hole, looking like they have it all together.  (Some actually do have it all together.  God bless them!)  Some are running around chasing little ones and can’t be bothered by the mud.  Some have given up, laid down, and made their peace with the mud.  And some are sifting through the mud looking for their marbles.  You shake your head and “TSK-TSK” in pity as you make mental notes of all the ways you think they could do better.  And you utter the infamous words, “When I have kids, I’m never going to . . .” 
            Then, one day, you welcome a screaming, little, blue or pink dictator into the world.  And before you know it, the solid ground beneath your feet gives way, and you start sliding down a slippery, muddy slope into the pit with the rest of them - “the Mothers.”  At first, you try to look cool and collected. 
            “Yeah, I don’t mind being down here.  It’s just where I wanted to be.  I can do all of this with ease and perfectly manicured nails, too.  And I’m going to do it better than all the other mothers.”  (And for the record, I’ve never had manicured nails.  I’m more of a garden-dirt-under-my-fingernails kind of person.)  
            Now with one kid, you eventually find yourself thinking, Hmmm, It’s not quite as easy as I thought to keep up with everything.  But it’s not that hard, either. Just a small adjustment.  And, oh, is that a little mud under my polished pink fingernail?  And you flick it away.  It’s just a little bit. 
            Then you have two kids.  With two kids, you begin finding mud in places you didn’t expect: on your elbows, in your hair, up to your knees.  But every so often, you can get it cleaned off enough to look pretty well pulled-together.  (At least when company’s coming over.)  It’s not too long, though, until you notice spots of it again.  “And I just cleaned it off!”  But your hair still looks good. 
            But with three kids, (Oh, yes!  Three! It sounds like such a small number, doesn’t it?) you find yourself and the children rolling around on the ground, covered head to toe in mud, as you claw at giant handfuls of brown slop, slinging them in any direction just to get your tiny spot in the mud-pit clean for a moment.  “I just want to see it clean for thirty minutes.  Thirty minutes!  IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?”  (Umm, yes!  It is!)  
            But try as you might, you can’t get it clean because someone else is slinging slop back at you from their spot.  So you desperately begin grasping at the walls, looking for a foothold to climb out to higher, cleaner ground.  They give way!  And you frantically throw your body up against them to fight the onslaught of mud that keeps pouring down the sides of the pit.  And so it goes all day long! 
            And when you’ve pointlessly exhausted yourself, you give up and you slide down to the ground and sit there defeated in a pile of unfinished things.  And as your eyes gloss over, you begin humming a wishful tune, something about everybody, everywhere, helping clean up, everybody doing their share.   
            And then you look up and you see someone standing at the edge of the pit high above you.  She doesn’t have kids yet.  And she’s looking down at you and your mud-hole with eyes full of judgment and pity.  And you hear it:  “TSK-TSK.  When I have kids, I’ll never . . .” 
            And you want to stand up tall, brush back your matted hair with a filthy hand, stick out your defiant, sweat-streaked chin, and raise a mud-encrusted fist and yell, “Just wait until it happens to you!  It’s not as easy as it looks!  I’m trying!  I’m really trying!  And I know you can’t tell, but I’m actually doing a really good job!” 
            But you don’t.  You just swallow your pride, keep on doing what you’re doing, and you wait for God to bless them with a little dictator of their own.  And then when they slide down into the pit next to you and give you that bewildered, anxious, How-did-I-get-here look, you can put your arm around their exhausted shoulders, pat their back and say, “That’s okay.  We all understand.  We’ll all get through this together.”  Ahh, motherhood!  It really is a wonderful, wonderful adventure!  (And for the record . . . I’ve always loved playing in the mud!)  
            I don’t always have it together.  But I try.  And I keep trying, hoping, and praying for the best.  My house may be a wreck, and I can’t keep up with all the piles of laundry, papers, and dirty dishes.  But my family is well-fed, hugged, loved, and enjoyed.  Children won’t be young forever.  I try to make sure that I don’t waste this precious time that I can never get back on what doesn’t really matter.  (Just come look at my house and you’ll see that I’m telling the truth.  On second thought, please don’t.)

            [Oh, and one more piece of advice for the women out there who have given birth to children:  Cross your legs when you sneeze! 
            And when you are listening to some music you enjoy, such as “Forever in Blue Jeans” by Neil Diamond or “Take a Chance on Me” by Abba, and your kids walk in and complain about it, saying that they want to turn it off or smash the radio because they hate that music and think it’s lame, don’t let the little buggers get away with it.  Turn up the music and start singing along.  And then hit repeat and do it again!  Trust me, they deserve it!]