Learning As I Go

I have a confession to make: I have not nailed parenting. I am certain I try my best 90% of the time, but the learning curve is steep, and sometimes I am just too tired to put on my best game face. Somehow the four of us seem to function pretty well in the chaos of our family dynamic, and I have a pretty good notion that, when all is said and done, we will have raised fully functioning grown-ups who will not mind visiting their parents from time to time. There are still so many things I don’t know about the parenting world. I feel like I am learning something new everyday. Here are a few things I’ve recently learned.

When your ten-year-old son asks to sit in the grocery cart because his legs are tired from soccer, you can say yes if you don’t have much to buy. You say no if you have a cucumber in the cart. I didn’t realize how creative a boy could be with a vegetable. There he was sitting “criss cross applesauce” in the cart in full soccer gear, proudly holding the English cucumber in the position of his choice as I pushed him round and round the produce section. I didn’t know there could be such creative moments with vegetables. I was certainly thankful that the English cucumber was wrapped in plastic and that he had not noticed the two avocados that I had also dropped in the cart. I guess we need to find happiness in the little things.

Take every situation that seems normal and manageable to you and multiply it by 50 if you want to attempt to relate to the responses of a teenage girl. Did you ever get a tiny spill on your shirt on the way out the door? Has your mascara smeared a tiny bit under your eye shortly after you applied it? Did your parent ever buy you white note cards when you had hoped for neon notecards? You’ve probably experienced one of these scenarios. What you probably didn’t do was lose your freaking mind, wail, consider these scenarios to be injustices in the world, and threaten to go to your room and never come out. The drama is quick and rarely predictable. Most of the time, it happens right when you should be getting in your car. Sometimes it just makes me laugh, and sometimes it causes me to turn into my own version of teen girl crazy.

Long after pre-k you will still never quite know what your child is going to say. A few weeks ago, we were have a leisurely lunch out with family. We’d had a silly conversation about tattoos, who has them, and unique tattoos that we’d seen. The conversation went quiet for a bit until my son broke the silence by saying, “You know, if you tattooed the letter L on each butt cheek, wouldn’t that be LOL?” (I’ll let you process that one for a bit.) It was later suggested that I get M’s and his grandfather, Pop, get P’s. While I appreciated the suggestion, I’m probably going to have to pass on that one.

Select sports are a punishment to parents who birthed an athlete. For as much as I have complained about my parents’ never signing me up for any sports during my school years, leaving me talentless and scrambling to find my place in the world – Yikes, did my teen girl drama side just peek out? –, I think they may have been onto something. My parents had their weekends to rest and recover from the week and get a few things done around the house. The kids slept in and watched cartoons and played in the yard. That option was too calm for us. We decided to put our son in sports when he was five, and it turns out that despite his maternal genetics working against him, he is pretty darned athletic. By nine, we were told he needed to play at a more competitive level, so we moved right into select sports leagues. We went from leisurely weekend games in the neighborhood to signing over our lives and weekends for the duration of the season, which appears now to function on a year-round basis. You don’t practice anywhere near your home, and you spend most weekends on the field. Many times, sports consume your entire weekend, and then you go back to school and work sunburned, windburned, dehydrated, or a combination of all three. You pay a premium for it, too. It is also a source of conflict with the grandparents, who don’t seem to understand why we aren’t available for a weekend gathering until 2019. I truly enjoy the other parents who are living this same life with us; we are one big sports family on those weekends. But, if your athletic child has a sibling who is not playing, and if you are trying to juggle two (or more) sports, it is a butt kicker. I didn’t know this was a parenting scenario, and now I know more than enough about it.

Despite your best efforts to remain the cool parent, you will lose this battle at some point. If wearing shorts that cover my entire backside and then some makes me a grandma, as I have been called by the younger female in the house, then call me Little Ol’ Granny all day long. In the shorts she would have me wear, I would never be able to conceal those “M” tattoos I’m considering. I am tired of arguing about shorts in my house. You might see some WWE moves going down in the Target dressing room when my daughter tries on new bathing suits for me as the warmer temperatures draw nearer. I argue a lot about swimwear, too. I cannot handle this Kylie Jenner generation of girls trying to look 25 at thirteen. It’s exhausting and makes Granny want a nap. And, Granny doesn’t care if “everybody else” wears it. I do not, and therefore you are a liar.

Lighten up when you can. I did not like it when my daughter threw chips in my hair last week so seagulls would chase me. I did not like that much at all, but that was really funny. She didn’t get in trouble for it. She’ll get payback for it, but she won’t get in trouble. I chose not to yell at my son the other day after he had a spill in the kitchen. He’d just opened a package of Fun Dip he’d received for Valentine’s Day. Those are the packets of flavored powder into which you dip your vanilla candy stick. You can’t pronounce a single ingredient used to make them, but the kids think they’re great. Anyway, he spilled some of the bright green powder on the kitchen tile. When I used a damp paper towel to wipe it up, I freaked out because I then had a bright green, wet smear that stained a tiny part of the grout. I asked what was wrong with him that he couldn’t be more careful with his candy, and my tone wasn’t pleasant. Very calmly he replied, “We need a little color in here, Mom. Don’t worry about it.” Although I prefer throw pillows to Fun Dip stains, I saw his point as I looked around at my brown and beige living room and kitchen.

No matter their ages, enjoy the time with your family members this weekend. Laugh at the unexpected conversations, settle the conflict, and look for some color. If you need me, I’ll be on the ball fields.

*photo by terrihinojosa.com

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