So many parenting books are theoretical- "this is what you can expect from a newborn who has night and day confused, this is behavior you might expect from a stubborn toddler when you take away his treat", etc. But what we really need is a hands-on-to-do list to help us experience the stages of raising children before we ever reach a blessed milestone. My kids are young (so other could add a lot), but if I had to make such a list it would look something like this (and would essentially be a dare):
1: Go find something that you really like- doesn't matter what it is. Now take that item and destroy it- if it is breakable then drop it out of a second floor window- if it is a clothing article, color on it with permanent marker and then cut little pieces out just for fun- if it is a set of earrings or pair of shoes, put one half in the trash and leave the other in annoyingly plain sight. Then tell yourself it was just a thing, and people are more important. Now wasn't that easy?
2: Take a day when you are expecting company for dinner and make a list of chores that need to be done (let's say your list of chores should take three hours to complete). You will now set a timer for 15 minutes, then begin your chores. When the timer goes off you have to stop what you are doing and spend 6 minutes doing no chores, but rather something mentally draining (for example, read a novel in a foreign language, or try to memorize the instructions to your microwave). You must repeat this process until you've completed the three hours of WORK (not including doing-nothing intervals). By that calculation this should take you just over 4 hours. However, while you are completing these chores you must have a friend or significant other come behind you and undo no less than a third of what you've just accomplished. Don't worry about finishing the chores however...you must now leave them undone and invite your company over anyway. But you are allowed to have a glass of wine with dinner!
3: Go grocery shopping- at various points close your eyes and grab a random item off the shelf. When you reach the end of your actual shopping list you will then return all these extra items before checking out- all the while explaining aloud to yourself why each of the items is something you don't need and can't have right now.
4: Spend an afternoon hunting out some really awesome hiding places. Spots that you didn't even think you could fit into. Spots that are good for jumping out from behind to startle someone. This will be very valuable information and you are getting a great headstart on the opponent. (You may also want to see how long you can stay inside enclosed hiding places without getting claustrophobic and blowing your cover.)
5: Grab some baby food from the store- you will find things labeled by "stages"...grab something from as many stages as you can find and bring them home. (Be sure to pick the least appetizing colors and flavors- peas, beans, pureed chicken and rice, etc.) Sit in front of a mirror and take a bite of each food. Kids are quick- they, like any of us, want to make sure someone else has tried and liked the food they are being offered. So we must convince them we do. See how many times it takes to eat a bite, say "yum!" in an obnoxiously syrupy tone, and give a truly convincing smile.
6: Sit down to watch a movie with your significant other. For the first 45 minutes of the movie, stop every 10 minutes to pretend that a child needs you. At the first break you should read a long children's book, such as "Hop on Pop" or most anything by Dr. Seuss; at the second break you should get fill some small cups of water and deliver them to your bedroom, but then return to kitchen to add ice for the cup; at the third break you should sing three songs- give it your all!; and at the fourth break you should lay down in bed for 15-20 minutes. If you haven't fallen asleep yet after this amount of time, then congratulations! Go back and enjoy the rest of the movie.
7: Start a journal with all the judge-y notes you have about other parents. You know, when you judge the mom who breaks down and snaps at her kid at the grocery store, or the dad who lets his kid leave his coat in the car on a chilly day, or when you judge the parents who "aren't trying hard enough" to make their toddler stop biting. This will become your "Now I Understand" milestone book- like a baby book but for you! Whenever you find your very own self doing something you've previously judged in your "Now I Understand" book, you get to add the date and a picture of yourself looking a little bit humbler. How cute!
8. Spend a few hours crawling around at baby/toddler level. Pull out all the non-edible/swallowable items within your reach (lotions, cleaners, paint, coins, soap, driveway salt to melt ice, etc). The first half of the exercise is to realize how many things kids can get into quite easily that will have to be moved. The second half of the exercise is to read the labels of things as you pulled out and see how many ask you to call poison control if ingested. You might want to go ahead and call about a few of those items in advance...you know, just to save time.
9. Buy a box of sidewalk chalk. Then try to draw the following: an apple, a train, a circus, a convincing human family, a dog. Chin up- kids are impressed very easily...but the practicing won't hurt.
10. Tell your spouse that for a week you want him/her to catch you if you leave things out that you wouldn't want kids to get into. Instead of telling you that you left it out, however, he/she is to wait till your back is turned and think like a kid. (This means emptying the bag of flour, combing through your open purse to find the gum and makeup, eating/stashing all the sweet things, coloring with the permanent markers, etc.) Now remember, you were the one who left it out, so don't be too mad a him/her. ;-)
11. Find a really great, kid-friendly, healthy recipe to make- find one that takes a few extra minutes to prepare, but is worth it because of how nutritious it is for kids. Now make a cute little plate of it....and then dump the contents of the plate in the trash. Or if you'd rather, keep it in the fridge until it is no longer edible and then throw it away. It's OK to cry.
12. Go to your local library and pick up a children's CD- preferably something like "The Wiggles"- now put it in your car and listen to it every time you drive anywhere. And try to do this without any increased road rage.
13. (If you want to have more than one kid) Go to the park on a windy day. Bring two plastic bags. When you get to the park let the plastic bags go...and the plastic bags will probably want to go in two different directions. But you have to watch both. So you can perhaps chase both plastic bags and strap them in the baby swings. But that won't last for long because one will escape. Which is OK if you can have another trusted mother watch your little roaming bag. But if not, you have to take the first bag out of the swing and chase after the other bag till you find it, then try to convince them to play together. Which is hard because they are bags. But in this case bags act an awful lot like kids. And bags also have a hard time going down the slide by themselves, so you'll probably have to do that with them too.
14. Now picture someone you love very much...and hold onto that feeling of love...and then imagine loving a little person with just as intense a love, yet it's different somehow. And imagine that you get to watch them as they learn everything about the world- you get to be there when they laugh and when they cry- you get to kiss away boo boos and tickle away grumpy faces- they become home for you and you for them- they keep the child in you as you help them grow into adults- imagine being so ridiculously exhausted yet fulfilled by helping to shape and love a child. It's very hard to put into words, this parenthood thing- I guess there are some parts of being a Mom or Dad that no amount of hands-on practice can prepare you for. :-)
Labels: Family, Motherhood