Parental Concessions

In just three short years I’ve learned there are certain things a parent has to learn to live with — and live without — in order to keep one’s sanity. For the sake of time, I’ve narrowed these down to one neat little list.

Two things parents have to embrace:
1. Silliness
I am not by nature a silly person. Whoopee cushions and magic tricks and clowns are not my thing. Physical comedy rarely does anything for me. But when you’re a parent you must embrace silliness, because kids love it. They love when you pile things onto your head and sneeze them off. They love when you dance like a convulsing chicken. And they absolutely love when your silliness helps their imaginations run wild.

My kids and I have been sick for the better part of two weeks, so we’ve largely been cooped up inside watching spring bloom like live theater outside our living room windows. Kostyn now knows several different kinds of birds — Incidentally, I love hearing him say “Look! There’s a robin!” — and we’ve studied the moving clouds and the blossoming trees. But mostly they’ve been transfixed by the ants that always seem to be crawling around the tip of an ivy vine that is slowly, slowly creeping along the windowsill.

In a moment of silliness (and boredom) a week ago, I named the ants Bob and Larry and made up a conversation between them. To Kostyn, I wasn’t merely pretending; I was actually translating their feeler-to-feeler telecommunication. And almost every day since, he has asked if we can talk to Bob and Larry.

“Are Bob and Larry here?” he wonders aloud, climbing up onto the couch to peer outside. “Mommy, talk to Bob and Larry!” I don’t have the heart to tell him there’s a one in a million chance that the ants we happen to see each day are the same two ants we gave names to a week ago.

Also, I am running out of things for Bob and Larry to talk about.

It makes me feel silly, this “talking to Bob and Larry” thing. But you should see the smile on Kostyn’s face when he hears what Bob and Larry are commiserating about down on that vine.

2. Repetition
For several reasons kids love doing, watching, eating, and listening to the same things over and over. When they find something that makes them happy, they want to experience it ad nauseum. It is mid-April and we’re still dancing around the coffee table to Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” almost every day.

As a parent, you must embrace this ritual of repetition in an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” sort of way. Because really, you know you’re doing something good as a parent when your kid shouts “Let’s do it again!”, even if it’s the 17th time you’ve made a hand puppet snore in your lap so your toddler can “wake him up” by banging child-sized cymbals near your knees. (Whose idea was it to give my toddler cymbals?! Oh yeah, mine.)

In that vein you will, at times, silently curse the words “Let’s do it again!” For example, the first time you heave two toddlers into your arms and spin around and around to Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” all three of you will be full of smiles and giggles. But by the third time, the toddlers will be smiling but you will be dizzy and panting under the weight of carrying 50 pounds of children.

And as soon as it ends you’ll hear, “Let’s do it again!”

Two things parents have to make peace with:
3. Lost stuff
Little kids are kleptomaniacs. They think they’re entitled to everything they see, and they will walk away with anything they can pick up that isn’t nailed down. Case in point: Our TV remote control has been missing for over a week. For the first few days we assumed it would turn up in one of our 1-year-old’s usual hiding spots for stolen goods (the pantry, the bathtub, his mouth), but as the days wear on, our hopes are dimming.

Do you know what it’s like to have to actually get off the couch to turn the TV on and off, or the volume up and down? It’s like living in the Dark Ages. I’m thankful that we still have the remote we use to change channels and work the DVR (What did parents do before DVRs??), but not having volume control at one’s fingertips is a downright uncivilized way to live.

My fear is that our beloved remote made its way to Evan’s Ultimate Hiding Spot, the kitchen garbage can, and by now it is sitting in a landfill with our trash, Kostyn’s blue socks, the “S” piece from an alphabet puzzle, and the yellow and red plastic stacking rings.

I am now coveting the channel-changing/DVR remote as if it was the Hope Diamond.

4. Less time
It’s not that kids force you to give up your identity entirely, but they do force you to make yourself a lower priority, at least in some respects. These days when I’m trying to leave the house I’m focused on getting socks and shoes and jackets on the boys and shuffling them out the door while keeping the dog inside. I rarely, if ever, take a moment to glance at myself in the mirror before we go, which is why I’ve often been out in public before realizing I have a mashed raspberry from breakfast dried onto my shirt, or my hair looks like I slept in the dryer.

A few days ago I was at the library checking out a pile of new children’s books. I had propped Evan on the counter and was trying to fasten a snap on his jeans that had come undone. The librarian watched me for a moment with a look on her face that I thought was one of annoyance until I glanced down and realized my own shirt was unbuttoned about halfway down. I remembered then that I’d only gotten half-dressed after my shower that morning because one of the boys had some crisis right then and I’d scrambled into my clothes and run off to fix the problem. And I’d never returned to the business of getting myself dressed.

Well no wonder that father reading to his daughter upstairs in the children’s room kept looking at me, I thought. And here I’d assumed he’d been fascinated by the truck tale I’d been reading to Kostyn.

What is perhaps most telling about this incident is that, upon realizing my bra was on semi-display in the library, I still kept fumbling with Evan’s jeans until he was properly dressed before attending to my own garment malfunction. Silly, I know, but such is life as a parent (see No. 1, above).

(Originally posted on Training Wheels, my blog for Central Penn Parent.)

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