The (Many) Lies of Parenthood
We’ve missed the turn for the Tiger enclosure.
It’s already been a long morning AND afternoon at the zoo; it’s getting colder and it’s begun to drizzle. Lady is getting cranky. Man is overtired and on a sugar high. We are getting dangerously close to missing the window. You know, that elusive window of time when it’s still safe for both of them to fall asleep on the drive home, and yet still wake up at an hour that won’t completely ruin a semi-early bedtime. If we miss it, our Saturday night plan is shot. It doesn’t matter that it’s simply to spend time together cooking and watching a movie. If we spend just one more nanosecond at the zoo, the window will shut firmly, one or both of them will be up past 9PM, and our evening of snuggling, eating chocolate, and sipping wine in front of some Oscar nominated movie we were unable to catch in the theaters is over before it even began.
But we promised Man. We said that as long as we left the zoo right away we could stop and see the tigers on the way out.
He starts to lose it. The glow of the sugar high has clearly begun to wear off, and we are dangerously close to the crash and burn portion of our day.
“I’m sorry, buddy.” I say quickly. “The sign said that they were still away at a warmer zoo for the winter,” I add even quicker.
I see the wheels in his mind cranking. It sounds plausible, but should he question it? Test the accuracy of the statement with endless questions spewed out out in an annoyingly high pitched whine? Shit, is he going to cry?
A cold drop of rain hits his face, he stuffs another hand full of popcorn into his mouth; he relaxes and sits back in the stroller.
Evening. Saved. (For now at least. As parents of toddlers we all know that disaster could still strike at any minute.)
So I told him a little half truth. OK, OK, as a friend recently said, “Let’s just call a spade a spade, it’s a lie.”
Sometimes, we are backed into a corner and it’s in their best interest to tell them a fib or two.
I mean, just the other day I was putting Man to sleep when the following conversation took place:
“Mom, I wish you didn’t have a room or a bed, and then you would have to sleep in my bed with me for forever and ever. Don’t you wish that too??”
“Of course, I would love nothing more than to have to sleep with you in your bed forever.”
Did I really want to sleep in his bed with him forever and ever? That actually sounded like a pretty brutal idea to me. But I certainly wasn’t about to break his sweet precious heart.
So these lies are justified, a necessary evil of parenting. Aren’t they?
This, I realized, is actually just a lie I tell myself. It’s one of those parenting half-truths that we must believe in order to get through each day as smoothly as possible. There are all sorts of lies, for instance:
I lie to my kids for their own well being. Not really. Most of the time I lie to them for my well being.
“Mom, I want to play on your phone.”
“No, it has to be charged.”
It’s for his benefit, since too much time with electronics rots their little brains… plus,I want my phone.
It’s just a phase: This might be my absolute favorite and most frequently used lie. This lie allows one to hold on to the slight glimmer of hope that whatever crap their child has been dishing out in recent weeks might end as abruptly as it started.
Lady stopped napping three weeks ago, and I’m absolutely positive that it’s just a phase. And so is everyone else I’ve discussed it with.
It will get easier as they get older: If by easier I mean sleeping through the night and being able to wipe their own tuchuses, then maybe yes. But it seems that with each stage, new and different challenges arise. It’s like a long hallway of never ending doors; you get through one and as it shuts behind you, all you see is another immediately in your path.
One day we will have to drag them out of bed: This lie also comes in with its own built-in fantasy. I picture myself stretching and waking up feeling well rested, seeing 10:00 AM when I first glance at my clock. The kids are either still asleep or old enough to entertain themselves without causing too much damage. I’m so looking forward to sleeping till 10 AM, I’m really far less concerned with how it happens.
They will eat when they are hungry: This was a lie made up by some doctor to calm those moms that had “picky eaters.” It is obvious to me that this person never had a conversation that went like this:
“Mom, I want a snack.”
“Sure, what would you like?”
“Water isn’t a snack.”
“Yes it is! It’s delicious!”
It won’t be this way forever: What way would that be? Being responsible for the humans we brought into this world?
How many of you went home after college for a year, or two, or ten, in order to save up some money for your first apartment?
Parenting is forever. One day they will no longer need me every minute of their waking hours, but they will always need me in some way and I will always be there to help.
Cleaning up is pointless, they just make the mess again a few minutes later:This would be the justification I use for my house being an absolute mess. When I have a few rare minutes to myself, the LAST thing I want to do is spend them cleaning up. [Editor’s note: Sigh.]
Plus, my kids really do just dump all their crap out again immediately following any tidying I may do. It’s like Man’s thing, always has been.
This lie is also accompanied by the following variation:
There is no point in attempting to look nice: My kids just wipe food, snot, poop, dirt, marker, etc. all over me so I’m just going to be dirty anyway. But really, it’s just a happier overall day for everyone if, as you scoop your tantrumming two-year-old off of the floor of the supermarket, you have really cute flats on while you do it.
Becoming a mom is the best thing that has ever happened to me: Listen, I would take a bullet for my children; I love them more than anything in the entire world. But right now I’m listening to Lady scream through the walls in protest of sleeping. She hasn’t napped in three weeks, and now she feels like giving up bed altogether. I would much rather be on a beach in the Bahamas sipping a Pina Colada than listening to this crap.
Variation: I’m a mom now, this should make me happy all of the time: It makes me happy most of the time. I would never, ever give this up. I was born to be a mom and I’ve been given the gift of two beautiful children. Their smiles, laughter, wit, humor, snuggles, excitement, and even poops give me a sense of fulfillment unachievable by anything else. And then they start to cry and whine, insist I keep the shower door open so they can watch, skip naps, never listen, refuse meals, and just be general little pains in my ass all day.
But boy do I love the privilege of being their mom and watching them grow. And that’s the truth.