Who said being a parent is easy? No one, but then no one tells you it’s NOT easy either. Until after you’ve given birth. Then advice finds you quicker than you can say “Cesarean Section.”
Other parents forget to tell you their knowledge comes from the trial-and-error of raising their own offspring. In the early days I continued under the false impression that bringing up a child would be a doddle. Several years later, I’m here to report a few of the Lessons I’ve Learned from Parenthood:
Lesson One: The first five years are the best (excluding the sleepless nights). I’ve never felt more pride than when my bundle of joy smiled his first smile, took his first steps and said his first word that I had been longing to hear… “Dad, Dad, Dad.”
Still, there are things that make you smile, like fishing the car keys out of the trash bin or saving the cat from being washed on a ninety-degree temperature cycle. Children aren’t children unless they’re getting up to no good. You’ll know from the tell-tale “thud” that comes from upstairs. If, on the other hand, the house is quiet, don’t be fooled into thinking “all is well,” because they’re probably upstairs squirting toothpaste down the toilet.
Lesson Two: The good things outweigh the bad. There are times when children bring you close to tears, and I don’t mean when they’re screaming for all their worth at 4 o’clock in the morning; I mean the first day of preschool.
Both my boys had to be pried out of my arms, kicking and screaming. It was heartbreaking to leave them like it. I would stand outside, looking through the mist on the window, praying they wouldn’t cry for too long, and half hoping they would miss me as much as I missed them.
Then you see that your child is an individual in his own right, about to be judged not by how cute he looks when he’s asleep, but on how well he interacts with others, and how well he can count and write his own name. That’s when you know that bringing up a child involves plenty of time, effort, and dedication, with a splash of guilt thrown in for good measures.
Lesson Three: Beware of guilt. It can strike when you least expect it. I’ve felt guilty over all sorts of things: for not getting them what they want, for yelling when I’m stressed, for throwing away models they made at preschool (although I do think that ten models, made from egg cartons and cornflakes packets, is too much to bear).
Lesson Four: There are times in the child-rearing process when you could happily throttle them. Like when you’ve spent the best part of the day cleaning the house from top to bottom, and they invite friends in to play. My fridge magnet sums it up: “Cleaning the house whilst children are growing is like shoveling snow while it’s still snowing.”
When I ask my children to tidy their room, they blame anyone they can think of for the mess, starting with their brother, going on to the neighbors’ children, and if that doesn’t work, they accuse friends who haven’t visited for weeks. This is the time when you hear the usual recording of, “It’s not fair” or “I have to do everything,” and then it’s time for me to reach for the Paracetamol.
Lesson Five: Sibling rivalry prevails. It’s a strange phenomena that when one child goes off, the remaining child (who just happens to be the better-behaved), suddenly turns into Dennis the Menace. They need to catch up with their sibling.
It’s also guaranteed that if one child is told off the other will be indirectly affected. When my eldest boy wanted to start Karate lessons, I thought it would be a great idea; it would build his confidence, teach him discipline and give him an outlet for aggression. Unfortunately he often felt the need to impress his little brother with his power punches and high kicks!
The other day I was fixing my son’s bookshelf. I was in a tight corner and getting hotter by the minute as I struggled with a stubborn screw. My boys started arguing. This didn’t bother me at first, until they started screaming up the stairs: “MUM! LEON HIT ME” and “NO I DIDN’T, YOU STARTED IT!” By the time I untangled myself and went downstairs, I resembled the woman from “The Exorcist,” only foaming slightly more at the mouth.
(Don’t assume girls are better. My sister has two girls and I can assure you they are just as bad. Of course they look like angels, but if you look closely, you will see the “666” on the back of the head.)
There are times, few and far between, when raising children seems worthwhile: When they offer support by giving you a cuddle and a kiss, or when they offer you a “cuppa” without any bribery. The ultimate heaven, though, is when everybody is getting on and you can look at your children with new eyes. You realize perhaps it’s not so bad after all.
Final Lesson: Children are great, especially when they’re asleep.
Krysti Lynn lives with with her partner and two sons in Essex, United Kingdom.
Photo: Philippe Put