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White Knuckle Parenting: Fantasy vs. Reality

Before I had kids, I had visions of idyllic children doing hilarious and loving things. Reality has turned out to be a little bit harsher than that.

As I was sitting in an orthodontist's office this week reviewing payment plans and aesthetic options for braces for my oldest son (as the son in question was literally holding the doctor at arm's length by threateningly brandishing a book at him), I realized that this...this is not what I imagined when I first thought about what life with my kids would involve.

No, when I was pregnant and imagining my son's teeth, I pictured the tooth fairy and delightful moments of wonder when he found a coin under his pillow. The reality, of course, is orthodontists, dental insurance, and having your son lose a tooth in a hotel lobby and demanding a dollar right there because he doesn't have time anymore for the tooth fairy charade.

It then occurred to me that there are any number of things that I have to deal with as the parent of three tween boys that were never in a million years part of my baby fantasy. 

• Sass mouth: I waited with excitement for my kids to learn to talk. I had fantasies about the first time my kids would say, "I love you, Mommy," in their sweet little voices. Naturally, two of my three kids were speech delayed and certainly didn't bust out with a four-word sentence anytime in the first few  years of life. Of course, once they did start with sentences, they almost immediately developed sass mouth. "I love you, Mommy," quickly became, "I love you, mooooo...stly."

• Man feet: Remember when you were pregnant and bought all those adorable little socks and tiny moccasins? Flash forward to real life, which is made up of giant pairs of smelly sneakers and 85 mismatched Crocs all around your house. There are all kinds of body parts that are adorable on babies that turn into nothing you want to deal with after about say, age 8.

• Know it all-itis: I remember being so excited for my kids to go to school to learn. The first few times they came home talking excitedly about something they'd learned in school was magical. Sadly, this new knowledge quickly morphed into their steadfast belief that they knew far more than I knew or would ever know. Would somebody please explain to my children that just because they know an obscure fact about space that I don't know, it doesn't mean that they are smarter than me? (See also, sass mouth)

• Puberty: Seriously, people, puberty never even crossed my mind. I've had to use obnoxious phrases like "sex can be a really beautiful thing," and "when two people love each other." I've also had to remain vigilant about checking the internet history on our family computer because let me tell you, there are things you will find if you Google search, "how do you have sex" that I don't want my kid to see. That sex is most decidedly not beautiful.

• Homework: If I'd known then what I know now about homework, I might not have had children. I remember my oldest's first homework in preschool. It was adorable and fun and he was so excited to do it. Cut to last Thursday when my youngest was flipping out over having to complete two number line addition problems. After those papers were crumpled up, ripped, smoothed out, and put back (unfinished) into his homework folder, I don't find it cute anymore.

• Sibling rivalry: I always tell people the best part of having multiple children is seeing them interact and become friends with each other. I thoroughly believe this. I also, however, think that the worst part of having multiple children is watching them endlessly needle each other on a daily basis just for the hell of it. I could probably get a job mediating at the United Nations after negotiating peace between my children over and over every day.

That said, there are so many wonderful parts of parenthood that I didn't even know could be part of the fantasy before I had kids. I didn't know about watching my oldest son develop a true interest in learning and figuring things out. I didn't know about watching my autistic child develop a strong best friendship. I didn't know about watching my youngest son fall in love with every furry animal he saw. I didn't know about watching all three of my kids cooperate to have fun together. All of that? Better than the fantasy.

I guess it's kind of like that saying about kittens: Everyone loves kittens—but they grow up to be cats. Fortunately, I like cats enough to overlook the odd hairball now and again. My kids are way more trouble than I ever would have imagined they would be. Happily, in my wildest fantasies, I could never have created three more awesome kids than currently live in my reality.

Jean, a.k.a. Stimey, writes a personal blog at Stimeyland. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Stimeyland.

Catherine Newnham May 15, 2013 at 04:44 PM
Yes and yes to everything you say here. The reality of parenthood is simultaneously far far worse and far far better than the fantasy could possibly be. The truth about living with multiple pairs of giant stinky man shoes should be enough to make most of us think twice about filling our houses with male offspring. And when did I sign up to help a hormonal 15 yr old write an impossible essay on a book he's not yet read, due in 3 days? It's lucky we love them so much is all I can say.

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