There are a lot of kids around the country starting school soon. Mine are, including Jasper–the last of my six babies–who is heading off to Kindergarten. It really signifies the end of an era. The end of me being the mother of very little children. This is what it boils down to: I have had tiny kids by my side at home for sixteen years.
That is a long time to be watching PBS Kids and Nick Jr. We have seen lots of shows come and go (I still view Joe as a usurper. How could Blue give up so easily on Steve?)
That is about eight jillion frozen chicken nuggets heated in the microwave.
That is a lot of marker/lipstick/poop I’ve had to clean off the walls.
That is a lot of trips in the Target Limousine*:
When I think about it I get a little sad.
Only a little.
Because sixteen years is a long time to be doing anything.
Especially doing the baby/toddler/preschooler thing. I have to say I’ve gotten pretty good at it, though. These are the things I’ve learned that are most important:
–The sooner you give a child a band-aid, the sooner he’ll shut up.
–Diapers are a million times easier than potty-training. Only insane first-time parents try to potty-train an 18-month-old. People love to act like potty-training is some sort of sign that they are great parents. It’s not.
–Never let a child say rude things to you, the parent. Ever. You need to nip that sass in the bud. And saying she doesn’t like the food you made is the ultimate rudest thing there is. I tell my kids, “You can think whatever you like but you may not tell me you hate your dinner”. If your kids don’t respect their mother, they aren’t going to respect anyone.
–Let consequences be the teacher. This is so hard but so easy. “You don’t want to wear a coat outside, kiddo? Fine. Freeze your butt off.” Guess what happens next time you tell her to put her coat on? She’ll do it.
–Showers are a billion times easier than baths. The splashing is completely contained. You can also sit on the bathroom floor using your laptop without worrying that somebody is going to drown. Plus baths are kind of gross. As my kids call it, “sitting in bum water”.
–There is no need for babies to read. Now if there were someone who could figure out how to get babies to scrub the bathroom, then I might get on board.
–Telling kids you can’t afford something is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s going to teach them that they can’t have whatever they want. It’s also the ultimate argument-ender:
Child: “Mommy, please can I get this [insert name of weird plastic animal with oversized head]. Please, please, pleeeeease???”
Mom: “No. If we buy it we won’t have money for bread. Although I’m sure zhu-zhu pets taste very good covered in peanut butter.”
–Start as you mean to go on. Which means, don’t do something that you can’t imagine doing indefinitely. Motherhood is a constant struggle between doing what is easiest and doing what is harder but better in the long run. Yes, it’s easy in the middle of the night to let your toddler climb in bed with you. Way easier than walking her back to her own bed. But at some point you’re going to want that child to sleep in her own bed every night. And that’s a lot more difficult when you’ve got a bratty seven-year old. So before you give in to your child, think “do I want this to become a habit?”. If the answer is no, then don’t do it. It can be anything from driving your baby around so she’ll fall asleep, to ironing your son’s clothes every day so they’ll be warm when he puts them on (yes, I actually had a friend who did this).
–Kids don’t have an off-switch. Believe me, I’ve checked. For the basic reason that if they did, parents would only turn them on for about 20 minutes a day.
–If a children’s book has lots of words, feel free to read only the first and last sentence on each page.
–The more kids you have, the less you care about a diaper bag. Eventually you’ll just toss a couple of diapers and some wipes in the car and call it good.
–Don’t cheap out on photographs. Get yourself a nice camera or pay for professional pictures. By the time your kids are in school, photographs and a few crayon drawings are the only evidence you’ll have that this sweaty, tall boy who shaves used to be a sweet, tiny baby.
–Little kids and cupcakes do not play well together. Kids will lick off the frosting, take two bites and smash the rest into a gigantic mess of sticky crumbs. Do everybody a favor and pass out some Oatmeal Cream Pies instead. Not as festive but who can say no to Little Debbie?
There you go. Sixteen years of experience in one blog post!
*For the love of everything sacred, do not use these carts for your one child. Because some poor, downtrodden mother is going to stagger into SuperTarget with her 2 little kids and a baby and will have to try to cram them all in a regular shopping cart. Which means there will be no room for the two cases of diapers, let alone groceries. And if she sees you with your singleton hogging the very last big shopping buggy, she will want to run you over. All because you couldn’t say no to your 3-year-old and tell him that the reason there are seats for three people is because that’s who gets to use them.