Parenting tests a person like nothing else.
And one of the quirkiest things about parenthood is that you are taking on a job for which you have zero experience or training. Oh and did I mention you are not permitted to quit and other people’s lives are at stake?
“There’s no such thing as ready. You just jump on a moving train and you try not to die,” as Chris Rock’s character, Vic, so aptly put it in “What to Expect When You Are Expecting.”
You haven’t had your patience tested until you have attempted to wrestle a wiggly toddler out of a winter coat with a busted zipper before said child pitches a full-blown, five-alarm temper tantrum or waited in the school drop-off and pick-up lines twice a day for the past five days — that’s about one hour of my life per week that I can’t get back.
Parents are easy to spot. We’re the ones who throw an arm across the chest of the child in the passenger seat when we are forced to come to an abrupt stop due to a pickup truck turning into Arby’s on Versailles Road without a blinker.
We are also the ones gently maneuvering through traffic from one side of town to the other because we are transporting enough fast-food to feed a family of five — including three very hungry teens — during Frankfort’s 4:30 p.m. rush hour by ourselves and heaven help the person or car who makes us spill a supersized McDonald’s sweet tea all over the passenger’s side floorboard.
Parents are wise enough to never point out something while in the car unless every single child can see the attraction before the traffic light turns green.
We’re also smart enough to tell our kids that the police stopped us to tell us how good we were driving and that speed cameras actually capture children passengers behaving badly.
While we may not understand the “new mathematics” being taught to our little ones, we are aces at parental math.
For example, the school holiday concert starts at 7 p.m. = The kid has to be in his homeroom at 6:45 + We have to leave the house by 6:30 + Everybody has to start getting ready by 6 + Dinner must be on the table no later than 5:15 p.m.
Like the “new math,” parental math also has word problems. For instance, you gave the youngest a chewable ibuprofen for her fever at 2 a.m. meaning she can’t get another dose until at least 10 a.m. However, at 4:30 a.m. she managed to make it to your bedside before ralphing everything she had eaten in the past 12 hours all over your comforter, carpet and nightstand. When should you give her the next dose of medicine?
As parents, we have an uncanny ability to find the little “treasures” our offspring leave us in the laundry. From the underwear-entangled, inside-out pants to the half-eaten cookie and the dried carcass of Wooly the caterpillar found in the pocket of a pair of jeans, seemingly nothing can gross us out.
Parents don’t attend children’s birthday parties, we survive them. Then go home and sneak a Milano cookie from our secret stash with the kids, who are hopped up on sugar, none the wiser.
They say that 90% of parenting is thinking about when you can lie down again. I’d say that’s about right, but would add that the other 10% is spent saying “it’s bedtime” 78 times between the hours of 8 and 9 p.m. when the kids are little and “it’s time to get up” 62 times between noon and 1 p.m. when they are teens.
Now, where do I pick up my mother of the year award?
Chanda Veno is editor of The State Journal. She can be emailed at email@example.com