Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Life As You Know It Is Over

There are many ways in which your life changes when you have kids.  Some of these you expect, like the lack of sleep and the baby weight (still sucks, though) and the lack of sleep.  I wrote that one twice because it needs emphasis.  But there are also changes you don’t expect, and I’ve been musing a lot about those lately.  Perhaps it’s because I have another birthday coming up, or my 10-year college reunion, but I have been reflecting on my life recently and the unforeseen turns my journey has taken.  A lot of those have to do with children.  This is my incomplete list of the unexpected havoc wreaked in my life by my kids:


1. Mealtimes


Do you and your husband enjoy meals together?  Unhurried meals, often including a bottle of wine and foods that had flavor?  Kiss those meals behind because, boy oh boy, kids don’t eat salad or a variety of gooey cheeses and sausage served with a nice Cabernet.  In fact, they are often so insulted by something different that they will cry.  Loudly.  Say hello to making chicken, pasta, and steamed broccoli for the bajillionth night in a row.


And don’t expect to sit down and enjoy that meal!  Oh no, you will be the living embodiment of Ralphy’s mom in A Christmas Story: “My mother hadn’t had a hot meal for herself in fifteen years.”  They need milk, the fork you got them isn’t right, oh wait, they need water now, this is hot please blow on it.  You will shovel food in your own mouth as fast as you can just to have your hands free to cut up more chicken or scrape the sauce off of the rice or butter more bread because the world will end and everyone will cry if the bread doesn’t get butter RIGHT NOW.


We all think we’re going to be those parents who teach their children to love various and flavorful foods like sushi and gumbo and goat cheese & onion tarts, but the thing is, they won’t.  No matter what you do.  Children’s palates are unformed and bland and I don’t care what kind of great parent you are, at some point, your two-year-old will refuse to eat anything that isn’t chicken nuggets or goldfish crackers.  Just shove a multivitamin in him and hope for the best.


2. Cars


Do you love your car?  Is it clean?  Not when you have kids, it isn’t.


I didn’t really think about it much before I had demons children, but my car was always pretty clean.  Now, however, there are cracker crumbs ground into the seat cushions and toys and clothing everywhere.  Try as you might, you will not be able to keep your car clean when you have kids.  They get hungry, you will feed them – even if it means scooping a mashed-up peanut butter & jelly sandwich out of the door panel two weeks later (when you finally notice it).  They are thirsty, you will pass them the water bottle (pro tip: don’t allow a sippy cup of milk in the car – when it goes bad, forgotten underneath the seats, the results are… unpleasant).  And the toys!  Your kids will have to take toys on long car trips and sometimes just to the grocery store.  You know, because Buzz and Woody can’t stand to be left behind.  Except they will be left behind, in your car, when you get home.  The toys will slowly pile up until you do your weekly clean-out and take them back to the toy box.


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What, mom, don’t you like finding apple chunks in the door pockets?


What do you listen to in your car?  Forget about ever listening to it again.  Just like with food, you will think that you can influence your children’s musical tastes by only exposing them to Beck or Elvis or whatever, but the day will come when they will ask for Raffi and you will gladly play all of his music on repeat just to make them stop screaming already.  Or, as in my case, you will sing Old McDonald Had A Farm at the top of your lungs, using every animal known to man because it keeps the baby from screaming.  We once spent an entire four-hour car trip doing that.  Eventually, you’ll expand your collection to include other children’s performers until you wake up to find that the songs most often playing in your head are from the current favorite Sandra Boynton CD.


3. Clothing/Jewelry/Perfume


I love clothes and I love jewelry.  I love hair, and I mostly wear mine down.  For the entire first year of each of my children’s lives, I wore my hair up.  All. The. Time.


Kids pull things, they are attracted to shiny stuff (it’s like you birthed a magpie), and they don’t understand why they can’t wrap their sticky little fists in your hair when they are cuddling you.  Put away your pretty things, mama.  Here’s why:


Breast milk stains.  Oh, yes it does.  So does banana, and if you think that banana isn’t going to get all over their little hands and faces every time they eat one, you are wrong.  I can get most other stains out, but those two types of stains remain, and that’s why I don’t wear nice clothing around my children.


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Let me rub my smoothie face on your shirt!


The chains of your jewelry will snap.  And then you will cry, just like I did when my son snapped a beautiful beaded necklace by pulling it from my neck, showering tiny beads everywhere.


You know what hurts?  Having your dangly earrings pulled.


That new baby smell is pretty wonderful, isn’t it?  Well, that new baby smell can quickly be overpowered by your perfume, especially if the baby likes to rub his head up under your chin.


Pretty soon after having children, you notice that your at-home wardrobe consists entirely of yoga pants and stained T-shirts.  And you could swear that you were once a classy dresser.


4. Entertainment


Beyond just limiting your music selection in the car to kid-friendly choices, children will seriously impede your enjoyment of other forms of entertainment.  Do you like to host dinner parties?  Too bad for that, the kids go to sleep by eight and quiet hours begin at seven.  Do you like movies?  You probably won’t be able to stay awake for one after you finally get your children settled down and asleep.  Do you enjoy karaoke or cocktail bars or dancing?  Add the cost of a babysitter to all your nights out and then the guilt-trip laid on your by your kids every time you leave: “But Moooommy!  I don’t want you to leave!”


Even your movie selection will probably change.  I simply cannot STAND to watch any show that features children being harmed, turned into zombies, kidnapped, or dying.  It didn’t used to bother me, but now it does. 


5. Traveling


You know that traveling with children will be more difficult, you do.  But you probably won’t realize how difficult until you are stopped for the third time on what was supposed to be a three-hour car trip so that someone can go to the bathroom or because someone else needs his diaper changed or needs to nurse or just simply has had enough of the car.  And the stuff!  You will feel like you’re packing to move just to go away for a weekend! 


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You have to pack the kids wherever you go, too.


I contend that any vacation spent with one’s children is not a vacation at all.  It’s just parenting in another locale, usually with more challenges.  You’ll be eating out, and they won’t like that food or can’t sit still in the restaurant.  The hotel bed won’t feel the same.  The noises are different.  You will find yourself confined to your hotel room at eight pm, unable to watch TV for fear of waking sleeping children.  Taking a long flight with a child is miserable, going through jet-lag and time changes with children is miserable, not being able to relax is miserable.  You can do it, and we have and will continue to go on trips with our children, but they are not “vacations.”  They are often more exhausting than staying home.


6. What’s Mine Is Yours


That food on your plate?  Your water glass?  Your seat?  Your bed?  They will share it with you, whether you like it or not.  Oh, sure, you’re happy to share with your kids, but just once you’d like to eat the whole cookie instead of just half.  And their food explorations inevitably come on the night you only made two servings of Chicken Cordon Bleu thinking that there was no way they’d try it.  But they want it, they love it, so they get to eat all of yours.  And you get to have an apple instead.


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No room for mom and dad.


7. Subjects of Conversation


I, quite honestly, think nothing of discussing childbirth and episiotomies and breastfeeding and pregnancy weight gain in public.  These are parts of my life that, before children, would have been intensely private and are now available for public comment. 


You will discuss your children’s diapers and the contents thereof.  You will discuss teething.  You will tell all your friends, in great detail, about the monstrous amount of snot you sucked out of your child’s nose with the bulb suction thingy.  You will ask their advice on potty training.


You will mourn the old you who had a wide range of conversational subjects of interest to address at a dinner party.  That brain space is no longer available because you are not getting enough sleep.




I guess it’s kind of inevitable, these changes.  I still have many single or childless friends and sometimes I am wildly envious; they have so much freedom, so much money (compared to those of us who spend half our income on the care of our children), and so much sleep.  But they don’t have what I have: two beautiful, smelly, sticky, sleepless, whiny, and much-loved children.


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Being unbearably cute makes up for a lot.


Tony said...

Those kids have giant feet!

Mom and Dad said...

YOu put it in a nutshell...Families are family... I love them. frustrating perhaps at times, but loving supportive and always ready to help...yep.. having a family is work. balance. Each step is different and fun / challenging. But you are doing well at each step and making me laugh along the way. It may not be a comfort, but when they are in their 30's they are still your babies. Even when you are so proud of them for being such great parents and making amazing choices in their spouse. love ya

Eric said...

I'm always careful asking a friend about her kids. She'll usually bring me up to date without too much prompting, but I try to remember that she may want to talk about something else for a change.