Monday, November 17, 2014

Truth in Advertising

Parenting, more often than not, is NOT a glamorous affair. Like the grammar in the previous sentence, it is often messy and confusing. And that’s on a good day. On the bad days…well, parents know what the bad days are like, and non-parents wouldn’t sleep at night if they knew what their brethren with children were enduring on those days. Which is why I often claim that parenting is not actually or fairly portrayed to those without children. If The Childless truly knew all that came with kids, there would quite possibly be NO. MORE. CHILDREN.

To be fair to all those who have misrepresented parenting throughout history, I am fairly certain that many experiences just can’t be relayed with mere words. You can tell someone that The Silence of the Lambs is the scariest movie ever that will forever change their perception of moths, lotion, baskets, fava beans, Chianti, loafers, etc. But that horror doesn’t truly come to life until actually experiencing the movie (damnit, now I won’t sleep for three nights). Parenting is like this, too. Until you have children of your own, the full weight of your parent’s curse, “I hope you have children just like you!” doesn’t really register. That is…until the day you do have children just like you, and you realize the statement wasn’t meant in a complimentary way. Hmmmmmph.

Something all parents know that The Childless wouldn’t fully appreciate is the impossibility of using the bathroom alone. I saw a comic recently that read, “I had kids because I like picking up after other people and listening to myself talk. I also never, ever wanted to go to the bathroom alone again.” While that comic sounds funny, the actuality is not very funny at all. Recently, while I was in the bathroom, Liam and Declan burst in, shrieking and laughing and chasing. After I had finally convinced them to leave, Grace and Nadia burst in, in a full-out sister snit. Accusations were flying, fingers were pointing, emotions were high and the drama was flowing, all while Liam and Declan had started squealing and having a high time again. Keep in mind, for this entire time, I am seated on the porcelain throne with my pants around my ankles, head buried in my hands in despair. By no means is being interrupted in the bathroom a rare incident, but it’s not often that all FOUR kids crash my bathroom party simultaneously. I did some shouting about kids having absolutely no respect for a closed door, ushered the boys out and postponed the settling of the sister squabble to another time and place. But while all parents know the trauma of interrupted toilet-ing, hopefully few parents know the trauma of their bathroom time interrupted by someone else’s children. This actually happened to my neighbor, when my son walked in on him in his bathroom. These are the things that no one is talking about to The Childless.

Recently, Declan lost his BFF, FurFur (aka Mr. Furry Face), an incredibly dirty, used-to-be-white stuffed rabbit. FurFur has been consistently at Declan’s side for more than two years now, and FurFur has logged more miles than a lot of people I know. FurFur occasionally goes missing (or into hiding for some alone time, I suspect), but he always turns up again after a short break. So imagine the entire family’s horror (and Declan’s sleeplessness) when FurFur recently went missing for NINE days. Days one and two were not particularly scary. The searching began in earnest on day three, because that’s the maximum time FurFur has ever disappeared. Day four resulted in an Amber Alert to all friends and neighbors. By day five, I was really starting to panic and retraced steps the day he went missing. By day seven, I’d actually telephoned the police (I did, I admit it, but I swear this honestly wasn’t my idea). I can only imagine how crazy I must’ve sounded as I informed the officer I was looking for a 6-inch tall, off-white rabbit with a shabby pink nose who answers to the name of Mr. Furry Face. No dice. A call to the airport and my description of Declan’s sorrow caused a woman (a mother, obviously) to voluntarily do a sweep of the terminal (fortunately for her, it’s a small airport). She contacted me twice with status updates. No dice, again. In my head, I imagined poor FurFur, heartbroken at being abandoned by his best friend, turning evil, a la Lotso Huggins, as he waited and waited for Declan to come back for him. A day or two later, I was starting to come to terms with my worst fears when we stumbled upon FurFur at the local hardware store, sitting on the same tractor Declan had apparently abandoned him on…nine days earlier. 

Nowhere in the parenting manuals was there a chapter addressing the lengths you’ll go to as a parent for the sake of your children, or their furry friends - both the non-living and living variety. A fellow parent recently recounted the story of her daughter’s pet beta fish. The daughter had asked for a fish for years until, finally, the fish wish was granted. The beta became part of the family and things were going well. Until, one day, when they weren’t. The beta was lopsided and swimming awkwardly. The mom, in a classic example of unanticipated parental adventures, ended up at the Kansas State Veterinary Hospital, distraught, with a fishbowl on her lap. A diagnosis of fin rot was made, medication was prescribed and a special lamp was bought. The fish survives, but the mom is worried. When the time comes, she is armed with clove oil to help the fish pass quickly and with dignity, so that suffering (for fish and family) and flushing are not required. In her telling of this story, she, also, was startled at how parenting can entail so much that we never expect.

When I was mentally drafting this blog, I thought my parenting truth-in-advertising campaign would focus on the shockingly disgusting things that parents never expected to encounter. I could write an entire blog about the places my kids have vomited, to include (but not limited to) the community pool, multiple birthday parties, a hotel lobby, in a friend’s bushes, and in the van on the way to the airport (in this situation, I caught most of it in my hands and held onto it until a rest stop, as to avoid a vomited-in van marinating at the airport during a 10-day vacation). I thought I would also mention an incident with a three-year-old in a loose-legged bathing suit at Disney World that resulted in a “treasure hunt” for some excrement that fell out of her leg hole. We didn’t find it but, for the poor soul who did, Disney World will never be remembered as ‘the happiest place on earth” again. I hope a parent found it; they’d be the least traumatized. 

As I thought about the surprising truths in parenting, in addition to stories of grossness, I kept coming up with various stories of the lengths parents go to for their kids and the unexpected adventures parenting entails (this morning, for example, I had a great time doing a photo shoot with an elf). Clearly, and for obvious reasons, there is no truth in advertising when it comes to parenting; it’s an adventure that can’t be explained, only experienced. And that is The Truth - parenting is an adventure…both for good, bad, disgusting, maddening and hilarious. You’ve been warned; proceed at your own risk. And bring a lot of antibacterial wipes.

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