It’s back to school time. Kids are groaning about leaving summer break behind and parents are often wondering when, if ever, they will get a summer break of their own (retirement’s a scant 32 years away).
Being a parent to a 12 year old has given me cause to have my own back to school reflections. I look back at the dozen years I have spent attempting this whole parenting gig and realize that I have been going to a form of school myself. Every single day I live as a parent I am attending the heralded halls of Parents’ University. Every single day is “Back to School Day” for parents. It’s an institution of tradition, honor, triumph, failure, grueling tests, pop-quizzes and countless sleepless nights of study. There are no scholarships awarded, no standardized tests which prove your aptitude, and no graduation dates. There is no diploma, little pomp or circumstance, and the only title you get after your name is either “mom” or “dad.” There is nothing that can really prepare you for what you learn as a parent. Experience and time are your only true tutors.
There are cosmic truths I have learned during my first 12 years in the hallowed halls of Parents’ University.
Allow me to share some of these truths with you, lessons that can only be learned in the crucible of experience; funny, maddening and sometimes painful experience…
1. Infants will not break apart in your hands. I held my first son for the first few weeks of his life like he was a Pringles potato chip. I swore he was going to crumble in my over-sized mitts. Babies are much more resilient than we give them credit for.
2. Kids get ill more often than adults do – First child 102 fever: Holy crap! My child is dying before my eyes!! Fourth child 102 fever: Weak-sauce. Give the kid some Tylenol, time and a cool cloth and they should end up just fine.
3. Trying to stave off a child’s tantrum is like trying to hold back a tsunami with a single sand-bag. If you see one coming, it’s going to come. Just head for high ground.
4. Little kids are capable of causing you severe bodily damage – the unmistakable crunching noise of nose cartilage being crushed by your child’s head is unforgettable. I have been reverse head-butted multiple times while holding my kids.
5. Mom is a jungle gym and dad’s crotch is a trampoline – Big people must look so tempting to toddlers. We must look like walking play-grounds. I have seen my kids climbing all over my wife like a big toy countless times and I am certain that there is some sort of an invisible target on my tenders. I endorse fathers wearing a sports cup at all times.
6. Kids will walk up three flights of stairs, passing 4 bathrooms on the way, in order to throw-up all over you – I will never understand this, only that it happens.
7. Nothing chills the soul of a parent like the sound of a kid retching at 2 am.
8. Bedtime is a glimpse into the innermost circles of hell for all parents.
9. Mom has a demon voice. Don’t make her use her demon voice… for the love of everything holy! Even Dad is scared of it.
10. True naps are a thing of the past – I have slowly learned that parents have no right to a nap. A napping parent MUST be punished for being slothful on the job.
11. Ringing in the ears is a part of parenthood – Hearing loss is actually a good thing. You become oblivious to how obnoxiously loud your kids are in public places.
12. Having a child screech “Wipe Meeeeeeeeee!” or “I’m dooooooooo-ooooone!” will almost become white noise.
13. It is likely that you will take your child to the ER for stuffing something up their nose – In our case it was a skittle, purple if I remember correctly. Still edible.
14. Back-wash drinks and a half-eaten sandwich are good eatin’ – I look at their partially consumed vittles as “Diet Food.” I personally have eaten my weight in the crusts from my son’s partially consumed PB&Js – also, think of the chunky water as “pulp” and you will power past the gag reflex.
15. There is no pain like stepping barefoot on a Lego hidden in the carpet.
16. If you are a child, toys are not really to be played with; toys are to be spread out like a ground cover. Toys are also to be distributed evenly throughout the house.
17. The pants of parents are multi-purpose – not only do they cover our behinds, they also serve as kleenex for children.
18. Boogers on the wall are worse than globs of super-glue. You might as well take the wall down to the studs to remove them.
19. If you are a child, shoes are to be worn indoors but only if they are filthy. Socks are to be worn outside, in place of shoes, and a new package of socks is never to last longer than 1 week without getting holes.
20. As if on some sort of indecipherable circadian rhythm, at least one child must wake up in the middle of the night every night. It is important that this child always awaken both parents.
21. As a father, I cannot be held accountable for anything I say to my children between the hours of midnight and 4 am. My demon voice is most prevalent during these hours.
22. Kids will beg and grovel to have glasses until they have glasses and then, after wearing them only one day to school, they will absolutely refuse to wear their glasses.
23. There is nothing more comforting than a child snuggling into you for a true hug.
24. Watching your child get hurt physically is somehow physically painful for the parent as well.
…And, about a million other things I won’t take the time to list
Perhaps I fibbed a little. Perhaps there are graduation points along the path of parenting. I can see now that many of the things I have learned in the first 12 years are coming to an end since my kids are now getting past the stage of many of the lessons depicted above. Now I am beginning to better understand those more seasoned veteran parents who would knowingly tell me “You are going to miss this stage.” Oh, how I have often wanted to punch the person telling me this. “I’m going to miss this, am I? Well, you are going to miss the ability to be able to eat solid foods for the next few weeks!” (come on now, you know I am mostly joking here). Now I am starting to see that moving on to the next phase of life is a bit sad. Graduating from the stage when my children so desperately needed me and my wife for EVERYTHING will be a bit harder to leave behind than I thought it might.
I can only imagine (and I am certain I am just as unprepared for) what the next 12 years of parenting will be like. Puberty, here comes the Jacobs boys! Well, it’s another day… sigh … time for this middle-aged dad to go back to school.
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