Entering parenthood has definitely been an eye-opener for me, and for my loving husband. It is so close to those commercials you see where the boy and girl meet, fall in love and then you are thrown into the snip-its of their life together. It usually culminates in mother and father bouncing teary-eyed, snot-nosed children on their knees while looking on bleary-eyed and exhausted.
I sit on my couch laughing at the couple I see on television, only because I have been in that same position countless times. Bleary-eyed and living off strong coffee, it pretty much sums up the first several years of being a parent. Your brain doesn’t function properly and you find yourself putting the milk jug up in the cabinet instead of the fridge. I NEVER thought I would be one of “those” people. Oh how life can throw irony right into your face, dirt and all.
I have laughed, cried and yelled with other moms about the instances in my life as a mother that have literally made me want to pull my hair out or go run in traffic during rush hour. The other night, I caught myself saying something, and it made me think…what are the signs that scream “parenthood?”
After thinking on it the rest of the evening, I came up with a list that I felt fit the bill for my being a parent raising two fun-loving, crazy, wild and spontaneous children.
Here we go:
1. You know you’re a parent when a trip to Target or the grocery store alone feels like a tropical vacation. Who ever knew I would take shopping at the grocery store for granted? I used to breeze through the aisles, hearing the kids screaming in their carts and silently thanking God it wasn’t my cart. The first time I snuck off to Target after having my daughter I was so distracted while ogling over the different paper towels I could buy that I failed to see the support post in the middle of the aisle. And I ran the cart full-force into that pole, oblivious to the pain I was about to experience as the handlebar of my bright red shopping cart violently pressed against my ever-expanding, milk-producing remnants of breasts. Remember, this was the first trip I had taken out of the house alone after having a newborn. Because of my blatant obtuseness, I had to stop in the aisle to catch my breath and pray I hadn’t sprayed breast milk all over the floor. Yes, shopping alone and wondering the aisles of my favorite store is definitely a quick trip to paradise, perhaps dairy-free next time?
2. You know you’re a parent when your supportive, loving spouse opens the freezer to pull out yet another frozen casserole for dinner, only to find your freezer contains more breast milk bags than food. When our first child was born, I knew beforehand I was going to give nursing a shot. Whether it worked or not, who knew, but I had to try. Nursing the first time wasn’t as successful as when I nursed my second child. Maybe my body decided it was go-time or wanted to prove me wrong. But for some reason, my second delivery showed I was able to “reserve” and “store” extra bags of breast milk in our freezer. The best part was when you asked the friends who didn’t have kids yet to get something out of the freezer for you and then watch their eyeballs pop out of their heads. It’s a cheap laugh to have, but hey, parents will take them where they can get them. Let’s not tell them about the whole “pump and dump” scenario that goes along with having a night out and drinking some wine. That really gets them confused. No judgment, right?
3. You know you’re a parent when, getting up from a table full of friends, you announce to all present you are “going to use the potty.” Parenthood’s arch nemesis has to be potty training a toddler. I am now in the midst of getting our 3-year-old son potty trained and it has been a haul of poop, pee and a lot of extra laundry. Boys are busy and feel okay with having crap in their pants instead of stopping their trains from delivering goods on the Island of Sodor. Seriously? Oh, it is so gross! And because I am full-force into potty-training mom mode, I found myself the other evening announcing (in a bar, yes, a BAR) to my gal pals in a sweet, child-like voice that I was “going to use the potty, can I take anyone?” Wow. Time for a martini with that one, extra olive, please.
4. Speaking of potty training, you know you’re a parent when using the bathroom or taking a shower without an audience is a rarity. This happens EVERY DAY, my friends. The only time I can have five minutes of privacy in the bathroom is when my kids are out of the house. I swear they are born with special radars that alert them when you disappear from the room and close the bathroom or shower door. Before I can get my water to the perfect temperature I have my son or daughter swinging open the door and asking me what I am doing. I just give them the “what-does-it-look-like-I-am-doing” look, and yet, they still stand there letting all the hot steam out and waiting for a response. Being a parent means I have truly lost my sense of modesty without having a say in the matter. My kids took care of that for me, they just barge on in and start asking questions. I need better locks on my doors…maybe retinal scans would work?
5. You know you’re a parent when the kids are FINALLY in bed asleep and you collapse onto the couch, hoping to catch a recorded episode of Homeland or Downton Abbey before your body wins out with sleep. Feet propped on a pillow, blanket gently laid on you, and remote in hand, you go in for the kill. But the screen shows none of your programs.
“Wait, I know I set the timer on Scandal. Why didn’t tonight’s episode record?” you ask in a panic-stricken voice. “Oh my gosh! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”
And then you hear it, the first couple of notes of “Thomas the Train” and it hits you. Your show was NOT recorded because a previous recording had been set and no one noticed when the TV asked you to cancel or switch your shows. My friends, when you become a parent, your DVR will always contain more episodes of Doc McStuffins, Mickey Mouse, Thomas the Train or Caillou than you care to admit to (and why does Caillou still lack hair at the age of 4?). Parenthood means your television no longer belongs to you when the “miniatures” are in the house.
6. You know you’re a parent when you purchase items at the store simply because it contains a “Box Top for Education” label. Ah, the old “box top.” I used to pride myself on my shoe collection. Yes, shoes have always been an addiction of mine. But who needs designer heels and boots when you have Box Tops? I have seen these things plastered on various items in my home, ranging from Kleenex boxes to protein bars. But I never realized their demand until our daughter started grade school. So now, I am full-blown into box-top hunting. Forget the bow-and-arrow or 22-gage shotgun. All you need is a keen eye and a sharp pair of scissors to complete the mission. Do I need 20 boxes of zip locks or animal crackers? Well, yes I do if it has a box top attached! Once removed and nicely tucked away in one of those zip-lock bags I will have for the next 10 years, my child will think I am the hero because we collected more box tops than Little Susie or Billy Bob in the classroom. Oh, and before I forget, send me your box tops!
7. You know you’re a parent when you eliminate the color white from your wardrobe. White, cream, pale pinks, pale blues and anything else that can be washed on “delicate” are usually weeded out after the first year of birth. I myself found this out one lovely day when our daughter, who was only 6 months old at the time, decide to vomit her entire lunch of sweet potatoes and green beans on my newly purchased white halter top (it was July). Needless to say, that garment ended up in the trash can after about 10 bleaches. Instead of these rather lovely pastel and clean palette colors, parenthood has you choosing more food and snot-resistant clothing like black, dark blue, dark brown, charcoal. Did I say black? Maroon can work to in certain lighting.
8. You know you’re a parent when you base your lunch or dinner destination on how clean the play-yard is at various fast food restaurants. I love good food way too much to consider fast food a means of sustenance. But since having kids, I have had to get creative, but as clean as possible. That means I have staked out the few places near me that my kids can crawl, play and burn energy without picking up a case of Ebola. Yes, I am the mom that has stashed hand sanitizer in her purse, various places in the car, by the back door and in my children’s backpacks. Hey, every little bit helps, right? I knew I was a parent when I found myself sitting in the room of an indoor play yard while surfing Facebook or playing Candy Crush on my phone. All the while my children are climbing in bare feet (which isn’t allowed), running around and not eating the $5 kid’s meal I purchased for each of them. Oh, why can’t I be sitting in the tasting room of a Napa vineyard??
Those are just a few things that I found to define me as a parent. Parenthood has been full of wonderful moments, first words, huge hugs and lots of laughs. Parenthood has also shared some dark sides, such as yelling matches, time-outs and cancelled babysitters. But it is a role, a task that I have to respect because it shapes me everyday, like a child shapes a container of play-dough. I am far from being perfect as a parent, but I figure if I give it my all then I have to do something right along the way. For you parents out there, I know you have your own “you know you’re a parent when…” and I would love to hear your stories. Please share with me, so we can laugh together at what life has thrown us.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing your DNA reproduce with arms, legs and a brain that contains opinions, I hope you read this and laugh with me, because I am one of those people that have to laugh through life to drudge through all the muck and junk that comes with it.
Despite loosing 401K’s for college funds instead of designer shoes, or becoming obsessive compulsive over the wipes being out after your kid’s massive explosion, parenthood is a truly off-the-cuff experience. Perhaps this is why you find so many self-help books at the library. In the words of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, A.K.A. Will Smith, “sometimes parents just don’t understand.”
I would offer a wine tip, but in my brutal honesty as a parent, you just have to find a wine (or drink of preference) you enjoy to help you unwind from the day of telling little ones “no,” or “stop that,” or “I said no kicking!” I am not going to judge or dictate on the wine or drink of choice. Just take what you need to wind down from one of the tough days at the “office of parenthood.”
Until next time, cheers.