Friday, June 14, 2013

Stuff You Never Thought You Would (or Could) Do

Before you have kids, there are lots of things that you don’t think you could ever do. Change a gross diaper without throwing up, for example. But when parenthood rolls around, not doing them is not an option, so you just DO them. Here are just a few of the things I never thought I would or could do that I have done for my kids.

1.      Eating food that’s been partially eaten by someone else
This happens for multiple reasons. First of all, you hate to see food going to waste. So when you make a perfectly good peanut butter sandwich and your kid eats a single bite of it before losing interest, you have to eat it. It’s the environmentally responsible thing to do. But the other reason is that if you don’t eat that sandwich, chances are you’re not going to get lunch at all because you’re too busy making sure that your kid isn’t disassembling the DVD player or sticking bobby pins into an electrical outlet or bleaching the neighbor’s cat.
2.      Cleaning another human being’s face with spit
Any mother who claims she’s never done this is either a liar or so neurotic that she carries a pack of baby wipes in her bra at all times. Kids have an amazing way of finding dirt wherever they go. And the more important the event is that they’re headed for, the dirtier they’ll get. When you take a last look at your baby girl in her lovely flower girl dress right before she marches down the aisle, you can be sure she’ll have a big glob of oatmeal or snot or magic marker on her face, and the handiest solvent around is your own spit. Trust me, it’s less unpleasant than having the bride resent you for the rest of your life for letting your kid ruin her wedding video.
3.      Perform mouth to mouth resuscitation
Yeah, this one’s pretty serious. Ten years ago, I got my CPR certification, never imagining I’d need to use it, and never thinking I’d be able to bring myself to, even in a crisis. A few weeks ago, my not-quite-two-year-old daughter slipped out of the house and fell into our swimming pool. We found her about 10 minutes later, not breathing. Those lessons I never thought I’d be able to use? Kicked in without even thinking about it. When your baby is in trouble, you’d do anything to help her. She spent a week in Children’s Hospital, but came home with a perfectly clean bill of health, thanks in large part to that early CPR. (If you’re a parent, please consider very seriously getting certified in CPR. If I can learn it - and use it - anyone can.)
4.      Turn food into entertainment
Many non-parents scoff at the idea of making food fun. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me, “My [hypothetical] children will eat what the rest of the family eats, or they’ll go hungry,” I'd be a millionaire. I thought the same thing until I gave birth to children who are nearly as picky as I was. If sticking frilly toothpicks into chunks of chicken or making faces out of pretzels and cheerios on scrambled eggs will get some protein into my kids’ diets, then bring on the food fun! If cooking “spiders” made of chunks of hotdog impaled with spaghetti gets my kid to not balk at dinner, I’m all for it. I’m pretty sure that by the time my kid is 15 or so, he’ll be willing to eat non-arachnid hot dogs. Besides, it's art. I’ve seen much weirder art at MOMA.
5.      Making friends with people with whom I have nothing in common except that my kids like their kids
This one really only applies to those parents among us unfortunate enough to be introverts. I have a hard enough time making friends when I see an obvious shared interest or background; it’s nearly impossible for me to make friends with someone without that connection. But if my kid hits it off with another kid, I’m going to suck it up and say “Hi” to that kid’s mom, even if I’d rather be having a root canal without anesthesia. I’ll even invite her and her kid over for a play date if it’ll make my kid happy. I’m very fortunate that the few times I’ve forced myself to do that, I’ve ended up discovering that we have more in common than I thought, and I’ve made a wonderful new friend – and so has my kid. But it’s something I would never do for myself, only for my kid.
Being a mom is kind of like being an explorer in the 1600s. You’re sailing off into uncharted territory, discovering new problems, and trying to solve them with whatever tools you happen to have on hand. Whether that tool is spit, hotdog-and-spaghetti spiders, or a fake bright smile, you do what you can and hope for the best. And like those explorers, you never know what the payoff might be. At worst, you just had a cool adventure. At best, your name is remembered for many generations. Not a bad outcome either way, I’d say.

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