Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Do You Have Your Own Too?

It had been one of those days. You know, one of THOSE days. The light fixtures were barely intact from the kids bouncing off the walls. Every request/plea/beg fell on deaf ears. I headed numbly downstairs to check on the laundry, but flopped down on the steps almost to the bottom. And just sat. And stared. Very blankly. After a time I realized no one had followed me and no one was looking for me, so I kept sitting, enjoying the alone-ness of it.

I looked down and saw a book in my hand that for whatever reason I had grabbed on my way downstairs, called "You Can Childproof Your Home, but They'll Still Get In" (see it
). My mother had given it to me for Christmas several months before but I had yet to crack it open. So I did. In the introduction I found:

Child development professionals categorize children into two main groups:

(A) Naturally compliant, obedient, well-mannered children
(B) Yours

"How did he know?" I thought sarcastically. "Maybe he sat behind us at church sometime. Or followed us through the grocery store." I read on.

The implication is rather obvious. If you are blessed with naturally compliant, obedient, well-mannered children, they were accidentally switched at the hospital. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. In a sense, you could look at it as though you won the lottery, and someone else even bought your ticket for you.

Most parents, however, end up with their own children. But don't panic quite yet. Bringing your own children home from the hospital doesn't mean they are destined to be incompliant, disobedient, and ill-mannered, but it does mean that you have to devote massive amounts of time and energy to avoid that outcome. Left to themselves, your children have a natural propensity to be self-centered, pugnacious, and ill-tempered and, if they are boys, wear oversized trousers with enough denim to fashion a Coleman tent.

This book is for all the parents who ended up with their own kids. It is not a professional parenting manual, as I am not a professional. I am just a dad. But I hope that you will find some insight and some helpful tips in my observations, reflections, ruminations, grousings, mutterings, stunned exclamations, incredulous questions, inane outbursts, bulging neck arteries, apologies, failures, and occasional successes.

By the time I finished I felt far less alone, yet the kids still hadn't found me.

I realized I KNOW families who have some of those switched kids. They are almost eerily well-behaved. "Stay here with me, sweetheart." And they DO! I've had glimpses of that, but never the real thing. If they have to be switched to get it, do I want it? Hmmm....

The rest of the book is also worthwhile reading, but this introduction stuck with me longer than anything else. It taught another lesson I didn't expect - that a good laugh certainly goes a long way to keep mom sane.

And for the record, I'm very glad I have my own. My own insanity-inducing, mother-torturing children, but MY children.

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