I have fond memories of child-rearing. At least I think I do. I had four children in seven years. What was I thinking?
My kids were interesting exercises in self-awareness for me. For example, I confronted multiple distressing character issues while cleaning poop off the child, the crib sheets and wall at 2:30 a.m.
I trained them to sleep through the night easily, but potty training was a different story. After several attempts, I decided they were training me to put them on the potty at appropriate intervals. I didn’t see the point of putting the child on the potty until they actually made a connection. And I didn’t want pee-pee on my carpet, either. So they wore diapers until they got it.
As a wise woman once said, “I never saw a kid start school in diapers.”
They are now, at ages 28, 26, 23 and 21 — potty trained.
Adolescence took me completely by surprise. The first one to hit this phase was female, and hysteria-ridden drama punctuated our home for years. (Two girls + five years apart = wildly fluctuating hormones and unavailable bathrooms for seven years.) I wasn’t sure I was going to survive, because by nature I am not a patient woman.
The boys shrugged their way through adolescence by becoming as invisible and silent as ghosts. A conversation with an adolescent boy goes something like this:
“Hi honey, how was school today?”
Goes into his bedroom and closes the door. Mom follows and tries again. Sits on the bed beside him.
She reaches out and tousles his hair fondly. Bad idea. He jerks his head away and fixes her with the evil eye. She remembers the cardinal rule of all adolescent boys, which is to not touch them. Especially in public.
Gamely, she continues, hands safely in her lap, “Well, how are you doing today? Got homework?”
He sighs. Looks out the window. Decides he is trapped. “Yep.” He glances at her, silently communicating his desire to be alone. His eyes are steely. His mouth is set in a firm line. She gives up and exits, mumbling something about dinner.
At least I could get the girls to talk. The boys did not give me a complete sentence for three years.
Late last summer, Wal-Mart was crammed with stressed moms filling their carts with school supplies, and my mind jogged back in time to buying this stuff for four kids at once. I grinned as I scuttled past the three-ring binders, folders with pockets, index cards and highlighters without picking up a single item. Moms began to eye me strangely when I raised both my hands and silently mouthed “hallelujah.”
Presently my kids live on each coast and in between. Three of them are self-supporting, which is downright magical. My girls call me constantly, and their hormones have stabilized. My boys call frequently and I cannot get them to shut up.
On any given day I am invited to participate in various segments of their lives that would have been fiercely guarded a few years ago. Each of them begs us to move closer to them. I am delighted to find they paid attention, at least sometimes, to rants of mine that did, indeed, contain seeds of wisdom.
I find the whole process highly entertaining.
I can’t wait to see what happens when these kids hit puberty. I will murmur things to their parents like “I understand,” or “NO! Really? How could that happen?,” or “The school counselor said WHAT? Oh my goodness!,” and then I will snicker silently into the phone and thank God that these issues are over for me.