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The Well-Meaning Things Expecting Parents Tell Themselves That Never Work Out

I don’t care what anyone says – being a parent is the hardest job in the world. Ok, except for maybe being in the military or being married to a Kardashian. So, we’ll say it’s the THIRD hardest job in the world.

You go into parenting thinking you understand the job requirements – feed them, bath them, keep ‘em happy and alive. It seems pretty straightforward.

But there are all these variables you don’t factor in when you sign up for the position. What if my spouse has different parenting techniques than me? What if my kid suffers from some kind of mental or physical disability? What if my kid ends up being a sociopath or a screw-up or a liberal? Obviously, you go into it thinking you’ll be able to prevent these things from happening, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

This is why couples that are expecting crack me up. You can always tell which soon-to-be parents are new to the game and which ones are seasoned based solely on the books on their nightstand. If it looks like the “How To Parent” section at a Barnes and Noble, chances are they are brand-spankin-new. Households that already have a few kids use “What To Expect When You Are Expecting” as a drink coaster.

When you’re newly pregnant, you have nine months to form a game plan. You do your research and you decide what kind of parent you’re going to be. You hash-out every possible scenario and devise your plan of attack. You will be the perfect mom or dad and your child’s model behavior will be a reflection of your refined parenting skills.

When it’s your second, third, or fourth child, you just think to yourself, “Ok, if I can prevent this one from playing in his own poop or having a complete meltdown in Target, we’re good.”

Look, it’s super admirable when a person wants to arm themselves with knowledge so they can be the best parental figure they possibly can be. I wish more parents displayed that kind of gumption. But, as any seasoned mom or dad knows, it’s a rarity that things unfold the way you originally anticipated. Here are some of the ridiculous things every new parent tells themselves:

“My Kid Will Never Act Out In Public”

This one is my favorite because it’s so adorably naive. Yes. Yes, your kid WILL have a total meltdown in public. The kind of meltdown reserved for PTSD victims. It will come out of nowhere and it will probably be because the air touched his leg wrong. Ain’t no amount of mommy blogs or self-help books are going to prepare you for this. And yes, in case you were wondering, onlookers will TOTALLY judge you as a parent, just like you judged other moms before you became one. You’ll know the other parents because they’ll be the ones giving you a sympathy smile.

“My Kid Will Only Eat Organic, Healthy Foods”

Ok, this might work for awhile. You certainly have control over what you buy and feed your kid. But as soon as he or she goes to daycare or another kid’s birthday party, you’re well-intentioned plan is gonna fall apart. Unless you plan on following them everywhere they go with a taser, they WILL succumb to the dark underbelly of the junk-fueled works. Seriously, you’ll just be glad they’re eating things other than dirt and cigarette butts they found at the park.

“I Will Never Raise My Voice At My Kid”

When I was pregnant, my mom sent me an article about how yelling at your kid does a great disservice to the emotional development of a kid. While I actually agree that yelling at your child is not the best way to get through to them, it’s pretty much inevitable. Unless you have the patience of Mother Teresa, it’s bound to happen sometimes. Look, we’re human. When you haven’t slept much and you’re kid is being a total a-hole, you’re bound to lose your temper. Which brings me to my next point…

“I Will Never Say Anything Bad About My Child”

Kids are a-holes. I know you’re not technically supposed to say that in this P.C.-charged society, but it’s the truth and you are a liar if you don’t think it, too. For funsies, I looked up the definition in the dictionary and it says, “an irritating or contemptible person.” It might as well have said “a toddler.” Same difference. If you don’t agree, then you’ve never spent more than 2 hours with a 3-year-old. They have the temperament of Gordon Ramsey on steroids. This is why mommies drink wine.

“I Will Never Let My Child Watch TV or Play On An IPad”

Look, you aren’t going to find another person on this planet that thinks technology is worse for a child’s development than your’s truly. I don’t think throwing your kid in front of a screen is the best way to placate or solve ANY problem. But it happens. Parents need a break too sometimes. It’s not the best method, but sometimes you gotta break out the big guns. The sooner you accept this fate, the happier you will be.

“My Kid Will Always Be A Pillar Of Morale And Intellect”

Yeah, no. Your child will mess up. He won’t always exceed your expectations. He will rebel, fight you, disappoint you, and test you. And that doesn’t mean you failed him as a parent. Whether 2 or 20, your child is trying to navigate life with their own set of obstacles. Your child will constantly be evolving and changing and, as soon as you think you have them figured out, they will surprise you. Just as you are constantly struggling to find yourself as a parent, your kid is trying to figure out who he or she is as a human being. As soon as you realize that they will never TOTALLY meet your standards, the sooner you will respect and appreciate the strides they HAVE made.

I’m not saying don’t prepare yourself. Do your research. Read those parenting books. Join those mommy-and-me groups. Write down all your goals. That’s admirable and encouraged by many.

Just know that, like in Fight Club, the first rule of parenting is there are no rules in parenting. Your offspring will continually challenge your patience and question your abilities. It’s the badge of honor we get to wear when all the dust has settled and we make it out on the other side, alive and intact. Just don’t be too hard on yourself, mom and dad. So long as you can say you did the best you can, the rest is just collateral damage that reflects the beauty and hardships of the third hardest job in the world.

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One comment

  1. Roger Lauricella

    Very good article. This stands out; “Just know that, like in Fight Club, the first rule of parenting is there are no rules in parenting. Your offspring will continually challenge your patience and question your abilities. It’s the badge of honor we get to wear when all the dust has settled and we make it out on the other side, alive and intact. Just don’t be too hard on yourself, mom and dad. So long as you can say you did the best you can, the rest is just collateral damage that reflects the beauty and hardships of the third hardest job in the world.” My wife and I came to be parents thru adoption and at age 37 in 1994. We were able to prepare for a full year for a toddler coming into our lives and received a Daughter (15 months old) 24 years ago yesterday (5/8/94) from Changzhou, Jiangsu, China. A year later we added a Son (13 months old) from Changde, Hunan, China. My wife who happens to also be Chinese had over the years taken care of many young children so we were sort of prepared. I can honestly say we never “worried” about our children or our skills as parents and our son came to us as severely “developmentally delayed) and to this day (at age 23) is still considered a Special Needs (on the high end) Young man. Our Daughter is now 25 and married to another China Adoptee (he is also 25) and she is a Special Education Teacher in East Texas. Along the way we moved (in 2001) from New York to Southern California to be near family and to live in a predominately Chinese Community which helped much in the upbringing of both our Daughter and son. What we did from the beginning (which seems so alien all around me know) is dedicate time to spend each week with our children together, separately all sorts of iterations. Too often we see in our community parents pay others to spend more time with their Children then they do. One other choice we chose to be positive and to show that positive attitude with our children as we together as a family grew as parents and as Children along the way. That’s another reason that my 23 year old son is so positive and making such great progress now at Cal State University Los Angeles. I see so much written like your article and dialogue with young parents in the community and at church about “worrying” whether they can parent or handle what that throw ones way. My view, we are built to be parents by God, we have to trust in him, in family around, in community to help us along the way and we have to go into it believing we can just do our best and respond as needed. Children I’ve found are resilient and can overcome nearly anything; I’ve seen it in both my children and most notably my son. You just have to have the right attitude and have fun at it. I still enjoy being a father and the changes in my role as my Son and Daughter have grown and matured. Did I have concerns along the way sure, was I perfect (never you can’t be), did I make mistakes (of course), did I recover (yes), have I enjoyed the experience (YES).

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