Kids are bad at all the stuff they do

Here’s why I’m a worse mom than you: instead of feeling proud and happy that my son qualified for the A-level swim championships, I’m annoyed that I now have to spend two weekends going to two different championships because my daughter is in B-level.

Here’s why I’m an even worse mom than you now think: instead of sucking it up gracefully, I spent this morning trying to subtly convince my daughter that she didn’t want to swim in her championships at all, (which I’ve taken to calling “optional final meet”). To be completely fair, I did also try to convince my son not to swim in his.

To my dismay, both kids are keen to participate and Sally even irritatingly wisely said, “It doesn’t matter if you’re in A or B, or if you win or come in last, it’s that you try hard and have fun.” What the hell? No, what matters is that swim meets are a thousand* hours long and that both championship meets are forty** minutes from home, meaning that on consecutive Sundays we need to drag everyone out of bed at dawn, drive, and then sit around for a thousand hours in order to watch a total of four minutes of my child swimming. And, to make it worse, on each of those Sundays we’ll be dealing with the non-swimming child complaining of boredom.

Parenthood is many things, but above all else, it is doing stuff you don’t want to do.

We sit through performances and recitals where singers can’t sing and dancers can’t dance. We play tea party and Minecraft and feign interest in doll houses and Pokemon. We hang bad art on our refrigerators and read the same stupid book twenty-seven dozen times.

“But the performances and the recitals aren’t about raw talent, it’s our precious children learning to express themselves. Look how adorable,” you say.

“Bad art? There is no bad art! Your child’s drawings are developmentally on point. They are expressions of love and hanging them proudly shows your child that you value their efforts, you fucking monster,” you say.

Sure. All of that is true.

I love my children despite their complete and utter lack of any appreciable talents. I’ll beam with pride, “awww” with parental devotion, and take five hundred photos at the shitty concert just like you. But, did you attend these concerts or stand out in the weather to watch a children’s sporting event before you had kids? Of course not. If these things were at all good, then we would choose to attend them regardless of our status as parent. But they’re not good. They’re crap.

Kids are bad at all the stuff they do. It’s not their fault. They’re born not knowing a damn thing. One could hardly expect a person who takes a year to figure out walking to be a great dancer a few short years later. A person who regularly finds herself outwitted by a bathroom stall lock, or who can’t manage to eat a meal without creating a mile wide radius of food debris, can’t reasonably be expected to produce great things.

Kids suck at art

So I will attend two swim championships. I’ll cheer my daughter and remind her to keep swimming and stop waving at me, all while knowing that she’s the greatest kid out there. I’ll feel proud when Luke comes in first, beating all the other kids who can’t do butterfly for shit, because he can’t do butterfly slightly better than they can’t. And after the meets are over and behind us, we’ll move on to some other thing I don’t want to do.

*All numbers greatly exaggerated for sarcastic effect. It is safe to assume this applies to all numbers I ever say, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

**Example of actual number. If it were an exaggeration it would have more zeros.

Why I’m afraid of summer vacation

Summer vacation is around the corner and I’m afraid. The hours of unstructured time yawning before me, stretching unfathomably far into the future, have me quaking in my flip-flops. The very fact that I’m filled with dread speaks to my clear maternal deficiencies. According to the internet, other mothers feel excited about all the “quality time” summer affords them. They see sprinklers, trips to the zoo, and happy exhausted children experiencing childhood without the stress and rigors of school. I see something much more sinister that mostly involves whining, yelling, tears over dropped popsicles, and sweat.

Are my children worse than everyone else’s? Perhaps other people’s children wake to a day of nothingness and think: I can ride my bike, read in the shade, chase butterflies, and enjoy my youth today! Mine don’t. Mine wake up early and already bored; the water in the sprinkler is too cold and the sun at the amusement park is too hot; the water guns got run over by the lawn mower and they don’t wanna read a book in the shade.

I suspect that it’s me that’s worse. The other mothers head off their children’s boredom by constantly organizing outings and activities. My children are insatiable though. We could spend all morning at a water park only to have them complain of boredom before we’ve made it out of the parking lot on our way home. They will play games, but only if I play with them. And here lies the crux of the problem: I don’t want to play with them. (See what I mean about maternal deficiency?) Those other mothers must enjoy the time spent with their children. I love my kids. I really do. Just thinking about them squeezes my heart in that slightly uncomfortable desperate way. But I like them more in theory than in practice.

At five and eight, their charms are not quite fully developed. Their jokes suck and their manners leave much to be desired. They’re not very good at games; they cry easily; and they whine and complain over every discomfort and delay – a mosquito bite or feeling peckish is the end of the world. I’m not much of a people person to begin with, but if I have to be around people I prefer adults, specifically the ones who have actually interesting things to say, actually funny senses of humor, and basically never ever fart on me.

We have some local day camps which my kids love. It’s a win-win situation as none of us really excel at dealing with unstructured time. The drawback is my guilt over sending them. After all, I’m supposed to be cherishing this time because it all goes so fast. Soon my little kids will be big kids, worse teenagers, and then they’ll move out and I’ll pine for these days. Today’s guilt transformed into tomorrow’s regret. They want so badly to play with me now and they’ll want nothing at all to do with me soon. Now’s the time I have to instill all the values in them, build the trust so they come to me when they’re grappling with serious problems, make sure they never drink and drive. I should be doing all of that while we cut star shapes out of watermelons and cover the driveway in chalk art.

But no matter how much I wish it, I’m not that Pinterest mom. I can’t keep my house organized with just 2 minutes per day, and I can’t spend a day with my kids without all of us fraying our last nerves. And so I’ll live with dread now, guilt soon, and regret further on. Bring on camp!

 

If you enjoyed this post, please share it!

 

Good Parent, Stupid Kids?

We’ve been talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. in our house lately, and it reminded me of this post from 2012 when I tried to teach my kids about race while they were hungry. Always a mistake. In honor of MLK day, I once again give you The Story of the Eggs:

In my house hard-boiled eggs are made by at least the half-dozen. Each kid would eat boiled eggs until explosion or yolk-asphyxiation occurs, so I have to cut them off at three each. This morning I had a mix of white and brown eggs. As I put them in the pot, the fighting started.

“I want just white ones!”

“Me too!”

“Actually, I want brown ones.”

“Me too!”

(I know this sounds like agreement, but trust me, it’s fight seeds.)

I decide this is a good time for a lesson. A friend of mine did this with her kids, and from her story it was a meaningful revelation for all short people involved. I was about to embark on an early morning good parenting moment. Go me!

Once the eggs had boiled and cooled a bit in ice water, I began my fantastic parenting, holding a brown egg in one hand an a white one in the other:

“Are these the same or different?”

“Different!”

“How are they different?”

“They’re different colors.”

“Right. The shells are different colors. This shell is white, and this shell is brown. Are people sometimes different colors too?”

“No!”

“Uh, really? Aren’t they sometimes different colors?”

“No!”

“Um, for this to work, I need you to think about all the people you know. Do they all look the same?”

“No!”

“Right, people come in different colors like these eggs, right?”

“Right!”

“Whew. OK. So, do you think these eggs are the same or different on the inside?”

“Different!”

“The same!”

“I want the brown one!”

“No I want the brown one!”

“Just wait. We’re learning something first! Let’s see if these eggs are different or the same on the inside.”

I crack and peel the eggs. The kids are fighting over which color they want. I hold up two peeled, perfectly white eggs:

“So, are these the same or different on the inside?”

“Different!”

“I want the brown one!”

“Can I have some salt?”

“PAY ATTENTION! We’re learning here! Do these eggs look the same or different?”

The kids have no freaking idea what I want from them. They just want to give me an answer that would make me shut up and hand over the eggs.

“The same?”

“Yes! They are exactly the same on the inside even though one was white and one was brown on the outside. So, what does that tell us? Did we learn anything?”

“Can I have salt, Mama?”

“NO! You won’t get anything until you learn this lesson! Does the fact that this brown egg and this white egg look exactly the same on the inside tell us anything about people?”

“No!”

URG! Remember, one was white?? And one was brown??! And people are different colors too!? But on the inside the eggs are the same??? What do you think different color people are like on the inside?”

“Yucky!”

“Bloody!”

“They have hearts!”

“They have poop!”

The kids are now in hysterics. I’ve lost my audience, which I never really had to begin with. Fuck it. Just eat your eggs, kids. Thanks for the learning moment.

Good Parent, Stupid Kids