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.

Teaching All the Things

I have so little time to teach my children ALL THE THINGS. My days as the source of all that is good, right, and informative are limited. Soon they’ll look to their stupid peers (that would be your kids, (no offense)) more than to me. So, while they’re little, I must impress upon them the most important stuff. The problem is, there is so much stuff! Smoking, sex, driving, bullying, drugs, and general adolescent assholery are all right around the corner.

I shudder to think of some of the decisions I made as a teenager. It feels like dumb luck that I survived myself to make it to adulthood. I’m thankful that the internet and social media were not around back then because my friends and I would have posted all sorts of everlasting idiotic and compromising crap online. Instead, we documented our idiocy with our film cameras; those photos now fill the backs of drawers and closets at our parents’ houses, lying in wait for our kids to find them and discover that we smoked, drank underage, and did other stupid shit that we now tell them not to.

If I’m lucky to have survived my own stupidity, am I lucky enough for my kids to survive theirs too? Does one have a limited amount of luck in a lifetime, and have I spent mine?

I fear the teenage years in a big way. I dread the social pressures that my kids will face to become complete idiots, to take dangerous risks, to disregard themselves in favor of pack mentality and appearance. And the added complications of social media? ACK! I can’t begin to put my worries in order. What’s scarier: the pressure to be cool? the pressure to be thin? the pressure to be sexy? the scary shit they’ll have access to online? the bullying? the drugs and alcohol? the driving? the sex? YES! IT IS ALL SCARIER! I’m terrified of all of it. How can I teach them all.the.things?

I’m certain that I demonstrate the wrong way to do a million and one things. Should my kids grow up to be neat and organized or slow to anger, it will definitely be a reaction to and effort against my terrible and haphazard housekeeping and near constant irritability. But I try my best with the things I care most about. I might not demonstrate perfectly clean language. OK, I definitely don’t. If my kids grow up creatively using the bounty of expletives our language affords us, so be it. I believe there is a time and a place for an effective f-bomb and that language is a tool of self-expression (to be wielded wisely and grammatically correctly). However, if they grow up to use “u” in place of “you” in any context outside of texting with their idiot friends, then I have failed.

In the short time I have them as little kids, how do I possibly manage to:

  • fill my daughter up with body confidence;
  • teach my son the right way to treat a girl, even a very drunk girl;
  • prepare them to scream, kick groins, and gouge eyeballs as needed;
  • instill in them respect for others and for themselves;
  • show them how to stand up to bullies, racists, and bigots;
  • foster in them the confidence to say no, to stay true, to resist peer pressure;
  • convince them that even though their friends seem to know what they’re talking about, they don’t;
  • impress upon them that one doesn’t try heroin just once;
  • teach them personal responsibility;
  • and influence them to never, ever, under any circumstances type “dat” instead of “that”?

It’s a daunting task, especially considering that I also have to teach them all the basics like how to use a knife and fork rather than eating foods off the fork like a lollipop and that showers without soap don’t count.

Excuse me while I panic.

Letter to my Daughter on Her 6th Birthday

On each of my kids’ birthdays I compose a letter. My plan is to one day hand over a book of these heartfelt letters, proving to an ornery teenager that I do, in fact, know and love him/her, and that my goals as a mother go beyond ruining his/her social life.

Dear Sally,

Happy Birthday! My vibrant, affectionate, bold, funny, smart girl turns six today and I couldn’t be more proud of the kid you’ve become. I don’t know how I got lucky enough to be your mom, but I’m grateful every day that I am. You are a light and a joy for me and our family, and my world is infinitely better because you’re in it.

I thought long and hard about what to write in this letter. I reread last year’s letter (here) and now I feel like I’ve said it all already. As a five-year-old you transformed from a great little kid into a fantastic (slightly less) little kid. You thrived in kindergarten, as I knew you would, lapping up the new knowledge and experiences with the same cheerful enthusiasm and aplomb that you bring to all you do. I’m so happy to see your confidence and individuality still firmly intact. As you enter first grade, I hope you stay full of humor, curiosity, and pluck.

Your natural confidence and warmth are magnetic. You make new friends easily and everywhere – a skill you were born with and one of the many ways you are so different from me. Even your big brother looks to your fortitude and courage to bolster his own, and the two of you brave the world together. Puddle gazing

As a dynamic duo, he relies on your quick thinking and adventurous nature, even as you look up to him for his “good” ideas and knowhow.camping

It’s not surprising that you attract friends to your side effortlessly. You have so many wonderful traits, making it natural for you to fit in with just about anyone. You’re the girl who happily plays with dolls and princess dresses, and who also can keep up with a pack of boys running wildly with secret missions, evil bad guys, and superhero responsibilities. You wield a sword in one hand and pink fairy wand in the other; you pair your cape with a tiara. You are as fierce as you are adorable.

Fierce

You’re the girl who can entertain a room full of adults with a quip or a story, and who can play contentedly by yourself for hours. You’re the girl rocking a 21 speed mountain bike; the one pushing herself to swim to the bottom of the deep end; the one whose first reaction to a new thing is “I’ll try it!” You’re the girl who takes her time to patiently roast the perfect marshmallow, and the girl to step without hesitation off the zipline platform, loving the speed and thrill. You’re all of these things because you inhabit yourself with an admirable easy confidence. God, how I hope you keep it!

Biking

I want to be the mom I see through your eyes. I want to show you how strong and capable you are and help you grow into the phenomenal person you were born to be. Sometimes I feel that I don’t give you enough of my attention; that because you’re so self-reliant and easy-going, I don’t prioritize your needs and don’t play with you enough. I’m sorry if you ever feel that way. I hope you know that I couldn’t possibly love or admire you more. You’re the person whose hand I love to hold. Your cuddles are the best start to my days. When you’re by my side, your little hand in mine, chatting away in your delightful manner, I am the luckiest.

As I said before, you are a light; those near enough to be within the your radiant glow are better off for it.

I hope you have another wonderful year of learning, adventuring, growing, and just being you. I can’t wait to see what you’ll accomplish this year, and all the ways you’ll make me laugh. Happy birthday! I love you!

Love,

Mom