Parenting is an interesting sport.
I know what you’re thinking. “Parenting isn’t a sport!”
Yes it is. If bowling, curling and golf can be called sports, then parenting is a sport. Let’s run down the similarities.
1. All require practice.
2. All require specialized equipment.
3. All require a certain degree of physical skill.
4. And all are best played while simultaneously consuming beer.
I have often watched these so-called sports on TV, especially bowling, thinking “If I really wanted to do that, I could totally be a top professional. Olympic caliber! How hard could it be?”
And then I remembered I used to say the same thing about being a parent before my kids were born.
I would see some frazzled guy chasing after his kids like an idiot. They would be taunting him. Screaming at him. Crushing his manhood in a vice grip. The poor guy would have absolutely no control. He would give his strongest, sternest look in the hopes of putting the fear of God in his kids. Promising torture using a voice that James Earl Jones would be proud of.
And they would just giggle and make fart noises with their faces.
How hard could it be?
Before we had kids, Gabby and I had some long discussions about the things we would never do as parents. Our mission is life would be to raise loving, giving, God-centered children who make the world a much better place that we ever could have. No mistakes. No regrets.
Now that Jake is four and Audrey is three, I would like to publish the results of our parental vows top ten.
* My two kids. They sucker-punched each other shortly after this was taken.
Vow #10: I will never argue with a toddler
After seeing countless parents enter into a battle of wits with two-year-olds that lack higher reasoning skills, both Gabby and I vowed that we would never get sucked in to such insanity. But for some reason, it is virtually impossible to stay calm and collected when a tiny person is arguing the losing side of a point that makes no sense. Morning at the Dannemiller house resembles the courtroom scene from “A Few Good Men” with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson.
Case in point: Just this morning, Jake and I spent three minutes debating whether or not today was Wednesday. In his mind, if he could convince me that it is Tuesday (a non-school day), then he would not have to attend. I actually said, “Jake, the only way you can have two Tuesdays in a row is if you fly non-stop to Asia and pick up 14 hours. And even then, it’s only sorta’ possible.”
He’s four. Now I’m confused.
Case in point #2: Again, just this morning, Audrey insisted that her preschool outfit contain at least one “fuzzy” item. We went round-and-round for five minutes whether or not knit pants were indeed “fuzzy.” As she writhed on the floor screaming, I heard myself say as I rubbed tiny pants on my clean-shaven face, “Look Audrey. The ruffles on the cuffs help make them fuzzy! Don’t you see?! They’re fuuuuuzzzzzzzzyyyyyyyyyy!”
Apparently, she can’t handle the truth.
Vow #9: I will never bribe my children
When I used to see parents give rewards for things that their kids should be doing anyway, it made me cringe. A kid should do his chores because that’s what family members do! A kid should eat all of his food because that’s what people do! That’s like giving me a $100 bill for breathing. Pure craziness.
And then I tried to potty train my son.
I don’t know about you, but I have never met a single adult that voluntarily poops his pants. Involuntary? Sure. Some jokes are just that funny. But voluntarily soiling yourself? Not fun.
So it stands to reason that it’s unnecessary to rush the process with your kids. Sooner or later, such behavior will become social suicide. And it’s rare that it progresses to that point.
Still, when I was potty training Jake, I would hover over him like a hawk.
“Do you need to go potty Jake?”
(45 seconds pass)
“Do you need to poop, Jake?”
(14 seconds pass)
“What’s that smell, Jake?”
“In your pants?!”
Such lunacy will cause you to do anything to avoid having to ever come in near contact with human feces again. With our kids, you get one M&M for #1, and three M&M’s for #2. Potty brilliance without being prompted will get you a lollipop or a handful of mashmellows. Successfully wiping your own hiney the first time you sit on the toilet gets you a Ferrari on your 16th birthday.
Even though the kids are self-reliant now, the bribes have created long term behaviors. Every time Audrey sees a bag of marshmallows, she says “we don’t eat those anymore at our house, ‘cuz I’m good at pooping in the toilet now.” And, both of them pee as frequently as a stray dog marking his territory. But at least our house no longer smells like a kennel.
P.S. Just in case you have a sweet tooth, know that the rewards don’t apply to adult guests who come to visit.
Stay tuned for the results of Parental Vows 8-5… and there is a point to all of this, that will be revealed after #1.