Ten Things I Learned About Parenting This Week [A Tall Glass of Shame]
Every morning I wake up and make sure my son has a little treat before he starts his day. Kids can be so exhausting and mornings usually mean he is jumping on the bed to rouse his daddies from their slumber. Parenting means responsibility, so I drag myself up and start the day when the boy won’t take no for an answer. If he’s been a good kid I even spend a little time in the morning playing his favorite game: Chase the feather wand! Yes, I am the proud father of a cat. So what do I know about parenting before going into a full week of watching my ten year old nephew? Not much really…
Children have always been something I kept in my mind as a possibility for my future plans, imagining adopting a child with my partner somewhere far down the line. I used to babysit every now and then when I was much younger, but the responsibility was slim and only lasted for a few hours max. Never had I been given the opportunity to test out my parental skills for any extended period, so when my brother called from New York and asked if I wanted to supervise my ten year old nephew for his spring break week at home I thought this might be the perfect chance to see what parenting might entail. The following is what I learned from my week with the kid…
1. Children are a handful, and rowdy ten year old boys even more so.
Now I know it may be a generalization there as I have yet to spend a week watching a little girl, but this boy in particular tried at every turn to give me a run for my money. Boys like to break things and are fascinated with knives and slingshots… really any kind of off limits weapon. I forgot what it was like to be this kid’s age but with a little recollection I remembered how I used to have a bow and arrow at his age and was wandering around the woods taking aim at any number of stumps or crudely fashioned targets with my friends. Danger, or anything off limits just sounded more fun. I’m not sure at what age that word “danger” took on a whole new meaning and I lost my sense of invincibility, but throughout the week I haven’t heard a kid say “Wanna see something cool?” so many times and have it end up being some kind of knife he saw online he wants or instructions on how to shoot a slingshot.
2. Always stay a step ahead of the kid, especially if they are good at manipulation.
My nephew is a very bright kid, and the more intelligent a child is the better they seem to be with the game of manipulation. I am thirty three years old and i’m not in any mood to take shit from a ten year old so any time I found a way to gain just a little extra leverage I took it. When my nephew started acting bratty and had plans to go to his friends house I simply informed him that he wouldn’t be going or taking his ipod with him unless he changed his tune. His response: “You don’t even know where it is! HaHa!” Oh, he must mean the one I grabbed earlier from the coffee table and have under good surveillance in my right pocket… Leverage no matter how small always works when dealing with a good negotiator and this kid is all about a negotiation.
3. Being firm and not delivering empty threats is hard but effective.
Luckily my nephew was pretty well behaved for me this week so I didn’t have to take anything away really. My nephew works overtime to get what he wants, what kid doesn’t? But the best thing I did all week was stand by everything I said I’d do and if the behavior wasn’t up to snuff then no rewards were given. After a day or two I even got the hang of saying the dreaded things my parents said to me all the time: “Because I said so…” and “This is not up for discussion kid, so do what I say right now.” There were sentences that came out of my mouth I hadn’t heard since they were delivered to me many years ago, it was a little strange to realize I was parenting like my parents.
4. When in doubt a good fart joke may be the best thing for you to gain an ally.
Sometimes kids clam up and like to play devils advocate, luckily my nephew hasn’t hit the “know it all” sullen teen years yet so a good fart joke worked as just the thing to break the ice and get him on my side through laughter every now and then.
5. Kids eat more than you can imagine.
I am still wondering how I could order the same thing as this little boy at a restaurant and while I have half my lunch left over he is licking the plate clean. Where did it all go? It was like watching someone slide a giant plate of food into Mary Poppins’ hand bag.
6. Violence in video games is always the standard.
Too many people are worried about violence in video games. Some of the stuff this kid is playing on his PS3 is tame compared to a few of the games I played while growing up, especially the game “Slaughterhouse.” While I can understand some concern over a kid wandering around in a game and killing a bunch of people digitally, I did the same thing years ago for endless hours and I still have a hard time squishing a bug in reality. I hate the idea of actually hunting an animal myself, always have, but remembering back to what I liked best about playing those bloody video games: the strategy. I loved unlocking how to beat the game and win. I wasn’t hungry for blood, I just liked to win.
7. Somehow children can operate on little to no sleep.
I am amazed a child can run around, talk, scream, laugh, play games, eat a ton of food, ramp up on sugar, somehow not crash till late at night and leap out of bed at sunrise to do it all again. I haven’t operated on so little sleep since Grad School and nowadays I am not about to down a large Mountain Dew and 2 packs of cigs to survive like I did back then, those vices are behind me. I am not complaining, I slept later than I expected… I can only imagine the schedule of a newborn, so my hat is off to all parents out there! If you aren’t losing sleep since they are still awake, you are probably losing it over thinking about the future and what lies ahead for them.
8. Children are great at regurgitating words and phrases you may not want them to.
New words, and especially ones that adults say and tell you not to are always fun fodder for throwing into a conversation with strangers to watch a parent squirm. I have not edited my vocabulary more in my entire life and yet I’m sure there will be phrases and words that come out of that kids mouth over the following weeks that will surprise us all.
9. Children are exhausting and a lot of work, but are somehow worth it.
My week with my nephew was great, I got to know the kid I really only talked to once in a blue moon on the phone and never met since he was a baby. I see now that children are a non stop parade of fun, laughter, worry, exhaustion, depletion of funds, curiosity, work, frustration, and joy. I loved reliving my own youth a bit through answering myriads of questions about life in general and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything in the world. In the end the cliche I hear so often “But they are worth it” finally makes sense. Even when I got frustrated, or was sick of watching video games and answering endless questions I realized just how fun it is to have this little person walking through life at your side that you get to see the world all over again through their eyes. At times, you might just be learning as much from them as they are from you.
10. Maybe I can do this parenting thing after-all.
To close this week I bring you a joke my nephew told me that he learned from his sister, who knew I would laugh so hard at a joke from a ten year old?
A father was sitting at a table with his three daughters and the first girl turned to him and asked: “Daddy, how did I get my name?” “Well Petunia, when you were born a Petunia landed on your head,” he said. “Oh ok,” she replied. The second little girl turned to him and asked: “Daddy, how did I get MY name?” “Well Rose,” He replied, “When you were born a Rose landed on your head.” “Oh ok daddy,” the little girl said. The third child at the table turned to the father and said, “Mwah muh muh ba buh muh muh!” The father turned to her and said, “Shut up cinderblock!”
Yes, my inner ten year old is still laughing at that one…
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featured image credit: grinwithoutacat