If you’re considering having children some day, don’t expect everything to be hunky-dory and self-explanatory. I’ve got three of them – two daughters, aged 8 and 4, and a 1-year-old son. Not a single day since Abigail arrived 8 years ago has been “normal”. And often-times, little makes sense during a day of parenting.
Each one of our kids has a way of their own, and each one comes with a barrel full of quirks and personality. I’ve often recounted a story or two when hanging out with friends and family, but I thought I’d list a few more of them as a public service and as a warning.
This isn’t that uncommon. Kids like to dress up. They like to dress their dolls and teddies up. It’s part of the imagination process. Abigail even dressed up Tango, our Staffordshire Bull Terrier, years ago. Even with boots on, he never complained. It’s not so much the wanting to dress up that throws me off, it’s more the incredible capacity to make a mess of it. Amalie is particularly gifted in this department. She will, without exaggerating, dress up 15 times in a day, and each time the full complement of clothing remains where she took it off. We will find a dozen outfits strewn about the house. When asked to clean, she dutifully does so. After a couple of days, we’d always notice that Amalie’s closet has become a barren wasteland, devoid of any clothing. We realized that, instead of putting clothes back on the hangers, she would pick them up when asked to and stuff them in the toy bins. Nice.
An alternative to dressing up is the not dressing at all. Both our girls were very happy nudists. Abigail has grown out of it, but Amalie would very gladly walk around without anything on – every single day of the year. Even when we would finally convince them to PLEASE PUT SOMETHING ON, we’d be treated to some of the most bizarre combinations. On top of that, they can’t be convinced that what they’re wearing isn’t a good idea. And this isn’t just around the house. Nope. Sometimes, it’s best to just let it go. It’s not a hill worth dying on. Want some evidence? How about this gem – Abigail, dressed for success, in 6 degree weather at the tree nursery. Thanks for coming out.
Steep Learning Curves
As an adult, I pride myself in doing something harmful once and hopefully never doing it again. I also pride myself in evaluating circumstances and situations, and perhaps realizing that, even though I’m curious, I firmly believe I will get hurt and therefore I will choose not to do it.
My kid: “I like this fan, Daddy. It’s blowing cold air.”
Me: “Mmm. Yes. I like it too.”
Kid: “I want to stick my finger in the fan.”
Me: “No, no. You don’t want to do that. That could really hurt you, honey!”
Kid: “Oh. OK.”
14 seconds later… a quick staccato of BL-BL-BL-BL-A-A-A-A-A-P-P-P-P-P-P-P. “Waaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh – oh Daddy, my finger. Ohhhhh, my finger. I hurt myself.”
It seems that kids don’t have enough of whatever it is that lets them make better decisions, even after we advise them appropriately. Perhaps placing an antique fan without safety grilles within reach was partially my fault, but still. I told her!
I also find it weird that they could basically break every bone in their body, and just get up and keep running. UNLESS they see that someone observed the injury. THEN it’s cryin’ time.
The incredible, mind-boggling ability to pick a fight over the dumbest stuff never ceases to amaze me. Honestly, I listen to my kids fight over stuff and I often think they must be knitting with one needle.
Abigail: “Let’s play school. I’m the teacher.”
Amalie: “No, I’M the teacher. And I’m a pretty teacher.”
Abigail: “No, you’re not. You’re not the teacher. And you’re not pretty. I said it first.”
Amalie, welling up with tears: “NO, YOU’RE NOT! Well, then I’m not playing anymore. And you’re awkward.”
Abigail: “Haha. You don’t even know what awkward means. OK, sit down. I’m teaching.”
Amalie, crying and screaming: “I’M A MERMAID!!! DO YOU HEAR ME? A BEAUTIFUL MERMAID. AND MERMAIDS DON’T NEED TEACHERS.”
Abigail, now crying too: “NO, YOU’RE NOT. I’m the teacher, and you’re not a mermaid. And I’m never playing with you again. And you smell like hot dogs.”
Andon, the 1-year-old with more sense than both of them: “Cookie! Coooookkiiiiiiieeeeeee!!!”
They just make no sense, and find the strangest stuff to fight over. Also, the sneakiness is disturbing. The hitting in the car has come to a relatively abrupt end, because our minivan has a “conversation mirror” which is just a fancy way of saying “mirror that shows us the whole van and will allow us to dole out accurate beatings based on what we’ve observed first-hand.” But in the house, we will often hear some arguing, followed by the sounds of a scuffle, and then one or both are bawling. Yet we have no idea what caused it and neither will admit to anything. They have a solid sense of when they’re not being watched and commit terrible crimes during those moments.
Temporary and Selective Deafness
Another thing I just can’t understand is my kids’ ability to sit, literally, two feet away from me, look me in the eyes with an unwavering stare, while I tell them something that’s critical to their survival. And they don’t hear a single word of what I said.
Try opening a bag of chips though. They could be two blocks away, in a tornado, and they’d hear it and come running.
Interesting Methods of Play
Our kids soak things up, and that includes roles and personalities they have seen or observed doing things they feel are important.
Abigail, our oldest, has a care-giver personality. She loves looking after things, especially if she is helping where there is a need. Therefore she often plays nurse. Her auntie and one of her cousins are nurses, and there is no doubt that she wants to be one. But occasionally it does get depressing. Because when you come in her room, the entire joint has been converted to a critical-care unit. Every single doll, teddy bear and anything else that mimics a living thing is being treated. And every single one of the worst maladies known to child have befallen each and every one of these victims.
Me: “Oh, nice room. What’s up with Cheese?” (Cheese is one of her teddy bears.)
Abigail: “Oh, he broke his leg.”
Me: “Oh my! That sounds serious. Are you helping him?”
Abigail: “I am. He also has cancer. And his eye fell out.”
Me: “Goodness! That’s a lot of suffering for one bear. I see there are others in this hospital room too. You must be busy.”
Abigail, shaking her head impatiently as she nods me toward the door: “Um, yes! They all have infections in their mouths. And this one’s head was cut off in an accident. We’re very busy here.”
Me: “Head cut off?! Well, it’s a good thing he’s got a well-trained medical professional here.”
Amalie also sees behaviours and mimics them, often taking the transformation to new heights. For the longest time, her personal hero was Ariel, The Little Mermaid. Aside from knowing every single word (and song) in the movie, she would only wear her panties around the house, and a long, red blanket on her head. Because she needed to have long, red hair. It would drag on the floor, but she would perfectly balance it and it never fell off. She’d wear it to the table, and took herself very seriously. Company’s here! Oh look, there’s our child in underwear and a red blanket wig. We just stopped explaining it and told people she’s mentally ill.
Lately, she has taken a real shining to Bethany Hamilton, the teenaged surfing sensation that lost an arm to a shark attack. Amalie is happy in that she can continue to wear little or nothing to dress appropriately for the role, but she is also surfing on absolutely every single surface. She takes a pillow with her wherever she is, and it’s her surfboard. She has all the moves – arms out, balancing, crouching, jumping up. It’s priceless. Until she figured out she can surf down the stairs. On her pillow. On hardwood. With no head protection.
The way a child can take a perfectly good moment and turn it into a horrible one is amazing. I mean, it’s a special gift. One second, you’re having a successful shopping trip, loading up a grocery cart. The kid is happy, pushing their mini-cart along. Life is good. Then, the following reasoning seems to take place in their brain:
“Hmmm, there is chocolate. I will eat some chocolate now. Oh. My dad is telling me not to eat the chocolate in the store. Aha, I will employ my wily charms to get my way. I will beg him. Hmmm, this is not working. Dad is a horrible person, who has been so nice to me all day and just bought me an ice cream cone 20 minutes ago, but I will forget that for now and start crying. What’s this?! He’s ignoring me?! The nerve! The gall! Fine. I’ll ramp it up. Once I start screaming about the importance of said chocolate in my life, he’ll crack. OK, my throat is hurting from screaming, but I still have no chocolate. This Dad character is a tough nut to crack. Well, it’s time to add the flailing of arms to my act, and preferably while near a shelf laden with glass jars of mustard than I can knock over. Whoops, there it goes. Clean-up on aisle 4. That oughta get his attention. Man, why is Dad such a meanie? I am making an enormous scene here, and still no chocolate! This is bordering on ridiculous. HEY! There’s my cousin! Yay. Yippee. I am so happy. I can’t wait to run over and say hi. Hey, this is weird. I have water in my eyes. I must have been crying about something. I can’t remember what it was though. Oh well. Hmm, Dad is staring at me with a confused look.”
Abigail has a neat talent for being “open” about how she feels. It’s tough to say much, because I often find myself being proud that she’s confident enough to be honest to people. But sometimes it goes too far, and I suppose there’s a lesson to be learned in what things can be thought but not said.
“Dad, thanks for coming to get me from the birthday party. I’m glad you’re the first parent to show up. This was the worst party ever. The cake tasted gross. And look at this loot bag. Are they serious? Oh, and doesn’t their house smell like cat pee? I can’t wait to go home.”
Amalie just loves to pick her nose. I mean, she’s an artist with it. It’s not a simple pick and flick. She goes deep, and she has a look on her face that displays pure content. It’s a nice relaxing activity for her, and you hate to take that away from a child, but when it’s at the table, or whatever, we do ask her to stop.
Similarly, Andon loves pulling his own body parts. Given the opportunity, he’ll hang on for dear life and yank things to the point where you’re expecting a life-altering injury. And then he lets go, lets the business snap back into place and laughs and laughs. Which is why we try not to ever give him the opportunity. Once he graduates from diapers, I’ll be buying him a gonch with a belt on it so he can’t do any damage.
You Can Only Take So Much
Our kids LOVE to do “performances”. They both firmly believe they are professional dancers, singers, choreographers, musicians, actors, athletes, you name it. And they will practice putting on a show, and then perform it. This behaviour increases ten-fold when we have company over. I don’t want to crush my children’s dreams, but sometimes, you just have to curb it. We’re like “OK, sure that would be really nice to see a ballet show.” I look at the company, and they’re glancing at their watches, doing the “Oh look at the time!” thing. And that’s BEFORE the 20 minute performance. It’s cute, but it has to be limited.
Why? – again, it’s something that you don’t want to stop immediately, because it shows their brains are actually working, but you can hear all the stories you want. There is no greater torture than answering “why” to 4000 questions in one evening. The most battle-scarred, hardened CIA operatives in the world couldn’t last through one night of being subjected to my kids’ questioning. “No, please, no more! I’ll tell you everything! Please, just give me back to the waterboarding guy. That was way better. Just no more questions!”
So, to be clear, raising children is a very rewarding thing. Ha ha! No seriously, it has its moments. When you come home and the chalk writing on the sidewalk reads “We <3 U, Dad! Love, Abigail + Amalie” (like it did today) or when your baby lays its tired head on your chest and takes a load off, whether its 2 days old, or 8 years old, your heart will melt and you will realize that every single moment of pain and head-shaking is worth it. But don’t you start thinking it’s all going to make sense.
The biggest reward to all this may lay some time in the future.
When we’ll hopefully be there to witness our children’s children. Doing the same things to them. PAYBACK!
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