Being a parent requires a person to have a very unique skill set. Oh sure, there are the usual tasks like diaper changing, convincing an angry, naked child to please, PLEASE put on underpants, nursing a baby in one hand while doing stir-fry with the other; you know, the usual suspects. But I’m talking about the skills that are not found in the pages of the “baby-readiness” books. And because (even though we hardly know each other) I care about you, I am going to share some of the things I’ve learned in the past 10 years. Some might call it wisdom while others will assume I am in the throes of a caffeine crash as I write this.
But lets not get all concerned with what to label it right now.
I think that one of the most valuable abilities a parent can have is an active fantasy life. Now before you get all prudish and assume that I’m trying to give you marital advice, just hold it right there, missy. Or mister. I’m not referring to THAT kind of fantasy life. I’m referring to an ability to add intrigue and excitement to a job that can, at times, be quite tedious.
Now before you start judging me for that last sentence, you should know that I’ve been doing this for 10 years. And during that time I’ve played Candyland 18,162 times. I spend an average of 2.6 hours per day, each and every day of the year, coloring. That’s right, in coloring books. I’ve made countless humanoid figures out of Play-doh that have at times bordered on the obscene. This has been mostly by accident, and a tiny bit to keep the boredom at bay.
Besides this extremely small sampling of activities there has also been the cleaning, cooking (well rounded and organic meals only, of course) as well as occasional re-caulking of the bathtub. And the LAUNDRY, dear God the laundry. I often tell myself that the laundry alone would have taken down a lesser woman years ago.
This laundry situation has caused me to worry that my husband will return home from work and instead of being greeted by the smell of a delicious meal and three kids playing together politely, (this has never actually happened, but this is yet another example of my rich fantasy life) there will just be this mountain of laundry in the middle of the living room floor.
He’ll say, “Kids, have you seen your glamorous, tan, agreeable mother?”
There will be three blank stares and our oldest will say, “Who?” before turning back to a Scooby-Doo rerun.
Then my Alaskan prince (this is how I refer to the love of my life) will decide what the heck, someone might as well pick up this heap of dirty laundry, and OH NO, there I will be, struggling to breathe beneath a layer of moldy clothes, a size 4T tutu and 27 dirty socks that miraculously don’t contain a SINGLE matched pair.
Another benefit of this ability to fantasize is that we can tell ourselves things that are not quite true just to make ourselves feel better.
For instance, I own a pair of jeans that say “skinny” on the inside of the waistband. Wait just one second, you’re telling me that I’ve given birth to three (count ‘em THREE) children and I can still wear skinny jeans??! Well, the truth of the matter is that my skinny jeans are not all that “skinny”. And calling them “jeans” is even a stretch, since the fabric content is really more lycra than denim. But when I put them on, it makes me feel good that I’m a 35-year-old mother of three that can still wear skinny jeans. My lie really doesn’t hurt anyone, so what’s the harm?
We also tell ourselves things about our children that we know are probably untrue. We think things like, “All kids go through a ninja phase, don’t they?” And, “Swallowing bottle caps is not that big of a deal, I saw a feature about how its completely normal on ‘Dr. Phil’”.
For approximately 2 years when I was a child, all I would wear were cutoff jean shorts and cowboy boots and I insisted on being called “Cowboy John”. Seriously. I wish I were making this up, but I’m not. And now that I’m a parent, I wonder what on earth my parents must have been thinking while I was going through life as Cowboy John. They were probably wondering how they were going to be able to earmark enough money to pay for my therapy. But fortunately they didn’t freak out, and I turned out just fine. No worse for the wear. After all, every kid goes through a cowboy phase, right?
Mo Larson, a 34 year resident of Missoula, has been blissfully married to the man of her dreams for 13 1/2 years. She is the mother of 3: Ben (10), Jake (7) and Scarlett Jayne (4), and has enjoyed all of the glory of being a stay-at-home mom for the last 7 years. Mo and her husband recently started a business in Missoula called SoccerTots, and she loves the challenge of again working outside of the home. She dreams about uninterrupted showers, a kid-free bed, and half-price coffee.