Once you are a parent–or really, once you have even just conceived–the advice starts rolling in. “Don’t leave the baby on the changing table unattended.” “Use ‘natural consequences’ to discipline your children.” “Don’t tell your child that he will go blind if he touches himself.”
Well, I could probably write a blog post about any of those, but I’m here to say that those don’t really matter. I’ll tell you what matters. I’ll tell you the one thing you need to know about parenting.
NEVER, and I mean NEVER turn your back on those little bastards.
If you are already a parent, you just nodded gravely. Or maybe you suddenly realized that you’ve been on Facebook too long, and it’s strangely quiet in the house. But if you are not a parent, I will explain myself.
Young children have a lot of energy. They store it up. They eat approximately the same number of calories each day as your average lumberjack. They sleep for 11 to 18 hours, depending on their age. And you know what they need all this energy for?
They need it to WEAR YOU DOWN. They work their fingers to the bone to exhaust you. When they are babies, they play the old, “I’m teething so I must keep you up all night” routine. When they are toddlers, they play, “Even though you are 5’4″ and I am 2’8″, I can outrun you in a parking lot.”
Why do they want to wear you down? I will tell you why. It’s so that you will space out, maybe lie down on the couch and doze off, maybe go check a couple of emails. And because you are in this perpetual state of fight or flight, you get a little off your game. Your brain, it gets forgetful. It (perhaps willfully) forgets that you have these little people you are trying to keep alive in the other room.
Then, the children can DO WHATEVER THEY WANT. Oh, and they will. The other day, I did this exact thing. I answered some work emails, and I thought really hard about work, and I forgot that…the children were there. How? I know, right? But usually, when they are home, they are a) screaming, b) crying, c) fighting, d) asking for food, or e) asking me to play Hot Wheels. So when they’re not, my brain tells me they are gone and I can relax.
When I wised up, I went into the children’s bathroom and discovered that Noah had taken about eight rolls of toilet paper off the shelf. Thankfully he was making it an art project instead of a destructive event. He had torn quite a lot of toilet paper off of each roll, and he was busily, happily stuffing it into the center of the rolls.
I won’t tell you every single thing I have spaced out and let my kids do. What I will do is show you some pictures of the kind of stuff that happens when I am not looking.
Someone Gives the Baby Naked Barbies and a Tie and Leaves Him Crying
They Make Out with Other Children
They Always Wind Up with No Clothes
They Lose Their First Tooth–and Then Play with It and Really Lose It in the Carpet
They Are Drawn to the Toilet Paper Like Moths to a Flame
They Eat Ungodly Pieces of Who Knows What
They Chase Each Other Down the Hall and Break Their Heads Open
They Are Also Drawn to Your Tech Like Moths to a Flame
They Tell Other Kids There’s No Santa Claus and Get Ratted Out
They Eat the Christmas Tree Decorations and Smash Them
They Go to Fraternity Parties
Someone Always Winds Up Feeding the Baby Items I Don’t Want Him to Eat
They Decide to Write the Baby’s Name on His Back with Sharpie–But You Catch Them Two Letters In
I Honestly Can’t Begin to Say What This Is
You have been warned. But it won’t stop you from flaking out and letting children destroy your life, your house, and each other. Even if you don’t have any children and children only visit your home. Because they have their master strategy: store energy, exhaust the adults, and get really quiet. I have no advice. I just wish you the best of luck with that.