By Jill Pertler
Raising children is a unique experience. Each of them is different; each of us is different. But, there are certain actions and behaviors universal to parenting. And, good or bad, we’ve all been there, done that. As parents, as kids and often as both. I’ve put together a partial list here. Feel free to add to it yourself.
Universal parenting truth number one: Administered threats via counting.
This starts with, “You get downstairs before I count to three or I’ll (fill in the blank)!” And then you count: “One.” (Pause.) “Two!” (Administered with raised voice accompanied by a longer pause.) “Two-and-a-half!” (As you suddenly assume your preschooler understands fractions.) “Three!!” Upon which there is silence and not much happens (in my experience) and you’re left with the initial dilemma that started the whole counting frenzy in the first place.
Universal parenting truth number two: Taking great pride in trees.
Your child has a part in the school/church/community play. It isn’t a speaking part. It isn’t even a moving part. Your child simply dons a cardboard tree costume and stands on stage for less than two minutes during the hour-long production. Your spouse videos the life-changing event while you beam with pride throughout the 90 seconds of the “performance.” Later, at home, you watch the video over and over and tell your child, “There are no small parts.”
Universal parenting truth number three: The kindergarten bus on the first day of school.
No explanation is needed for this one. We’ve all waved to the backpack as our little one climbed the big steps of the school bus on that very first, first day. And then we returned home and tried not to cry. Most of us were not successful in that regard.
Universal parenting truth number four: Crying.
First day of kindergarten notwithstanding, you’ll cry. A lot. You’ll cry at their first smile (and swear it isn’t gas). You’ll cry when they are happy. You’ll cry when they are sad. You will cry with worry. You will cry when they don’t sleep through the night. You’ll cry the first time they sleep through the night. You’ll cry with them. Sometimes you’ll try not to let them see you cry. You’ll cry when they have their first sleepover and go to prom and on the day you drop them off at college. The crying never stops. Embrace it.
Universal parenting truth number five: Parenting clichés can and will come out of your mouth.
It will happen more often than you’d like to admit. Some days you will swear (but not the F-word) you are turning into your mother (or father) when you hear yourself saying things like, “Because I said so!” “Life’s not fair. Get used to it.” “I’m the mom, that’s why.” “Don’t make me turn this car around!” “Just wait until we get home!” “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” “You weren’t born in a barn!” “There are kids starving in China who would love to eat your green beans.” “Your room looks like a cyclone went through it.” And so on.
Universal parenting truth number six: Lying.
Despite your best intentions (and we all have those) you’re going to lie to them. About holiday heroes. About where you keep the good chocolate. About the grades you got in high school. About the slight run in with the law during your freshman year at college. About hiding cauliflower in the mashed potatoes and squash in the mac and cheese. About borrowing money from their piggy bank. Yeah, it all happens.
Universal parenting truth number seven: The pregnancy time continuum.
Even if they are born on their due date, waiting for them to enter the world will be the longest 12 months of your life. Yes, I am aware of my math here.
Universal parenting truth number eight: They change you in ways you never thought possible.
There are the obvious changes – stretch marks, weight gain, bags under your eyes from lack of sleep and C-section scars. But there are other changes to your inner self – to your core and your heart – that will forge you into a person who is not only able to complete the endurance event of parenting, but delights in conquering it every day. You will universally love and be loved universally. And that is the truth (number nine).
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.