Lessons I Came To Late

One of the things I am most envious of regarding natural parents is that they have the chance to ramp up. Yes, the newborn thing is dumped on you all at once, which is remarkably unfair, as it is the most difficult stage of parenting. Until you get to the toddler stage. Until you get to the teenager stage. Anyway, my point is that natural parents get the chance to grow along with, and ahead of, their children.

And plan defense.

I read a decent step-parenting book on the plane on the way back from LA with the kids. But it left some stuff out, some lessons that it would have been helpful to know ahead of time. Here are a few:

1) Everything moves.

Unless I keep everything I may ever possibly need in my room and protect the entrance with an unbreakable curse, I will spend time looking for things. Every object that I need will be picked up by a child or teenager and moved to a different place. No reason necessary.

Here are some I never anticipated:

-Bracelets in the freezer.

-Car keys neatly put away in the back of the drawer with the DVD’s.

-Credit cards put away in board games.

-All of my socks in #4’s bed.

– My yoga pants wadded up in the sleeve of #5’s only suit (which doesn’t fit him anymore).

The rule also applies to their own stuff. My mantra some days is “I don’t know, it’s not my day to watch it,” which has helped teach a bit of self-responsibility. It has also led me to purchase several pairs of shoes because one or both of the pair I already bought have gone missing.

2) Clutter is a constant (k).

and more k

Hooke’s law of elasticity, which uses the k constant, basically states that strain is directly proportional to stress. Duh. No matter how much headway I make towards organization, the amount of clutter remains the same, although it may change forms and locations.

-If I make any progress on the paperwork pile, someone cleans out their backpack or their desk at school and brings an equal amount of paperwork home.

-If I manage to collect a couple bags of clothing and household donations, someone (ahem, #4) goes to a yard sale or, god forbid “trash pickin’ ” and returns with highly useful items such as broken ski poles, ceramic teddy bears decorated with plastic flowers, and pieces of MDF shelving (but never the entire shelving unit).

-If I get the common areas of the house neat, the overflow all ends up in my bedroom. The kids then see me as a hypocrite for telling them to clean their rooms when my own room is such a disaster.

-Kids clean their rooms by pushing everything under the bed or into the closet (actually, I should have remembered this one from the time I served as a child myself).

3) Kids lie.

When they’re still kind of little and cute, you mistakenly believe that they don’t know how to lie yet. When you catch them in a harmless fib, you blame one of their older siblings for teaching them how to do it. What you don’t realize is that the only circumstances in which they won’t lie is when it will make you feel better; they won’t lie about the dinner you cooked, the shirt you bought them, or whether your ass looks fat in these pants (not that you were talking to them in the first place, mister).

Other than when it comes time to spare your feelings, pretty much everything they say is an outright lie or else slanted towards getting what they want. Speaking of slants. . .

4) The cost of raising a child as reported in the New York Times is $222, 360.

This is bullshit.

The cost of raising a child from birth to age eighteen is: all of your money, plus 20%, plus whatever APR you were able to arrange for that 20%.

5) It can always get louder.

Now you know. If anyone has any other lessons you want to let me in on, I’m all ears.


28 thoughts on “Lessons I Came To Late

  1. A lesson I should have seen coming: they will ALL need to travel to different places at the SAME time right NOW! And one will require you to find a vehicle with a towbar to tow a horse float – neither of which you will own. Sigh… I should join the army, I have enough organizational and logistical skills now I think! 😛

  2. These are things that parents deal with with varying degrees of success(mostly unsuccessful). HOWEVER, under no circumstances do we tolerate things like credit cards and car keys and other of mother’s personal items being strewn about or even touched in the first place. These are not toys but are mother’s personal and important items. Clean up issues are one matter but the invasion of parental “do not enter, do not touch” areas must be enforced By ANY MEANS NECESSARY. One weekend I had to borrow money from two friends because of a lost ATM card which I later found under a bed.

  3. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for the pictures of your clutter! It just reminds me that it is not just my house, that I am not alone in my failure in the war against clutter, and that it’s o.k. to have piles of miscellanea strewn from the back yard to the mailbox. I feel so much better, I guess that I’ll ignore (for like the eleventy-first time) the gigantic pile of shoes, coats, hats, mittens, bags and other crap that is piled in the corner of my kitchen next to the coat rack… which is of course, empty.

    1. I took those pictures on a normal morning, to send in to some magazine thing that was all “show us your clutter! you could win mad organizational skills!” but never heard back from them. Perhaps we can take solace in the fact that there must be other people with worse clutter who won the contest?

  4. I wish my step-son-in-law could read your blog. He thinks the kids should be perfect. They’re 15. Far, far away from perfect. Oh, and the clutter doesn’t have to have children attached to it. I have a terrible problem with clutter and my only child is out tyring desperately to keep her house perfect. She needs to give it up.

  5. You can’t forget “acts of disappearance”.. it appears random, but is in actual fact quite predictable. When you need them around – they always manage to not be anywhere in sight. When you want “Time Out” and privacy 😉 – they are miraculously ALWAYS around…

      1. Yeah, I find myself “sneaking” around more than they do (they aren’t teenagers, yet…) If I want a quick dash to the shop to buy milk, and only milk, I have to make a stealthy escape or it ends up a ridiculous shopathon. Their “Best Fight Ever” was when I was on the phone overseas to my mum. Had to call her back…

  6. Kids me you question your sanity constantly… I have become forget ful and some how now adults scare me and much rather sit at the kiddie table!!!
    What is wrong with me!!

  7. A child’s knowledge is directly proportional to his/her age, until he/she reaches fifteen at which point they have all knowledge.

    A parent’s knowledge is conversely related to the child’s knowledge- the parent knows all during the early years, by age 15 the parent knows nothing.

      1. The parent re-gains all knowledge when he/she becomes a grandparent (hopefully when the child is well into their 20’s).

  8. In response to the question, “Where is my —–?” I always reply, “It’s wherever you left it.” (Credit to the author of the Froggie picture books, the source of this brilliant answer.)
    Sometimes, if I am in the right mood, I will tease them: “I know where MINE is.”

    Things do still move, but not as much as when the kids were younger…then it was scissors on the windowsill, and underwear on the kitchen counter.

  9. I want to meet the person who came up with $222, 360. Is this person raising their child in The Olden Days or maybe Ghana? I am constantly reminding my son when he’s is complaining of wanting a new phone, new iPod, new whatever, that he owes me about $347,987.16, and until he’s able to pay that debt down a little with either a job or college degree, he can keep his wish list to himself.
    This was a great post. And, yes. It can always get louder.

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one that number seems low to. And we even have a “you pay half” deal on all their name-brand clothes! I like your approach. I think I have some math to do.

  10. 6) Kids smell bad. Boys espcially. Like ass, feet and testicles.
    7) As they grow, so do their requests. From ‘can I have some Legos?’ to ‘Can I have a tattoo?’
    8 ) They have their own language. ‘Your pretty mom.’ means ‘Can I have gas money’

  11. What no-one ever told me before becoming a parent (so I’m prepared as a new step-parent for this one) is the last time you go to the bathroom alone before your first child is born is THE LAST TIME you will EVER be able to go to the bathroom without hearing “MUM, where is….”. What I liked most about going back to work was that I could go to the bathroom in peace at least on work days!

  12. One advantage birth parents also have (and kids milk it for all it’s worth) is that we love the little monsters from the time that they are born, if not before. That comes in very handy when your child is kicking the back of your seat when you are in the middle of a six lane highway or they projectilve vomit all over your newest outfit.
    It also really helps having held them as adorable little infants before they turn into gremlins.
    Stepparents (and I am one, as well as a step-grandparent) have to learn to love these kids in mid-flight, without having had the opportunity to have had input into their development from the get-go or fall for them when they were still helpless and cute. Fortunately, they still know how to turn on the charm often enough to make us go “Awwww!” periodically, so we get suckered in anyway. 🙂

Comment. It gives me a reason not to clean my house.

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