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.


Every small thing in my house unmakes my bed

I have a small bedroom. The kind of place where if I pick my shoes up off the floor, I’ve doubled my floor space.

I am also a slob.

You can see how this might be problematic. Because of the size of my room, I’ve trained myself to make my bed.

I’m disproportionately proud of this. Any time I behave like an adult, I’m mightily impressed. I was never a neat and organized person to begin with. It never seemed important to me- until suddenly, it was. Suddenly- because literally overnight (September 11, 2006- not that I’m counting) there were five kids walking along behind me, not only laying their own messes down all over the place, but also undoing any bit of good work I’d managed to accomplish. It has been a slow, painful process trying to keep from drowning in the clutter and keep track of my car keys. I feel I’ve made a lot of progress in four years.

But still, every small thing in my house unmakes my bed.

I took these pictures in about seventy seconds. I lose count of how many times I make my bed in a day. Sadly, I didn’t get the final picture, the one where the Evil Brown dog wriggled her way to the edge and fell off the bed, yanking down the rest of the duvet, in its entirety, on top of her. She made a very satisfying-sounding thump and then I lost sight of her for a while.