There’s really nothing I can say to set up this list. If you have kids, you probably have a million things just like the ones I list. I promise, I did not live in a fantasy in college. I was just disconnected from reality like every other human being, who eventually became a parent, was in their early days, before kids!
We actually thought we would do these 10 things after we had children…
- Dress them like Gap Kids. I remember walking into a mall when my wife and I were dating, back in college, and staring at a Gap Kids window display. The display featured a full-length poster with a perfect looking child. This child had brushed hair, wrinkle-free Gap Clothes on from head to toe, and a smile that said “Everything in my confused, concrete world is at peace and in perfect order!” I smiled and thought, “That’s exactly what my son or daughter will look like someday. We will always dress them in Gap Kids clothes!” Today, we’re lucky if 2 things happen: 1- Our kids actually match when they leave the house for school! 2- They’re actually wearing a complete outfit.
- Sleep in. If you read this blog often, you’re familiar with our calculation on lost sleep. We used to think it was months. Now we’re into decades. In fact, we’re nearing the middle of our second decade of lost sleep. I have no idea why I ever thought I would sleep in after children arrived. I remember talking to a friend, who was further down the parenting road than I was, when my first daughter was a newborn, and he told me that babies start sleeping through the night after 3 months. I was relieved. But I missed an important part of what he actually said- “They“ sleep through the night; not “you!” That’s an important distinction. We haven’t slept in, or slept through all night long, since 2002!
- Eat our own food. Sitting in a TGI Fridays in Cincinnati in the late 90’s, with my beautiful bride-to-be, was awesome. We ordered whatever we wanted, and we ate that delicious dish at our own leisure. Now it’s survival of the fittest. When you sit down to a family dinner with your little minions, who are constantly hungry, you, and your food, are on the clock! I feel like dinner at our house closely resembles the scene from Hotel Transylvania where the old-lady monster, in a flash, consumes Mrs Frankenstein’s bingo card.
- Not go to the grocery store a billion times in one week. When the self-checkout guy, who works the graveyard shift, knows you by name at your local Kroger, you know you’re going to the grocery store too much in a week’s time. Somebody once told us that we needed to make an exhaustive list, before we went to the store, of everything we needed for a week. Then, we should pick one day out of the week, circle it on the calendar, and get our entire grocery shopping done all at once. Well, isn’t that perfect!? This person was obviously single or married with no kids, with the only all-consuming, bottomless bellies to fill in their household being their own, or their pets. I think I may have given them the “What-fantasy-planet-do-you-live-on-and-how-can-I-find-this-place” look.
- Never make the mistakes we saw other “awful” parents around us make. We both still laugh about this one. When we were first married we were invited over to a family’s house for dinner. They had children. They had also invited another couple over who had 2 children. As we listened to them talk about the trials of parenthood, and the issues they were dealing with with their children, we thought to ourselves, “We’re never going to do that when we have kids! Never, ever, ever!” God then opened up the heavens and blessed us with children who had the combined strong will and attitude of any 10 children on His green earth. The joke was on us!
- Drive a clean car. This really doesn’t need any explanation, does it?
- Not visit the principal’s office. When my wife and I were growing up, you could count on 1 hand the amount of times we each found ourselves in the principal’s office. That’s K-12 for 2 hard-headed individuals. Since becoming parents we’ve been in the principal’s office more times, for more random things, than we can keep track of. Our kids aren’t bad, they’re just….creative!
- Finish a conversation with one another like adults. “Dear Heavenly Father, God above the universe and the galaxy, please let me finish one conversation with my wife without a child asking to use the potty, looking for a snack, or asking miscellaneous questions that I’ve already answered 4 gazillion times!”
- Not say irrational things in public. I remember hearing a stressed out mom, a long time ago, snap at her kid at a high school sporting event and say (loudly and frazzled), “Stop causing trouble!” “Wow,” I thought, “She’s really irrational! I’m never going to say things like that to my children.” I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to threaten my children in public places. In fact, you could write a book entitled, “The Irrational, Borderline Illegal, Things The Berry’s Have Said To Their Children In Public.” It would be bestseller…or evidence.
- Not need a drink before noon. Anyone ever find themselves glancing at the clock, hoping it was 5 pm or after, only to realize it’s 9 am? Okay, kidding…sort of. Yesterday my two homeschooled teen daughters got into a knock-down, drag-out fight over headphones. Headphones! I was trying to finish up some writing and was up against a deadline, but had to stop repeatedly to break them up. “It’s too early to start drinking,” I thought to myself, as I looked at my computer screen clock. Fortunately, the Lord has filled the earth with the sweet nectar of stressed out parents called coffee! Let’s be honest- coffee is really just a bridge that gets parents from morning to post-5pm!
There you have it friends. I’m sure you can relate if you’re blessed to be a parent. Truth is, as I finish that last point, I smile. Yes, life didn’t turn out the way I dreamed it would, more than 16 years ago, but I’m grateful it didn’t. I wouldn’t change a thing. I love the life we have, and I love my children. Our family’s imperfection makes everything perfect.
Oops, gotta run. I think my son just walked out of our house in his underwear and greeted the FedEx delivery guy!
How different has life, and raising kids, turned out for you? Share your story with us.