May 4, 2012
By Ekta R. Garg
With the end of the school year fast approaching and summer birthdays coming up, I’m reminded once again of the fact that my children are growing up and that parenting is the biggest scam in the world.
Veteran parents will understand this one. Those of you who aren’t parents yet won’t believe me on this one, but the minute you’re in the delivery room and holding that new baby for the first time you’ll find out exactly what I’m talking about.
Here, then, I am proceeding to dispel the myth of parenting, the one perpetuated by those Gerber commercials and the Huggies ads.
First, becoming a parent basically means signing a contract and committing said parent to a lifetime of worry. Whether it’s counting the number of wet and poopy diapers your infant produces in the first week of life, reading the newest articles on cyber bullying and kidnapping, or watching the “Nightline” special on the nine-year-old anorexic girl who looked at pictures in Seventeen wanted to be like the models in it—it doesn’t matter. If you have a child, you will worry.
One day this week Three wasn’t her usual bouncy self in the car on the way to school, and I gave myself the luxury of a few minutes wondering whether she was feeling okay. She’s fighting a minor cold, and I hoped she could enjoy her morning in preschool. When I went to pick her up and she bounced into the car with a bright smile and full of chatter about who did what and the snack of the day, my worry dissipated immediately. For now it’s gone. Until something else nudges it back to the forefront of my mind.
Second, your children will monopolize your time. Whether you’re trying to check your email (“What are you looking at?” “Can I play a game on your computer?” “She won’t share the Legos!”) or attempting to have a conversation with the other adults around (“Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.” “What??” “Um…I drew a monkey in school today.”)—no matter what you’re trying to do, the children in your life will manipulate, monopolize, and commandeer what once used to be known as free time.
Not only do they do this actively, but also they’ve got it down to such an exact science that they can monopolize their parents’ time in a passive manner. As I sat here writing this, I suddenly looked at the clock on my laptop and realized I hadn’t said good night to the girls yet. So I put everything on hold and went across the hall for about five minutes, breaking the flow of my writing and my train of thought. They didn’t call me over; because I’m a mother and tied to them so intricately, Five and Three don’t even have to be in the same room with me to command my attention.
Last—and the one that bothers me the most—your children will grow up. And no one really can explain this in a tangible way. You just have to experience it in order to fully grasp it. Whereas once they lay contentedly in their cribs, suddenly they won’t sit still long enough for you to hug or kiss them. At one time they would waddle to you with their favorite board books in their chubby hands. You turn around, and you see those same children sitting quietly on a sofa with a chapter book and a bookmark close by in case it’s time to come to the dinner table. All the hours you’ve spent buckling and unbuckling them into their car seats will fade when you blink and realize you’re sitting in the driver’s seat, waiting semi-patiently for the child who insists s/he can buckle the seatbelt alone, unassisted.
When I packed shoes for our spring break vacation, I took along Five’s school shoes. Five had a pair of Princess sneakers with Velcro, and before going on the trip I’d already once before fixed the Velcro on one shoe with crazy glue. But the crazy glue only held so long, and by the time we were ready to return to Salt Lake the glue and the Velcro strap had come undone. So two days after we returned I bought a new pair of shoes, this time with laces. Five had never had a pair of shoes with laces before, and in order to dispel for her any intimidation the laces might provide I told her that every morning before school we would spend about five minutes learning how to tie her laces.
Nine days later she has begun tying those laces herself. And I kick myself once again for empowering her in her development as a young girl. I’m giving her the keys to her independence one small task at a time and simultaneously mourning that impending independence. How quickly, I know, we’ll go from tying shoes to being 17, driving to the mall, applying to colleges, and leaving one day to begin her own life as an adult somewhere.
Parenting, as I said, is the biggest scam on Earth. And yet, I realize, I’m a willing participant. When my girls can look at me first thing in the morning and tell me I look beautiful in my old nightgown and with bleary eyes, when they throw their arms around my neck and declare I’m “the best mom in the whole world,” when I see their eyes gleam in learning to read with increasing speed, accuracy, and complexity—yes, I think I would rather participate in the world’s greatest scam than be excluded from it. It is, indeed, worth it.