Just a matter of weeks until these guys get to meet their little baby sister!
I did a quick back-of-a-napkin calculation yesterday – of the 20 hours a day that our children are awake my wife and I spend roughly 19 of them convincing them they must (or mustn’t) do something. Using their toothbrush rather than their brother’s sock to clean their teeth, for example. Or not helping the cat finish her breakfast.
We’re not alone of course – parenting is all about getting those little minions skilled up on the basics, right? That’s what we tell ourselves anyway. It’s not that all those infuriating, maddening, ridiculous things they do all day bother us and we just want them to STOP, NOW. No, no – we’re helping them grow.
Anyway, I got to wondering – what would happen if my wife and I shut down our (frankly sensible) demands for a day? I think it would look something like this:
On reflection, we’ve decided it’s probably best to keep the nagging levels up at full. You know, for the cat’s sake.
No, you can’t put that worm in your nerf gun.
Stop riding your bike over the oranges!
You don’t need to wear your backpack in the shower, and you’re not reading in there either so you can stop packing it with books.
Put down the cat, she doesn’t want a ‘ride’ in the oven.
Where are…oh, you’re on the bookshelf.
Stop dragging that rock along the side of the car.
AND that rock.
No, the worm is not ‘ammination’, the worm is terrified.
We’re running late, let’s g…why have you taken your clothes off?
No, you cannot have cheese on your cereal.
Why are you licking the tap?
Yes, you can have a ride on my back, but we’re not going to ‘chase all the slow people’ in the mall.
She said ‘fitch bunt’, and we’ll be turning Niki Minaj off.
Why are you putting macaroni up your brother’s nose?
You do not ‘neeeeeeeeed‘ cheese on your icecream.
I have no idea what a fitch bunt is, let’s just move on. No, you will not ask your teacher, she won’t know either.
Why are you putting toothpaste on your toes?
Yes, wrinkles on old people are weird, but let’s stop telling them that.
Put the cat down, she’s not ‘ammination’ either.
How did you even get Niki Minaj on?
Now that I’ve been a parent for almost 7 years, during which time I’ve lost the majority of my hair, had the rest of it go mostly grey, and had my nerves frayed to the fullest possible extent, I feel qualified to share this list I’ve been compiling with you. It’s a collection of fundamental rules that all children that have moved beyond the baby phase start to live by.
I call this list ‘Several Truths About Raising Kids’. Or, if you want an easier way of remembering it so you can tell your friends (and maybe help keep their lovely crop of hair intact), the STARK’s. I know, it’s almost like the name of my blog but it’s just a crazy coincidence.
We could go one step further and call these STARK’s Laws – it doesn’t actually make any sense, but it sounds extremely official and makes me feel a little like Newton. Not the unit, the person.
The list! Here, my friends, are STARK’s Laws -
1) Children are born with ears but don’t be fooled - they actually don’t work the way you think. Speaking to children about unimportant stuff like getting dressed, brushing their teeth, picking up the pile of books they’ve thrown into the garden, or not pouring the glass of water they’re holding over your laptop will not be heard. Whether they want to or not, children will simply not hear these sorts of things. They will continue on as if you don’t exist and your laptop will be as good as dead. Perhaps you could place it in the garden with the books and get some kind of ‘it’s-my-garden-but-it’s-also-my-office’ kind of arrangement going on. How chic.
With this point said, there are certain terms that will make it through the ear of a child that will be successfully processed by their brain. ‘Ice cream’, for example, or ‘iPad’. Naturally you’ll assume that you can slip in additional, important information with the words you know will get through. But, I repeat – do not be fooled. Telling your child to ‘stop hitting windows with that bat or you won’t be getting any dessert’, accentuating that key word in an attempt to get the whole message through, will only result in the child walking over to you expecting dessert on the spot. If you think you can tell them they won’t be getting it until after dinner, and only if they eat it all and if their behaviour is exemplary, please refer back to the point 1. And remember they’re holding a bat.
2) You will get wet. A lot. If you’re outside in the rain your child will slow their movements to a snails pace, and you’ll be left standing around waiting for them to catch up. If you’re outside and it’s stinking hot your child will speed up causing you to run around manically to keep up with them. The basic thing you need to understand is that if you’re leaving the house you should expect to end up all kinds of drenched before you get to where you need to go.
Do I need to mention bath times here, or is it well-known enough that children will turn the smallest volume of liquid into something resembling a scene from Waterworld? Ok, good.
3) If you pack a change of clothing for your child you needn’t worry about any ‘accidents’. If you don’t, you do. This point comes with one caveat – if you pack spare clothing and smugly think you’re prepared for any eventuality, this will backfire. You’re child will sense your preparedness, there will be two accidents, and you’ll be out of spare pants and back to square one. You MUST pack that spare set of clothing with a pure, clear mind so as not to alert the instincts of the child. Safest bet – just don’t bother at all and accept the inevitable consequences.
4) Children pick up on your need for personal space and will do anything to prevent you from getting it. No one knows why, they just do. They smell your need to escape like a wolf smells fear. If you think you can casually wander out of a room and then nip to the toilet for 30 seconds, think again. That child will hunt you down, and a closed door will not help. I suggest gathering paint samples that match the colours of your toilet doors – you’ll need them for touching up the scratch marks.
There may be times when you do find yourself alone, and your child is sitting quietly playing with a toy or reading a book. In these moments you’ll consider sparking up a conversation with your friend or your significant other, checking Facebook, or even picking up a book of your own. Any of those moves would be a huge mistake. The only reason the child is playing quietly is to make you THINK you can finally have a conversation with another adult, and they’re tracking your movements like a hawk. If you move an inch those toys and books will hit the ground and that child will be in your face so fast you won’t know what’s hit you. Practice being calm, still and silent. Like a statue. It’s one of the most valuable skills a parent can possess. If you can do it for 10 minutes, good. If you can go 30 – you’re winning.
5) Give up on folding washing. Or, if you want to attempt it and actually keep it folded you’ll need to do it when your children are asleep. That is, between 1:30am and 2:15am. If you do it when they’re awake it’s like holding a red flag to a bull – that washing will be scattered to the four winds before you can blink. Probably into the garden with the rest of your belongings.
6) Injuries to you as a parent are inevitable, so get used to them. I can’t speak for women (mainly because I’m not one), but if you’re a man know this – your child knows very well that your groin is the go-to impact spot for the best reaction and most damage. I play cricket, so started wearing a protective box as part of my casual attire years ago. I highly recommend investing in a good quality one. Not just for when you’re playing rough-and-tumble games with your kids, but also for when you go for walks in the park, or supermarket shopping. You’d be amazed at the damage a bag of apples can do when swung on the right trajectory.
7) Children don’t sleep, ever. I often hear parents say they ‘just need to focus on getting through the early months, and then we’ll finally be able to get some rest’. Ahh, no, this does not happen. There’s always something that keeps children awake and has them calling out at night. For example -
The most accurate sounding returns to sleep I’ve heard from parents are the ones when their children are around the age of 30. That sounds about right to me. Don’t fight it – just give up on the idea of sleep for the foreseeable future.
8) Despite everything children throw at us there is always coffee, and us parents must always keep our caffeine levels high. The general rule I go by is this – if I’m halfway through my current cup then I should probably get another pot brewing to ensure it’s ready for when I’m finished. This keeps me on a schedule of fresh coffee roughly every 12 minutes or so, which I think is about right. Anything less and I risk becoming a dribbling mess on the floor, the lack of caffeine meaning I would have forgotten to put on my protective box leaving me completely vulnerable to impact from a fast flying Buzz after his refreshing full nights sleep in his cosy handmade sleeping bag. Always remember – coffee is key. Don’t let those caffeine levels drop, people.
If you know someone that has small children please, for the love of all things, share this list with them. Spread it far and wide, like a child spreads rice when you leave it open on the bench. Share it loudly, like a child shares your bowel routine with strangers.
Your kids wake up smiling and happy, there were no malfunctioning nappies overnight so all children, linen and mattresses are dry, most of their breakfast actually makes it to their mouths, they manage to get their clothes on AND keep them clean and dry, you actually leave the house on time with all children, school bags, and your own clothing accounted for, your car makes it through the school drop off without being dented in 6 different places, the teacher double-takes at you because yes, your child really IS clean, dry, on time and in one piece this morning, no one vomits or wets their pants on the way to kindergarten, you make the appointment you have on time with minutes to spare (and the school doesn’t even call with an emergency while you’re in there), your children don’t physically damage each other in the car ride home from school which means no urgent trips to the doctor are necessary, you make it through dinner without wearing most of it, you were actually able to MAKE dinner, bath time doesn’t turn into a thrashing scene of horror that makes JAWS seem calm and serene, and your children get into bed and fall asleep without waking every person, animal and other living thing in an 8 block radius.
Then, other days, it’s not so easy.
Whatever kind of parenting day you’re having, hang in there and take the good with the bad. Those little people won’t be little for long – enjoy them while you can, even if it means throwing that spaghetti back at them.
That’s me up there, chilling with my little buddy Shark back in the 80s.
Crazy to think that my own kids are now as big as I am in this photo – time flies when you’re having fun, right?
Next year there’ll be a little baby girl here celebrating my birthday too – I just can’t imagine how adorable that’s going to be :-)
Lack of sleep – one of the biggest complaints you hear from parents, right?
But as a sufferer of chronic SD myself I think we’re missing a trick. Sleep deprivation can actually be a positive thing, something we can use to our advantage over the rest of the population. I’ve started to view it as my superpower.
Here are 5 ways you can embrace sleep deprivation and use it to level yourself up -
1) The zombie movie genre isn’t going away any time soon, which means there will always be a need for extras on a set near you. With a stumbling gait, red baggy eyes, messy hair and real drool continually pouring from your mouth, no director would turn you away. Plus, you save on make up costs because you’re already looking completely authentic. Just make sure the movie company sets the minimum viewing age to 18 – younger viewers are just not ready for this sort of realism.
2) You become immune to practical jokes. Remember the time that moron in HR decided it would be funny to put an air horn underneath your office seat, and you had to take the afternoon off to go shopping for new jeans? Well, you needn’t worry about that any more. When you’re sleep deprived you wouldn’t notice a case of dynamite exploding under you, so next time the HR guy does the air horn trick (because he’s completely unoriginal and predictable) you won’t batter an eye lid. Mostly because they’ll be locked shut. Try and stay with it enough to watch the look on douche-bags face, though – you don’t want to miss that.
3) The morning school run, believe it or not, becomes easier. We all know the struggle of finding a park near a school, hundreds of crazed parents lurching their vehicles around at random, parking on strange angles in bus stops, cycle lanes and on footpaths. But when you’re sleep deprived you can use the school drop off time to switch off, catch some quick zz’s, and get a park.
Here’s how it works – just as you’re approaching the school direct your car towards a taken park, slow down and drop into 1st gear, and give in to the pull of exhaustion. You’ll drift off, and drive slowly but surely into the back of the badly parked car in front of you. They’ll be shunted forward, and you’ll judder to a stop smack in the middle of the best park in town. Sleep as long as needed – probably best you stay out of it for a bit while the commotion around you settles down. The best part? You end up with less school-run damage to your car than you normally would.
4) Free petrol. I know, big call, but it’s actually quite simple. Just pull in to the pumps at your local station, get out, start the pumping process, and get back in your car. I guarantee you’ll drift off for a minute or two, snap back to reality wondering where you are and what you’re doing, panic thinking you’ve missed a meeting, left the stove on or one of your children waiting at a school gate, and drive off. Just make sure you rotate through the various petrol stations in your area – making an appearance at the same one twice doesn’t really work.
5) The excuse to drink more coffee than is socially acceptable. For normal people, ordering a coffee for yourself is fine, and going back for a second is still ok. But rocking up to the barista for a third or fourth cup in a matter of minutes will probably arouse suspicion and lead to some sort of arrest. Sleep deprived parents are not normal, however, and baristas understand this. Refer back to the zombie look in point 1 – you think any coffee establishment in the world is going to turn you down when you go back for your tenth cup? No chance. You have a free pass to consume as much caffeine as humanly possible.
Parents, let me tell you – if you embrace sleep deprivation you’re life will change. When you wake up tomorrow you’re going to enjoy 43 cups of coffee without guilt or judgmental glances, fill your tank with petrol for absolutely nothing, get the best park on the school run while also catching up on a bit of sleep, become untouchable at the office, and probably leave your job anyway to become a movie star.
Then you get to do it all over again the next day because sleep deprivation strips our memories right back to the capacity of a gold fish. You’ll remember the really important stuff (like this post), and forget the minor stuff (like the multiple arrests for driving away from petrol stations without paying), so you’ll be able to keep on living the dream day after day.
Sleep deprivation sucks? I think not.