Expect the unexpected.
I’ve always thought this one piece of parenting advice pretty much covered everything. I was wrong. There’s another one:
Never say never.
There are a lot of things I never I thought I would do as a parent.
I never thought I would let my kids eat junk food. I mostly don’t, but Goldfish are pretty popular in my house. Also, Riley likes dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, both boys savor “enriched macaroni product” shaped like Mater and Lightning McQueen, and if Dylan would agree to eat a Big Mac, I’d go to McDonald’s in the middle of the night.
I never thought I would let my boys pee on trees. Dylan has a favorite tree in our backyard to pee on, and yesterday, he peed on a tree in the park. And it wasn’t the first time. Believe me, it was a better option than the creepy, ant-infested, “CSI” inspired public bathroom. (If I’ve grossed you out completely, you must not have any sons. If it helps, even though Dylan wanted to pee on the tree three feet from the monkey bars, I guided him toward a tree with some privacy.)
I never thought I would let my kids watch so much television and so many movies. And play video games with “shoots” (that’s Dylan-speak for guns and bombs). And watch YouTube! Dylan actually watches videos of other people playing video games!
I should have known better than to have such high expectations of my parenting. After all, I assumed I would have the most well behaved dog on the planet. And then we met Harry.
I love Harry more than anything, but he’s the most stubborn, poorly behaved dog I’ve ever met. We were kicked out of puppy school because he distracted the other dogs, and we can’t take him to dog parks because he antagonizes big, old dogs (Harry’s a 20 pound Boston Terrier). He acts like an alpha male when he’s within 50 feet of a Rottweiler or Pit Bull, and one time he attacked a fully-grown Great Dane! He has terrible anxiety (like his Mama!) and shakes like a leaf when it rains or thunders. He’s horrible on a leash, tries to runaway every time the front door opens (like his Mama!), jumps on everyone who enters our house (including small children), pees on the carpet at my sister-in-law’s house every time we take him there, eats food off any plate he can reach and wakes Mike and I up every night to go the bathroom.
On Sunday, Dylan decided he was obsessed with “Star Wars,” which is kind of cool, especially for Mike who saw the movie for the first time when he was five years old. He wouldn’t go to bed that night until he finished Episode 4. While I wrestled (literally) with Riley to get him to brush his teeth, Mike came up with a brilliant idea to set up the portable DVD player in Dylan’s bed. When Riley and I finished our bathroom battle (literally), I discovered Dylan nestled in bed with his blanket and an entertainment center.
“He just wants to finish the movie,” Mike said. This, like letting the boys sleep in bed with us, didn’t seem like a good idea. I had a television in my bedroom when I was a kid, but not when I was five. (Mom and Dad, if I’m wrong about this, please feel free to correct me.) It was late and I was tired, so I let it slide and went to sleep thinking (1) we were slipping down a very slippery slope and (2) it was Mike’sfault.
Fast forward to 4:15am. Dylan woke up crying. He had a bad dream and wanted to wake up and watch “Star Wars” in the family room. “Absolutely not,” I said. “It’s still sleeping time.” And then I remembered the DVD player was still in his bed, and an unfamiliar (and exhausted) version of myself that had never previously thought her preschool-aged children should watch television in bed said, “Why don’t you watch it in bed? Just keep the volume down so you don’t wake up Riley.”
And that was that. He watched “Star Wars” and I went back to sleep. Suddenly the DVD player in bed seemed like a really good idea. Today, Riley woke up at 4:45 asking for a breakfast bar, milk and “Dora,” and I know exactly what I’m getting him for his birthday.
Never say never.