When Leanne asked me some question about her son, I did not really understand why. When I met him, 5-year-old Nathan was a smart, curious kid. For Leanne, he was the most horrible kid on Earth. When I asked her about having another child, she said, “With a kid like Nathan, I don’t think I’ll ever have any more kids”. I guess her pregnancy had been a very bad start in parenting, because she was sick through most of it and counted every second of the long nine months. Nathan’s delivery had been horrible and painful and five years later, she talked about it as if it had only happened the day before.
When I saw Nathan, I did not really understand who she was talking about. He stayed at our place many times, played well with my daughter and I really did not know what Leanne was talking about. The list of troubles she had with him seemed endless.
“When I talk to him, I need to say the same thing five times before he understands what I am saying”, she complained, “It is so hard to get him to sleep. Toilet training was so hard and dragged for such a long time. You should see him at the dinner table – he has no manners at all. Getting him dressed in the morning takes forever. He has no respect for my stuff and he can go to my cosmetics and use them for his art project. My car is such a mess because of him. I hate going to the supermarket with him, I go by myself on late-night shopping days. With him, every shopping is a nightmare”.
Every time she talked about Nathan, it was as if she was describing some psychopath and he was just a 5-year-old kid.
I met Nathan on many occasions and he was a different kid from what his mom described. He was curious, kept himself busy well and got along with people in 3 languages.
One day, Nathan came to sleep over at our house. When Leanne asked me for a favor, I was a bit concerned. My daughter was a great kid and I had no trouble whatsoever with her behavior, so I worried a bit about Nathan’s influence. At dinner time, when I told Gal that Leanne asked us to host Nathan for a day, we debated whether to agree. At the end, we decided we had never seen Nathan behave the way Leanne describes him and we would host him.
“Kids usually behave like angles when they go to a friend’s house, anyway”, we reasoned.
Leanne brought Nathan on Friday afternoon. He was very cute and rushed to play without even saying goodbye to his mom. Every time I went to check on him, he was playing nicely and was just wonderful. At dinnertime, he ate everything I put on the table (with lots of fruits and vegetables), said “Please” and “Thank you” and was very polite. He went to bed when we decided it was time and giggled with my daughter. I read them a story and they went straight to bed without any problems at all.
Nathan did everything I asked him. In the morning, he got dressed by himself and when we went to the supermarket together, he was very helpful. He asked me what I had on my list and ran to bring it and put in the trolley. In the afternoon, I took out some paper and boxes from my recycling bin and asked the kids to build any machine they liked and Nathan was amazingly creative.
When Leanne came to pick him up, she was worried and asked if he had been horrible “as usual”. I felt uncomfortable to say he had actually been a wonderful guest, which did not help her at all, because she spent the whole time telling me about her son’s horrible behavioral problems.
Yes, I know, some kids are angles when they go to other people’s homes, but Leanne was so concerned about him she asked me if I can recommend a psychologist who worked with kids.
One day, when we sat with a group of friends and talked about pregnancies, Leanne told everyone about her horrible, never to be repeated pregnancy and said that when she had told all her friends she was pregnant, one of them had given her a funny article on preparing for parenthood that suggested ways to prepare for being a parent. I remember everyone laughed when she told them about the bean bag, the goat and repeating yourself over and over again and Leanne concluded, “You know what? Sometimes it shocks me that it was so true”.
This week, I solved this puzzle. Well, actually Gal solved the puzzle. While he was browsing the Internet, he found the article below. Read it and I am sure you will be able to understand how Leanne got a “horrible” child.
Preparation for parenthood…
It’s not just a matter of reading books and decorating the nursery. Here are 12 simple tests for expectant parents to take to prepare themselves for the real-life experience of being a mother or father.
- Women: To prepare for maternity, put on a dressing gown and stick a pillowcase filled with beans down the front. Leave it there for 9 months. After 9 months, take out 10% of the beans.
Men: To prepare for paternity, go to the local drug store, tip the contents of your wallet on the counter, and tell the pharmacist to help himself. Then go to the supermarket. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office. Go home. Pick up the paper. Read it for the last time.
- Before you finally go ahead and have children, find a couple who are already parents and berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience, appallingly low tolerance levels, and how they have allowed their children to run wild. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child’s sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners, and overall behavior. Enjoy it — it will be the last time in your life that you will have all the answers.
- To discover how the nights will feel, walk around the living room from 5 pm to 10 pm carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8-12 pounds, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious noise) playing loudly. At 10 pm, put the bag down; set the alarm for midnight, and go to sleep. Get up at 12 and walk around the living room again, with the bag, until 1 am. Put the alarm on for 3 am. As you cannot get back to sleep, get up at 2 am and make a drink. Go to bed at 2:45 am. Get up again at 3 am when the alarm goes off. Sing songs in the dark until 4 am. Put the alarm on for 5 am. Get up. Make breakfast. Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.
- Can you stand the mess children make? To find out, first smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains. Hide a piece of raw chicken behind the stereo and leave it there all summer. Stick your fingers in the flower beds, and then rub them on the clean walls. Cover the stains with crayons. How does that look?
- Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems: first buy an octopus and a bag made out of loose mesh. Attempt to put the octopus into the bag so that none of the arms hang out. Time allowed for this: all morning.
- Take an egg carton, using a pair of scissors and a pot of paint, turn it into an alligator. Now take the tube from a roll of toilet paper. Using only Scotch tape and a piece of foil, turn it into an attractive Christmas candle. Last, take milk carton, a ping pong ball, and an empty packet of Cocoa Pops and make an exact replica of the Eiffel Tower. Congratulations! You have just qualified for a place on the play group committee.
- Forget the BMW and buy a station wagon. And do not think that you can leave it out in the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars do not look like that. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there. Get a dime. Stick it in the cassette player. Take a family-size package of chocolate cookies. Mash them into the back seats. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car. There. Perfect.
- Get ready to go out. Wait outside the bathroom for half an hour. Go out the front door. Come in again. Go out. Come back in. Go out again. Walk down the front path. Walk back up it. Walk down it again. Walk very slowly down the road for 5 minutes. Stop to inspect minutely every cigarette butt, piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue, and dead insect along the way. Retrace your steps. Scream that you have had as much as you can stand until the neighbors come out and stare at you. Give up and go back into the house. You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.
- Always repeat everything you say at least five times.
- Go to your local supermarket. Take with you the nearest thing you can find to a preschool child — a fully-grown goat is excellent. If you intend to have more than one child, take more than one goat. Buy your week’s groceries without letting the goats out of your sight. Pay for everything the goats eat or destroy. Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children.
- Hollow out a melon. Make a small hole in the side. Suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side. Now get a bowl of soggy Cheerios and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon by pretending to be an airplane. Continue until half the Cheerios are gone. Tip the rest into your lap, making sure a lot of it falls on the floor. You are now ready to feed a 12-month-old baby.
- Learn the names of every character from Sesame Street, Barney, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
When I read it, I knew exactly how this innocent article had planted a seed of hard parenting, of kids being a pain and lots of trouble and how this had become Leanne’s self-fulfilling parenting prophecy. What we believe about parenting becomes our reality.
It happens to many parents that jokes about kids, although they understand perfectly they are only jokes, become their reality.
If I were you, I would stay away from such things and never ever present it to parents-to-be. This is an excellent example of how to have a bad start at parenting.
Some things are just not funny at all.
Happy and easy parenting,