The Most Puzzling Part of Parenting (by Julie, my Wife)
My parenting co-pilot (wife) is a better writer than me (or is it ‘I’).
Which is why she is my guest blogger today.
I found her post in her journal. It wasn’t written with you in mind, but I think you’d love to read it.
Let me explain.
I write my thoughts about parenting in a blog. She stores hers in a personal journal. I write for the public. She writes for herself, also relishing the thought that one day the kids will read it.
The other day I asked her if I could read some of it. She agreed. Most of it records the story of each of our children – poignant moments that bring tears to my eyes. I am so glad she has recorded not only the events, but the magic latent within them.
But every now and then she dips into experiences that are far from poignant. They capture the ordinary side of parenting, like how long and how much patience it takes to cut the nails of all five kids (do the maths: 5 x 10 digits x 2 = 100 digits; 100 x 30 seconds = 50 minutes).
In the entry that will comprise the rest of this post she does something similar. It is her most recent musing.
(Now, in case you think you will find great advice about parenting, you won’t. At best you will realize, ‘I am not alone’ as you reflect on the millions of repeated, mundane and arbitrary tasks that beset a parent of small kids. I suppose that, along with the gratuitous humour she throws in, that might be all the help you need.)
Enter Julie Williams…
The most puzzling part of parenting
I’m just going to come out and say it: despite loving my kids, I don’t love doing stuff with them. And by ‘doing stuff’ I don’t mean all stuff, just the ones they say are crucial to their development and future success in life. Like baking, painting, making crafts like silly felt puppets, beading, sand art, and puzzles.
Trying to bake with my kids is a kind of punishment that should be reserved for former despots and crazed dictators. Just to give them a taste of their own medicine. I relish arts and crafts with my 3-year-olds as much as I relish waking up in the middle of the night to a warm (rapidly cooling) wet patch from same 3-year-olds who now insist they’re too big for nappies.
Given these fairly strong feelings toward kid activities, I wasn’t altogether surprised when our twins’ pre-school teacher asked me if I could do more puzzles at home with them… Long before the twins had mastered the pincer grip, I had vanquished all puzzles to an impenetrable vault I like to call ‘the toy box’. It is a heavy antique chest that no child of mine can open, filled with puzzles I hoped to never see again.
You see, 9 consecutive years of puzzles with kids has cured me from thinking that kids and puzzles go together. I have many kids and so can scientifically attest with supreme confidence, that for every minute a puzzle has been used for its actual purpose, another 10 minutes have been spent by an adult hunting down the missing pieces. And there are always missing pieces.
Here is my quick guide to this most puzzling practice of parenting:
If the puzzle has ALL its pieces still after your child has finished playing with it (this will hardly ever be the case), it should be returned to your version of a toy vault, preferably fitted with an 8 digit password, and never brought out again. If it is missing pieces (much more likely), you will, like me, commence wasting hours of your precious life on all fours doing the extreme sport of looking in weird places your tot could have misplaced it in.
This will inevitably lead to you having to put your hand down the inside of the couch. This is never a good idea. You will not find the piece but will no doubt find a treasure trove of other things that should not be there – like a discarded apple with just two bites out of it, a barbie shoe and a piece of lego.
Continue looking for the piece but pause briefly to take the barbie shoe and lego and place them in a special box that is filled with an odd assortment of things that generally belong somewhere else, are too precious to throw away and/or that you have absolutely no idea what they are, but will definitely urgently require the day after you discard.
Getting back to that missing puzzle piece… you will have to give up on finding it when the kids’ playfighting reaches MMA cage fighting levels and blood has been drawn. Now forget entirely about the missing puzzle piece until you’re looking for something equally as thrilling, upon which time, you will find the piece – stare at it with a vague sense of Dory-like recognition before tossing it in the afore-mentioned box of odd things.
You will tell yourself that you will go through this box and return all these little misplaced things to their rightful place, but you are actually far more likely to happen upon this box in a particularly low moment of realising your whole life has gone to pieces since having kids, and so will perform a quick cathartic cleanse by throwing this entire odd box out, along with all the art your kids have brought home from school over the past few months.
You will feel immediately triumphant. Enjoy this brief euphoria. Because hell hath no fury like the child who finds their paintings in the bin.
Also published on Medium.