By Guest Blogger John (J.P.) Mundy
“Just when you think you know the answers, I change the questions.” – Dr. ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, Chairman Emeritus, Applied Sciences Department, Harvard University (not really)
Reaching to the ranks of pro wrestling history to start this post is not beneath me one bit and, in this case, is quite apropos. I submit to you, dear reader, my utter amazement and frustration with this thing we call parenting. Now, I could get on my pity pot and whine about the “extra” stuff that full-time single parents have to do, but I have plenty of help to where I actually have a life and even get to watch the game.
In other words, it’s not accurate to play the ‘woe is me’ card. Yet, as I continue this journey with my son I’m finding that the most frustrating parts of raising the future King of the World aren’t life achievements like, say, potty training, teaching them to dress themselves or getting them to bed by thems….
“Daddy, I need a snack and a drink.”
“You didn’t finish your dinner. Go to bed.”
Sorry. Now, what I was getting at was that the most frustrating part of parenthood for me is the fact that, once I figure out a certain age something new starts. I mean, I got the baby stuff down pat. I knew how to do everything from handle late nights and early mornings like a real man, and do grocery shopping and whatnot with baby in tow. I knew what every little noise meant and how to handle it intuitively.
Then he became a toddler.
And you know what? I worked that out, too. Just like all of us do. But now we are at another station in life. This place we call…kindergarten. And man, I’ve got issues and questions. Just ask my kid’s teacher (God bless her, she’s great. There’s so much she puts up with, just from me).
Like, why do we have “Curriculum Night”? I sat there with the other mommies and watched as Riley’s teacher went over the lesson plans and learning expectations for the year. I learned to read and did well with flash cards but I sure as heck don’t recall sight words or math buckets or whatever they’re called. He has just started his weekly reading assignments and I swear week 20 on the list is “War and Peace.”
The only thing that Curriculum Night did for me was remind me that much has changed in the 40 years since my kindergarten experience, and my expectations for this time in my son’s life were set far, far too low.
“Daddy, can you put the light on?”
“Go to bed”
Also, is this school thing designed to clean me out? I thought I was golden for the year after buying a backpack, lunch box and the requisite school supplies. Wrong! In the first month alone I joined the PTA, bought a long-sleeved school t-shirt in 90-degree weather and participated in something called Pledge Month. I mean, a guy’s got to eat, right? I even paid a few bucks for a field trip that actually occurred on school grounds. True story.
Anyway, here’s a tip of the cap to moms like mine that didn’t do parenting with email, cell phones, and smartphone apps. Those luxuries are making this school thing infinitely easier. Unfortunately for my kid’s teacher, being able to stay connected 24/7 means she has to deal with me and I didn’t make it 2 hours before contacting her.
First day of school, I’m waiting at the bus stop with my Simba and repeatedly asking if he has to go potty. After a many a “No”, I finally see the lights of the school bus creeping up the hill. At that very moment I hear him say, “I have to poop.” Oh, God. I sent a message to his teacher an hour after he got on his bus cryptically wanting to know if he made it safely. She eventually said he did. But what I really wanted to know was if he had to make use of the spare change of clothes that was in his bag.
He was fine, but dad spent my son’s first day of school wondering if he had an accident. Good times.
“Daddy, can I get in your bed?”
“No, there are monsters there.”
But you know something? We have some good teachers watching over our kids. Many of these teachers have kids of their own and are straight-up ninjas, well-versed in the way of the young. For instance, Riley quickly grew dissatisfied with the lunches I was preparing for him, and someone suggested I let him buy his lunch. It’s a great idea in theory, since school lunches are quite affordable and usually more cost-effective than throwing away uneaten Uncrustables every day.
So he bought his lunch for a couple of weeks before I got a text from his teacher: “Riley is buying extra chips when he gets his lunch. I can’t tell him not to, but I knew you’d want to know.”
You’re damn right I want to know, and much respect for her knowing as much. And kudos to Riley for figuring out how to game the system to get extra Fritos.
Yes there are plenty of new things to grouse about, but the bottom line is that I’m grateful my child and his friends are so well-taken-care of. As a borderline control freak, parenting messes with my emotions. But every day I see a five year-old who is infinitely better and smarter than I was at that age, and that’s really the point, right?