Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Remember That Time Our Son Locked Me Out of the House? (Ten Commandments of Parenting Toddlers)

I was outside a mere two minutes, ten feet from our front door, and attempting to flag down our washing machine repairman when I heard the door close behind me.  As the gentleman stepped out of the truck, he witnessed me desperately pleading with my almost-three-year-old son who had managed to lock his disheveled father outside.  

"Buddy, I need you to unlock the door," I said on the opposite side of our glass storm door.  

"Daddy, you need a key." 

After several sighs and a brief and not-so-sacred prayer, I talked my son through multiple attempts to turn the latch and unlock the door.  He turned it a few times, declared the lock "too heavy," sat down on the mat for a second, mimicked my frustration, and even made several attempts to jump for keys, as if they would help if he did actually grasp them. 

About 10 minutes later, I heard the desired "click" and we were in business.

"I did it, Daddy. I did it."

"Yes, you did, buddy. Yes, you did."

I am convinced my son has been plotting this for some time. It's probably a grand conspiracy he and his twin sister developed for the next time dad walked out when mom was not home.  They called it, "Operation Twinado Freedom."

I am also convinced this event has made it into the top tier of the grandfatherly repairman's 60+ years of on-the-job stories. 

My wife and I have learned a lot over the years as we try to keep our two kids safe and alive, manage our sanity, and even create a fair share of memories to last a lifetime. Two things we know for certain: everyday is an adventure and parenting is not something you ever figure out or learn from a book.  Parenting is all about doing the best you can, taking one day at a time, and improvising a whole hell of a lot. Every now and again you will have a stroke of genius, pat yourself on the back, and get a decent night's sleep.

Then reality hits you upside the head and you are locked out of your own own home or find your daughter standing by the laundry room door with her dirty pull up around her ankles.

"They fell down, Daddy. Uh oh."

Yea, that also happened yesterday. 

Which lead me to develop the following:

Ten Commandments of Parenting Toddlers  (A Dad's Perspective)

10. Don't Leave House without Keys: See story above. But really, your kids are smarter than you realize and will make their brightest discoveries when you are not paying attention.  Be ready. I also have had to learn to affirm these discoveries, even when they are mildly inconvenient. 

9. Don't Be Afraid to Get a Little Poo on Your Hands: Parenting is messy and you will get dirty.  Learn to laugh a little and use a lot of soap and water. And always remember, somebody once did this for you. So give thanks. 

8. Don't Let Kids Watch Caillou: This is just a personal preference. But trust me, this whining kid from Canada has a sense of entitlement that really causes one to go insane. Caillou's vocals and theme song will haunt you forever. You've been warned.

5. Don't Be Easily Embarrassed: Life is not supposed to be so serious.  Toddlers will teach you this truth quickly, like when they shout new vocabulary words, especially those referring to human anatomy, whenever they feel like it and wherever these words pop into their little imaginations. Again, laugh a little. 

4. Don't Take Pictures of Everything: Leave Room for the minds-eye, so in trying to capture the moment perfectly you don't miss the moment completely. 

3. Don't Fret: Your Kids Think You're Awesome (for now).  There is nothing like walking in the front door after a difficult day and hearing, "Daddy, your back! Daddy, I love you." Soak it in and maybe record a few of these moments. No, don't. See #4.

2. Don't Wish Time Away.  Parenting is hard. You will inevitably take some of the days and weeks for granted. You will question your ability to raise kids and manage your personal life, profession, and relationships all at the same time.  People will tell you, "it's only a season." But embrace each one for what it is. You won't get it back and before you know it, you will be reminiscing about the good ole days. These are the good ole days. Love as many of them as you can. 

1. Don't Forget to Pray: These prayers may come in between diaper changes, while washing dishes, or as you clean up and step on a few Legos (which evoke their own genre of prayer). But, by all means, pray.  Prayer will keep you sane and point you towards gratitude and grace. You will need a whole lot of both. While you're at it, teach your kids to pray. These will become some of your earliest and most sacred moments as you form their young faith. Consider writing your own bedtime prayer, too.

*See Related Post: Comparison as Joy's Thief and Parenting as My Christian Vocation  You could probably add an eleventh commandment, "Don't Compare Your Parenting to Another's." This will only lead to dissatisfaction and envy.