Tonawanda News

August 11, 2013

CRIB NOTES: Looking haggard? Nope, that's just parenting

--
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I’m starting to learn every parent projects two different images to the world.

To some people, a parent walking through your average social setting looks like he’s being dragged through acid-tinged broken glass, an ever-present tinge of pain showing on his face as he’s continually in pursuit of someone who seemingly isn’t there. He smells like herd-wrangling dirty sweat mixed with peanut butter and sour candy. He sounds slightly insane as he seemingly dictates orders to nobody in particular, repeats himself incessantly and unleashes a constant flow of apologies.

To another parent, the phenomenon is called “Wednesday.”

In assessing how I behave when I take the kids out somewhere, I concluded I must look like someone who just can’t get it together. Even Crazy Cat Lady must pass me at the supermarket, seeing me continually unload my cart of the cartoon character-graced packages of goodies Penny and Rigby put in there while keeping them out of the toy aisle and chastising them for hitting, colliding with every adult who’s present, and think I’m a mess.

In some respects, I kind of feel that way. But you would, too, if you just explained for the 13th time in a single afternoon which way left is.

You might be a tad worse for wear if you spent an hour prodding your kids to eat, only to see them refuse and then complain 30 minutes later they were starving.

And you’d certainly not feel your Sunday best if you just got up from the floor after making your son pick up the straws threw about the kitchen and entered a living room saturated with the contents of an opened piggy bank.

Children definitely have a way of making you feel ... not quite like yourself. You get used to the sleep deprivation, jitters and the loss of all sense of time — something similar to what I’d imagine it’s like for degenerate gamblers on a four-day blackjack binge. 

But that largely takes place at home. When the kids start to act like ... well, kids ... when we are out, you can get more drained by 10 a.m. than most people get in a full day. And, of course, they will prolong that day as much as is humanly possible, making even mundane tasks like a bathroom break and walk back to the car into a trek that would happily send Odysseus back on the odyssey were he given a choice of the two.

Kids need to test their limits, I get it. They also have a natural curiosity, lesser attention span and great desire to make their parents look and feel like recovering drug addicts. 

None of this is a deterrent to family outings, mind you. Even knowing I could end up chasing a giggling 4-year-old boy with his pants around his ankles out of the men’s room at any moment, I’m still happy to take them anywhere. Not only do the kids need to learn how to properly behave in public, but they also create plenty of fun moments to make me forget about the more irksome ones.

Every parent out there knows exactly what I mean.

•••

One closing thought this week. Taking Penny and Rigby to Marineland recently, I began to wonder if I could quantify just how much fun I robbed my dad of.

I have fun taking the kids. I love watching them ride the rides. But nearly every ride I could accompany them on, they either benched me or wanted to skip the ride entirely. I get the occasional roller coaster or boat ride — and I’m grateful — but I am not accustomed to the sidelines.

My dad took us to Darien Lake and Fantasy Island enough time for me to have robbed him of about 500 rides, easy. And he might really love rides. I don’t know. I never bothered to ask him.

I can’t give those rides back. But I can now say I understand what was given up for my amusement. And the circle has completed itself.

Contact Paul Lane at pjlnews@ymail.com.