I've learned lots of things since becoming a parent, but there are some lessons that are more amusing than others. Of course, many of these experiences are also funnier after-the-fact, and they tend to be lessons that I've learned the hard way at least once. Many of these experiences have left me exclaiming, "I'll never let that happen again!"
Here are a few of my favorites. If they haven't happened to you yet, do this the easy way and learn from my mistakes:
- Always, and I mean always, check the kids' pockets before doing a load of wash. Otherwise you may find a red crayon, pack of bubble gum, or toad (that really happened) in the wash . . . or worse yet, the dryer.
- Always use extreme caution when approaching a random, stray raisin. Sure, it could be a small dried fruit, but it's also dangerously similar in size, color, and sometimes consistency of something that might fall out of a child's diaper. The latter is not something you want to squish between your fingers unexpectedly.
- Murphy's law of traveling with kids states that if you should forget a spare outfit, or God forbid, an entire diaper bag while traveling with a small child, someone will inevitably spill a cup of juice on themselves, fall in a puddle of mud, pee in their pants, or worse. The farther you are from home without the necessary spare items will increase the likelihood that you will need them as well as the severity of the clothing mishap.
- I used to be a very organized and meticulous person, and then I had three kids in a four-year span. I spent so much time picking up toys and constantly telling my kids to pick up their toys that it was driving me crazy. After a while, I decided there would be no toys at certain times of day. We all cleaned up before nap time and right before bedtime. Now I've learned to just deal with the blocks, Hot Wheels, and crayons all other times of day (and any unexpected houseguests will have to do the same).
- Thankfully, being married gave me practice for the next one: you pick and choose your battles. I find this particularly true with raising a toddler. For example, I find it much easier to simply allow my daughter to leave the house wearing pj's, an Easter hat, feather boa, and rain boots to drop her brother off at school than to have her cry and yell about wearing something I've chosen. I reserve my arguments for more pressing, daily matters like why we don't flush Mommy's keys or wash our hands in the toilet.
- The absolute best way to get your child's attention is to sit down somewhere and look comfortable.
- The saying "boys will be boys" often rings true at my house when I'm pretending to eat the mud pies made especially for me, or when I'm wrangling live bugs that were captured outdoors and released inside. However, sometimes little girls will be like the boys, too. My daughter, having two older brothers, loves playing dress-up and dollies, but she also loves getting dirty with dump trucks and dinosaurs. A stranger in a store told her she must be a princess. She growled and exclaimed, "I no princess! I a pirate! Arrrrg!" . . . and that's just fine with me.
- Being crafty usually requires double the time it takes to do the actual craft, in cleanup. Finger paints are awesome, but depending on the child, rarely end up just on the paper. I'm usually scrubbing walls, floors, and hair by the time the kids' masterpieces are complete. Since the messier the activity, the more fun the kids seem to have, and the longer it may keep them occupied, some people might ask is it really worth it? You bet your Mom jeans it is.
- Dirt happens even when there's no dirt to be seen. Putting a child in white clothing will magnify this effect. Choose darker-color clothing, or invest in a good stain-fighting detergent because it's going to happen. I once put a 1-year-old boy and a 3-year-old boy in white pants for Easter. They had dirt, grass, and some weird orange stain before we made it to breakfast. White apparel attracts juice, sauce, mud, and more. It's simple physics.
- School pictures, family-portrait sessions, or anything where I have to pay for a photograph usually results in a child giving him- or herself a last-minute haircut, falling down and scraping up their face, or a bug bite with swelling/allergic reactions. If I have to plan for or pay for a photo, someone is going to look their worst. I'm currently trying to decide if I should buy a bubble to keep them in for the week leading up to holiday pictures or just let what's bound to happen, happen and just try to explain to them why all their childhood pictures look the way they do when they're older.
What about you? What lessons have you learned the hard way? Anything that you've been through and can laugh at now (but still won't make the same mistake again)? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Award-winning blogger Susan McLean can be found writing about her daily adventures in motherhood over at Divine Secrets of a Domestic Diva.