Parenting is hard, and as I’m finding sixteen years in, it only gets harder. If you’re a new parent, may I say “Congratulations!” But I am sorry to tell you that being up all night for feedings will soon seem like Super-Duper Supremeo Fun World Extravaganza Good Time Park compared to teenager problems. I’ll give it to you straight — you will love that baby always, but you won’t always like them.
That’s parenting — and why these tips may be useful — because doing the right thing for someone you may not even like is good form when you have kids. So hahaha, sucker; it’s not about you anymore, and it will never be 100% about you ever again.
I make no claims to be an expert in the parenting field, and although my children are good, responsible people, I cannot take all the credit for this. There is something to be said for nature/nurture, and sometimes nature wins. I’ve spent 98.3% of my time thinking about my kids in one way or another since I found out they were coming, because they permeate every decision I make in some way. I’ve made mistakes; some big ones. I’ve even made “Walmart-underwear-aisle-blow-out-screaming-match-hope-the-video-camera-didn’t-catch-that” ones, but I’m also bold enough to say I’ve done what I think is a fairly good job ensuring my kids won’t be communicating with loved ones through a phone attached to safety glass any time soon.
There are other”rules” too, like allowing time for active play, showing an interest in their schooling, and others, but the suggestions here are my basic, beginner-level ones, because if there’s anything I do exceptionally well, it’s meeting bare minimum standards.
Kids deserve to be honoured for one day a year. I don’t care if you hate all kids besides your own, chances are your child doesn’t. So haul your ass down to the bakery or mix some sugar and eggs together and make sure there’s a cake. WITH ICING. Hang some streamers, get yourself some ear plugs and go forth to Chuck E. Cheese or a bowling alley for two hours. Two hours. You can’t do that? You make me sick. If nothing else, it’ll be good blog fodder.
Knowing all the fast-food window staff by name isn’t cute at age 3, and it’s not any cuter at 40. Open a cookbook. Watch the Food Network. Just make sure that by the time your bird leaves the nest they know a lime reamer isn’t for “adult play” and that a garlic press does more than make awesome Play-Doh hair. A couple of basic dishes will do: a roast chicken, a pasta dish, eggs any way, and something on the grill. Bonus points for a traditional native dish. Keep your culture alive, ya jerk.
Children today are chronically sleep-deprived. Tired kids are cranky and irritable and not much fun to be around, so fix it. Sure, we all have good intentions of 8:30 bedtimes, but once you factor in teeth brushing, the seventh glass of water and all the existential questions kids ask, you’re looking at 10pm, minimum. Because kids aren’t stupid. They’re trying to wear you down so they can stay up later. They think all sorts of fun shit is going on after they’re in bed. It’s balloon animals and cotton candy as far as they’re concerned. They have no idea we’re just watching crappy TV and dodging sexual promises we made earlier.
Pro-tip: Change the clocks. Knock ‘em back a half hour, and then make it a “no media” night. Then you can say, “Would you just LOOK at the time!” and not be the bad guy. I do this all the time. My kids think today is October 17, 1976 — I’m that good at it.
Don’t fix everything for your kids. Let them feel disappointment and responsibility occasionally. You’re going to have to try very hard to not crumble yourself when this happens, because they’re going to cry and it will be tough. My only tip to you here is making sure your bedroom has a box of tissues. Also, vodka.
Let them have fantasies and magic in their life, even if you think the things are stupid or pointless, like the Tooth Fairy or a poster of fluffy kittens in a basket. “Real life” is waiting on the other side of your front door, and it’s going to chew your kids up and spit them out. Then Real Life will use its own dental bridge to pick its last remaining rotten tooth — because Real Life is an asshole.
I’m not saying you can’t raise lovely, well-rounded, confident children in a disgusting dirty house. Wait; I am. It’s pretty simple actually. Your house need not be pristine or “Go ahead and lick the doorknobs” sterile. No one wants a slovenly partner in life and if you’re setting the bar somewhere between “Hobo shanty town” and “Tonight on a very special episode of Hoarders,” you’re not doing your kids any favours.
I don’t care if you’re into natural remedies, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, or witch doctors. Maybe you prefer every modern interventionist technique available, whatever. Just take your kids to a health professional regularly. Get their teeth cleaned. Have a garage sale for a braces fund if they need them. Go to the eye doctor so they can see properly. Feed them the best food you can reasonably afford, prepare it the best way time will allow, and sit down to eat together as often as possible. Look, I’m realistic. My son once ate directly out of the crock pot while we we’re in the car. Life is busy, health care is expensive, and taking kids to get dental fillings is horrible, but you do it anyway because you’re not an asshole, right?
Follow these suggestions as closely as you are able and at the very least you will raise caring, functional members of society who both seek and offer moments of joy to others. Maybe. Or not. Because that’s the thing about parenting — just when you think you’re doing everything right, everything the way you’ve been told to and maybe even read a book or two with a friendly looking lady in a doctor’s coat on the cover — even then your kid will come to you and ask for money for a Adam Sandler movie.
You won't meet many people who don't want or like a clean home. Though not a necessity, clean homes are conducive to more pleasure in your life: you're more likely to have friends over, more apt to enjoy time with your children, and you'll be more into climbing your partner if you're not so concerned about climbing a laundry mountain in the basement.
But we are busy. You are busy, I am busy, our partners are busy, and our children are busy. Some of us even have busy pets. The days of tying up your hair and deep cleaning your home for 8+ hours once a week are long gone (thank God) but it's okay - most cleaning can be managed well enough by making sure you stay on top of things on a daily and weekly maintenance schedule. Doing a few things everyday can help you avoid catastrophe cleaning (which is what happens when you get a 15 min heads-up "we're on our way over" call from your in-laws), and most of your cleaning chaos can be handled in sprints.
When it comes to bigger tasks, you can still break them up into 10 minutes chores. Print the list below out if you'd like. Start at the top and work your way down through the week. By the time you get to the bottom, you'll likely need to start over again, but rather than think of cleaning as a once and done proposition, re-frame your thinking to consider house cleaning and self care a cyclical loop. Sure; it's not as fun as performing a task that you only need to do once, but accepting that you will be trying to keep your shit together for the rest of your life is actually freeing — and with acceptance comes freedom. It's like me just accepting that my student loan debt is still 50 years away from being paid off. Instead of crying under a pile of takeout fried chicken buckets, I turned that depressing thought into a great idea for my eventual demise: I'll have combo funeral/student loan burning party. I'm a barrel of fun, folks.
Set a timer, because here's a list of what you can do in 10-12 minutes: