There was never any doubt in my mind that someday I would be a father. When my mother asked me years ago how many kids I hoped to have I replied, “A houseful!” Erin always wanted to be a mother, although I can’t say she had the dream of having a huge brood the way I did, but at the minimum she wanted at least one child. One of the earliest stories she told me was of sitting in a class at UNC-G when a professor asked the question, “What do you hope to accomplish with your life?” Erin’s sincerest response was to be a stay-at-home mother and raise her children. The other students looked at her in disbelief! How could she limit herself to such a mundane existence? But Erin was adamant. Being a mother and raising happy and healthy children was just as important as having a successful career. I agreed with her.
When we decided to foster-to-adopt we had no idea we would end up with four kids. We also had no idea how much our lives would turn upside down! There’s never a dull moment around here. Sometimes people ask me how we do it. I tell them we don’t think about it; we just do it! But there are some nuances about being a parent for which no amount of training could have prepared me. Thus, I present to you:
10 Things No One Warned Me About Being a Parent
- A decent night’s sleep will elude you beginning with your child’s infancy until further notice. We knew we’d never feel completely rested until Autumn learned to sleep through the night. What we didn’t know was that Phillip would burst out laughing in the middle of the night, Autumn would start crying at 2 a.m. exclaiming she wan’t tired and didn’t want to go to bed (her eyes never open when she says this, by the way), and Carl would sleep wander between the bathroom and playroom. I thought I could probably catch a nap on the weekends, but every time I lie down on the sofa and close my eyes, Autumn crawls on top of my belly, pulls on my eyelid and asks, “Do you wanna build a snowman?” God, I hate Anna and Elsa.
- Little girls cry. For no apparent reason. The satellite goes out: tears. We’re having hot dogs for dinner: wails. Her brother looked at her for more than two seconds: conniption fit. Early in her toddlerhood we all tried to appease her, especially Carl. But since we saw her staring into Erin’s makeup mirror watching herself cry, we now stand in the background holding up scores every time she starts. Pear shaped tears and a protruding lower lip? Perfect 10!
- Everything you own feels moist and sticky. The remote control has grape jelly on the back. The rug squishes under your toes when you walk from the dining room to the kitchen. Your shirt has a wet spot from a child who just crawled on you to give you a hug. You smell the wet spot to get a sense of its origin, but the mixture of body fluids and foreign matter leave your senses confused. The more pressing problem becomes whether you are too tired to get up and change your shirt.
- Deciding who will choose the television show of the moment is like WWE’s The Royal Rumble. All I can do is line the kids up in front of me, kiss each of them on the head, and toss the remote on the ottoman as I leave the room. May the odds be ever in your favor.
- At least once a day I have to put on my Sherlock Holmes cap to solve the mystery of who pooped in the toilet and didn’t wipe. It’s rather disgusting to have to do a physical check, so I prefer the smell test. I scoop them up in my arms to give them a hug. The one that smells like a rest home is usually the culprit.
- Every flat surface in the house becomes a canvass for artistic expression, regardless of age. The walls throughout the house are covered in scribbles and marks in an array of Crayola colors. The underside of Phil’s bunkbed is festooned with ancient runes that I suspect are attempts to open a portal to Azeroth or an ancient spell to make me disappear into the Phantom Zone.
- Apple juice is not an appropriate drink to serve toddlers while waiting in the airport for a delayed flight to depart. I had no idea that apple juice acted as a laxative for young children, nor did I know that children’s intestinal tracts could hold that much solid waste. I still have nightmares of the flow of dirty diapers between the waiting area and the family rest room at Raleigh/Durham International Airport.
- Kids lie. All the time. Any parent who sincerely believes that their child would never lie to them is delusional. The great Battle of the Legos remains legend in our house. Despite repeated denials that he wasn’t taking Legos to school, we continued to receive notes from Phil’s teacher that he played with Legos in his desk. Among his hiding places were the inside pockets of his backpack. a small pocket at the top of his jeans, inside the top of his socks, and the toes of his shoes.
- Forget about owning a new vehicle. That new car smell will last less than three days. Despite our best efforts, our van became a mobile homeless shelter, equipped with enough food, drink, toys, and diapers to last at least six months should the zombie apocalypse start. Oh, and the happy little stick family on the rear window? Lies, all lies! A more accurate depiction would be four children arguing while dad has a angry face and mom has tuned out everybody by putting in her iPhone earbuds. Now that’s REAL family bonding!
- Your kids will drive you crazy, but they will also bring you happiness and joy each day of your life. When you start to feel run down as the sands in your hour glass remind you just old you really are, you see the world through your babies’ eyes and you remember magic really does exist, a blanket draped across two beds is an impenetrable fortress , and a game of tag is a matter of life and death. You remember that life really can be a whole lot of fun.
Sometimes Erin and I talk about adopting a fifth child. Phillip, Jon, and Autumn are totally opposed to the idea. Carl welcomes any and everybody. His sweet nature comes through each time we’ve brought up the subject. But, to be honest, I think we’re done adopting for now. We will probably foster again once the kids are older and more independent. We have a calling to help children. As much as I would like my house to be clean and quiet again, I can’t imagine my life without my babies. Maybe we should just hire a live-in housekeeper . Anybody have Mr. Belvedere’s number?
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