Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bad With Kids

As I write this, I'm standing in a sliver of rare and precious Juneau sunlight with two perfectly well-behaved, six year-old girls who are playing nicely together on a deserted, frosty playground.

Even after almost seven years of parenthood, I still feel totally out of my element and terrified amidst children. As if at any moment, they will descend on me ala Alfred Hitchcock and I will instantly know what it means to be pecked to death by ravens.

The only easy part of parenting for me so far was getting pregnant. All the rest of it--from the pregnancies themselves to the attempted cultivation of non-sociopaths--has yielded a pungent brew of pain, frustration, exhaustion, terror, rage, and despair punctuated by brief glimmers of joy. Dark? Maybe. Honest? Yes.

I've never been "good with kids." Quite the opposite, I've always been extremely "bad" with them. I babysat so I could score Little Debbie Snack Cakes and MTV. I worked as a summer camp counselor mostly so I could hang out and party on days off with my friends. The actual "counseling" part was like an intimidating side project I had to do competently, so that I could keep making out with boys near a lake every night.

When I brought Paige home from the hospital, I referred to what I was doing as "babysitting." A friend laughed in my face and informed me this was a permanent arrangement. I then realized with burgeoning horror that leaving the house with a child might always feel like embarking on a manned mission to Mars.

Nothing--but nothing--scares me more than a room full of expectant little people lobbing their ceaseless demands at me: Snacks! Candy! Gloves! Cartoons! Markers! Scissors! Messy and involved "experiments!" And worst of all: resolution of "boredom." I would rather stand up in court and listen to a judge yell my head off at the top of his lungs for an hour than hear a child tell me they're bored with the expectation that I will do a single thing to fix their problem.

No, the only problem I can reliably fix is selection of Netflix. And my self-imposed limitations on screen time have actually hurt me more than they've helped my kids. So here I am in my element, looking like parent of the year...

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