Friends warned me that parenthood changes everything. I understood and accepted that parenthood would change me, but I didn’t understand that parenthood’s influence was even greater than that. Parenthood has transformed my parents, my vacations, my house, and my relationship with coffee. Parenthood has even transformed words I formerly considered synonyms into words that mean drastically different things.
Parenthood changes everything.
Quiet vs. Silence
Before children, silence and quiet were relatively interchangeable. Silence just meant deeper quiet. Now I believe the difference between quiet and silence should be taught in every pre-natal parenting class. Putting a diaper on wrong or forgetting to burp the baby can lead to trouble. But, that trouble is nothing compared to the trouble that mistaking silence for quiet can cause.
Quiet means children are focused. Quiet means children are sleeping. Quiet means the cartoon you are letting them watch is having the desired effect. Silence, on the other hand, means there is a gooey substance being spread somewhere in the house. Silence means something rolled, stacked or organized is being unrolled, toppled or jumbled. Silence means crayons or paint are being applied to a non-paper surface. Silence means a child is pooping in an isolated corner. Quiet is a treat. Silence is trouble.
Click vs. Snap
Before children, click and snap were just two words in a long list of available onomatopoeias to describe life’s soundtrack. Now, I know that a clicking sound and snapping sound are not the same. It is essential to know the difference between click and snap during the “some assembly required” phase of a new toy.
Click is the goal. Snap should be avoided at all costs. Click indicates you have accurately interpreted the cryptic graphic instructions and lined up two pieces that were, indeed, intended to fit together. Snap indicates you are about to make a kid cry and will be required to plug the tear dam with promises to replace the now-cracked piece of plastic that no longer feels like a bargain.
Going to Bed vs. Going to Sleep
Before children, I thought you sent kids to bed and that was the end of it. Oh, the bliss of ignorance. Now I know that the time you send children to bed has no correlation with the time they go to sleep.
Going to bed means entering the bedroom and putting oneself in a horizontal position on the mattress. Going to sleep means actually closing one’s eyes and entering a period of slumber. Those two events are separated by lots of interim steps. Requests for water. Requests for another hug and kiss. Claims of being scared that are delivered with a wide grin and a surreptitious glance at the living room TV in a never ending quest to crack the mystery of grown up television. A trip to the bathroom. A knock-knock joke sibling session. Another trip to the bathroom. And, finally, sleep.
Snack vs. Meal
Before children, I thought a snack was a small bit of food eaten between meals. Now I understand that it is sometimes food between meals but mostly just a marketing trick that transforms unacceptable foods that will not pass a toddler’s lips into delicious treats.
Carrots served on the go between a park excursion and home? Delicious! Carrots served at home as a side dish to the main course? Unacceptable. Green beans grabbed from the garden on the walk to the car? Delicious! Green beans grabbed from the garden and served on a plate? Unacceptable. Hummus at the zoo? A tasty and exotic dip! Hummus with dinner? Unacceptable.
Trip vs. Vacation
Before children, trip and vacation meant the same thing to me. Now, I understand that parents do not take vacations (periods of exemption from work). Parents take trips (voyages, journeys). Travelling with children requires the same amount of work you do every day, only in unfamiliar setting with less comfortable accommodations.
Vacations involve reading trashy novels with your feet in the sand. Vacations involve sipping adult beverages with colorful umbrella accessories. Vacations involve drifting in and out of sleep in a sunny lounge chair while you try to figure out what day of the week it is.
Trips involve hauling luggage filled with enough board books and plastic toys to start a daycare. Trips involve contorting your left arm to reach under the seat for the dropped sippy cup. While it is possible to lose track of the date on a trip, it is always clear when it is meal time or nap time.
Trips are exhausting and leave you in need of a vacation.
My Parents vs. My Children’s Grandparents
Technically, my parents and my children’s grandparents are the same people. They inhabit the same body. But, that is where the similarities stop.
My parents forbid soda, chips and cookies. My children’s grandparents sneak them an extra spoonful of brown sugar in their oatmeal. My parents required regular cleaning of dishes, rooms, and bodies. My children’s grandparents think chores and baths can wait until the block castle and all its outbuildings are complete. My parents insisted on respect for elders. My children’s grandparents barely hide their chuckles when my kids roll their eyes at me. My parents taught me that if I couldn’t say something nice, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My children’s grandparents tell stories about my childhood that set a less than stellar example for the next generation. I wish my parents had been as cool as my children’s grandparents.
I can’t say I wasn’t warned. My friends tried to tell me that parenthood would change everything. I just didn’t understand that everything meant EVERYTHING!
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