The other night we introduced the boys to the joy and hilarity that is A Christmas Story. As a kid, I loved the movie because I thought it was hysterical. As a mother, I love the movie because it is cinematic vindication. It’s one, big nose-thumbing “I told you so.” All the fretting and the admonishing and reminding, the fear he would shoot his eye out, and when Ralphie finally gets that coveted Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range, model air rifle, the first thing he does is nearly shoot his eye out.
It was all I could do to stop myself from jumping on the sofa and shouting “Ha ha!”
The hardest part of being a parent is not pregnancy, labor, birth or even nursing. Sure, you may never again be able to do jumping jacks without peeing your pants a little. You may watch in horror as your nipple stretches across the room when a curious infant turns her head, but they mostly snap back into place (both the nipple and the infant). Despite pleading with your ob/gyn to give you an extension on your six-week green light for sex checkup, you probably even found yourself ready, willing and even able to get jiggy with it again at some point.
The hardest part of being a parent is not the sleepless nights. Oh, they are tough, but eventually they end, even if it means stretches of heart wrenching sleep training while your spouse physically bars the door to the baby’s room and you wring your hands in a convincing imitation of Lady Macbeth.
The hardest part of being a parent is not the temper tantrums, the lack of table manners, potty training, sharing woes, weaning, or the aforementioned sleep training. It’s not watching your child turn their nose up at food they previously devoured, breaking up fist fights between siblings, creating a spread sheet as to who got to use the iPad first on which day. It’s not humiliating yourself on a regular basis by singing “The Wheels on the Bus” with spastic hand gestures because it makes your kid laugh in music class. It’s not even shelling out a ridiculous sum of money to go to a music class for nine month olds. Nope, it is none of those things.
The hardest part of being a parent is stopping yourself from saying “I told you so” on a regular basis.
I suppose it is a unique trait of childhood that you never think the thing which your parents warn you about is actually going to happen. I know there’s a lot of baloney thrown in there with the warnings. Chances are your eyes won’t get stuck if you cross them and the wind blows the wrong way. But honestly, when the chair eventually falls backward and you watch as your kid cracks his skull against the floor, it’s really hard not to stand there and say “I told you so”. Maybe admonishing them to wear clean underwear in case they get hit by a bus is taking it a little too far. But when the tire on their bike pops after repeated skids, despite multiple warnings that the tire will pop, it’s hard not to say “I told you so.” When someone gets a stomach ache because they ate a trough full of chocolate, or lost their favorite Lego mini figure, misplaced a library book they weren’t supposed to take out of the house, it’s hard not to say “I told you so.”
It never ceases to amaze me how genuinely surprised my kids are when the very thing I’ve warned them about happens. You can almost map the astonishment on their little faces, the confusion, the slight dawning of “maybe they do know what they are talking about’. This is inevitably followed by a swift denial and a ‘no way’. I know this because nine times out of ten they just go and do it again anyway, despite the obvious.
I know it is part of being a kid. It’s part of how you learn how the world works. I know that the consequences are natural and you have to let them make their own mistakes and on and on and the rest of the parenting psychology I can quote back at you. But oh man it’s hard sometimes. Having to swallow countless instances of “Well, what did you think would happen?” and “I told you so” and “Next time maybe you’ll listen to me” is tough. Sometimes I bite my tongue so hard I’m sure it’s bleeding. I’m not perfect. I admit to being in a situations when I just couldn’t stop myself. One of those times being when my son’s chair did indeed tip over backward and he cracked his skull on the wall...just like I told him would happen.
Obviously my kids think it is a fluke, a series of lucky strikes, that has allowed me to reach the ripe old age of 43. I mean, what do I know? Well, dumplings, for one thing I know if you lean back far enough in your chair, it’s going to eventually tip over. I know that if you play ball in the house you’re eventually going to break something. I know that if you are fighting, someone is almost always going to get hurt (and in the words of my own mother, “it ain’t gonna be me”). And I know beyond the shadow of a doubt, that if either one of my boys ever had a Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range, model air rifle, they’d shoot an eye out. To be fair, probably not their own eye, but no doubt I’d be rushing to the Danish emergency room with someone’s eye in my pocket along with a host of Lego mini-figures and a shopping list.
Good old Ralphie Parker went to sleep on Christmas night, his nearsightedness saving his ass and his eyesight. He went to sleep clutching his new Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range, model air rifle while dreams of bullseye coated sugar plums danced in his head. But every parent out there knows it is only a matter of time before he shoots someone’s eye out.
Then they have to face hardest task of all. Not shouting out “I told you so!”
The post is titled with an addendum of Part II because I used the title once before, here.