A few years ago, Seattle columnist Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller began the It Gets Better Project for LGBT youth. The project is a lifeline for gay kids who are being bullied in their communities. The idea behind the project is that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people are able to send messages of love and hope to troubled teens. To remind them that no matter bad things might look or feel in any one moment, it gets better.
It is with this thought in mind that I'm beginning the It Gets Better Project - Parent Edition. I adore my kids, but there are certainly moments when i'm not sure that I'll survive their childhood. The parenting experience can be, well, rigorous.
I think it was spring when I first noticed the stripe down the front of the house. Is that mold? I thought. Is something leaking? It just seemed so strange.
Over the course of the summer the stripe got wider and darker so I decided to take action. A bottle of "industrial strength house wash" and a quick pressure wash scrubbed the stripe away. Score one for proactive homeowners!
By fall the strip was back. Every time I pulled into the drive way I wondered if ghosts were leaking ectoplasm onto the house while we slept. Is this toxic off gassing from the insulation under the siding? Really, it boggled my mind.
When winter arrived I ventured into the mess that is my son's room to close and lock the windows for the season. The yellow and brown stain was inside his window sill as well. One sniff told the tale. "Justin!" I screamed, "have you been peeing out this window!?"
The 10 steps from his bedroom to the bathroom were, apparently, too far. And so my clever Neanderthal opted for the shortcut.
There are LOTs of stories like that in our family. Kid decisions that made us homicidal in the moment -- but they're really funny now.
There's the babysitter they locked in the basement and that time they flushed superman down the toilet. Remember the time I napped while my toddler napped and he wandered down the street? Other mothers advised me "sleep when the baby sleeps." According to child services, that's child neglect.
There were times when I honestly wondered if we were failures as parents. Are we raising future serial killers? What kind of mind thinks it's okay to fart on your brother's head or run over the babysitter with your bicycle? I saw The Omen. Is that Damien sleeping in the next room?
And then a little time went by. Peeing out the window (and in the closets and on anything he could find) gave way to other "exciting" phases. Turns out, kids do ridiculous things all the time! This should really be a chapter in What to Expect When You're Expecting about it. These are things I really should have known!
Earlier this week a friend called me nearly in tears. Her [formerly perfect] 8-year-old is driving her up the wall. She knows he wrote on the sofa with permanent marker, but he refuses to confess. He even wrote a confession letter but signed his sister's name. "Ah," I laughed, and so it begins. "No, no" she protested, you couldn't possibly understand. There are science experiments growing under his bed and he mines every rule for loop holes. "You never said I couldn't climb out my window!" he objects while his mother is ready to scream!
"Ah yes; the knee-high legal scholar. We have one of those." I offered my best advice: "Set the rules, punish consistently and trust that this phase won't last forever." In short: It Gets Better.