Parenthood is a lot of responsibility y’all, and it’s all about shaping young minds. Even though you never really know what you’re in for until they arrive, I had a pretty good idea of things. I mean, I knew a whole bunch of instruction would be required on my part. That’s obvious. After all they enter the world knowing nothing, and it falls on you to teach them stuff. No brainer, right?
Well, I guess the difficulty comes with the load that entails. I knew I’d teach them The Golden Rule, to look before crossing the street, and to wash their hands after using the bathroom. I even factored in the stuff like tying shoes and not picking your nose in public. But the thing about raising kids is that most stuff you just can’t be prepared for.
In parenthood there’s so many lessons to impart that a lot of them you don’t even think about. You just kind of take it for granted that they’ll know better. Your kids seem pretty bright so you just assume they’ll figure it out, or perhaps it never even crosses your mind. Certain situations don’t seem like an issue until they become one, and it’s after the fact that you realize that’s probably something you should have discussed before.
Here’s five examples of things I never knew I’d have to tell my kids. Until I did.
1. Don’t undress in public.
I was watching proudly through the window while my four year old twirled around in dance class when suddenly she dropped her leggings. She laughed as she bared her pale butt to the girl behind her, and I tensed up waiting for her show to end. I sighed with relief when she quickly pulled her pants back up, but then my heart sank a second time as she began to remove her leotard top.
There she stood, huge grin, tiny breasts on display, and she danced proudly in front of the mirror at the apparent appreciation of her own body. It wasn’t a huge deal. I mean, she was only four, but she did happen to be the only naked girl in class at the time. So I was very happy when she pulled her top back on a split second before I was gonna run and cover her myself.
I didn’t get on to her about it later, but simply discussed proper etiquette about being nude in public. At home I let her run around in her panties, not pushing modesty, and I realized I had never really explained to her, “you’re not supposed to get naked in public.”
Well, now she knows.
2. Don’t urinate in public.
Maybe this is a different animal for mommas of little boys, but as a girl mom it’s pretty much not socially acceptable for your daughter to pee outside, especially in the view of twenty or so strangers.
When my first daughter was about two and a half going on three she was fully potty-trained. Yay! She knew to tell me when she had to go, and that’s exactly what she did as we left Walmart one day. Not wanting to go back inside the super-center I told her we’d drive over to a nearby gas station.
“Just hold it.” I instructed, driving quickly to the Chevron.
I pulled up to the pump, unbuckled my preschooler, and went around the other side to remove my infant daughter from her own seat. As I turned around with the baby I spotted my potty-trained princess. She was hunkered over a drainage grate, with her pants around her knees, facing the storefront letting her urine stream go free.
Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go. And it’s not like I ever told her she shouldn’t.
3. Don’t kiss people without their consent.
I am proud that I am raising very loving children. We’re a very loving family. I often times peck my daughters right on the lips, and my husband and I aren’t shy to share a kiss in front of them.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised when my now five year old daughter decided to show her gratitude for the birthday gift she received from the neighbor boy by planting a huge smooch right on his mouth. Like seriously, it was borderline inappropriate. She attacked his face with such unbridled passion for a kindergartener.
I wish you could have seen my husband’s expression as he parted their sea of PDA, and the poor little boy didn’t know what to think. I later had to explain you don’t just kiss a boy on the mouth without their permission. The next fifteen years or so should be interesting.
4. The need for cultural sensitivity.
You just don’t think about it, do you? Not until you’re in the grocery store and a Hispanic family passes by.
“Hey, Mom?” (Very loudly) “Are they speaking Mexican?”
Then to the woman, “Do you know Dora?”
Thankfully the woman didn’t appear to understand her.
5. Boobies are private.
I have breastfed all my children until at least 18 months of age. With this in mind they see breasts as a food outlet and source of comfort rather than a sexual object.
I still remember the look on that poor teenage boy’s face who was sacking my groceries when my baby daughter reached into my shirt as I stood in the check-out line and promptly pulled my breast out for all to see.
Hey, she was hungry. Try explaining to a hungry baby they can’t just pull out lunch whenever they want. Not happening. And until I stood in the grocery store with my boob out I didn’t even imagine I would have to.
I guess that’s just the way it is. Parenthood is like starting a new employment opportunity, but without any orientation, and the job description changes daily. It’s kinda a fly by the seat of your pants deal, and the best you can do is hang on and enjoy the ride. You learn as you go, and that’s half the fun. It just might be a bit embarrassing sometimes too.