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Monday, March 28, 2011

Everything I know about parenting I learned from Erma Bombeck

As I sent my oldest child to school before remembering to wipe the snot off his face, I was again reminded how my parenting style is sort of a cross between tough love meets take no prisoners. The baby has been sick, my oldest has been sick, and my daughter - well, who really knows what's up with her. I look at my children and say to them, "Does your mother ever groom you?" Sigh... I could blame it on the time change, which to my body is like the bad crack trip that never was. But sadly, I think that's the way I am in general - after losing my mind to my children almost seven years ago.

"When my kids become wild and
unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen.
When they're finished, I
climb out."
I first started reading Erma Bombeck when I was a teenager, when parenting was the furthest thing from my mind. I have no idea why, but something about her appealed to me - her sense of humor, her no-nonsense, off-the-cuff way of dealing with situations that meant you either had to sink or swim. Some days, obviously, are spent just treading water, so we're somewhere in the middle. I try to explain this parenting philosophy to my husband, who doesn't quite agree with me. Yet.

I have met few moms like Erma. In today's crazy world where people tend to take themselves too seriously, I think that's a shame. I knew one guy whose mother would tell her carload of kids, "If you don't stop crying, I'll give you something to cry about by ripping your arm off and beating you over the head with the bloody stump." Now, that's what I'm talking about! If you said that in public today, CPS would be over at your house within ten minutes, for sure.

I think if Erma were alive, she'd agree with me on certain quirks about family life: like, when you only have one bathroom in the house, count on everyone in the family needing to pee or poop, all at the same time. Conversely, when I get done changing a big stinker of a diaper, I look across the hall to see my daughter sitting on the toilet. What is up with that? I've learned my exclusively breastfed newborn will never fill his pants as loudly as he does during a quiet moment in church. And I can always count on my daughter to announce to her preschool that "Dad has yellow teeth!"

In typical third-child-syndrome fashion, somehow the baby gets put to bed with mashed potatoes on his face and in his hair, forming a sort of stiff resistance when I lovingly try to stroke his hair as I nurse him to sleep. At least I remembered to wash his hands. I remember the days when I would religiously bathe my oldest every two days, doing the math on how many baths per week that was. When the second came along, I probably relaxed a bit. Now it's, "Yeah, you don't stink too badly. Just put your pajamas on already!" We've discovered my daughter's hair is much easier to brush if you take the ponytail/braids out before bed, instead of in the morning when she looks like Medusa. (And there's a lot less screaming in pain, too.)

Erma would probably say, "Never turn your back on your children." Especially when you think they're playing quietly upstairs, when really they're climbing in and out of the bedroom window and walking on the porch roof. Yeah, that. (Another CPS moment)

I wouldn't say my house is a total disaster, just lived in. Yes, there are three baskets of clean laundry to put away that have been sitting there for .... um .... never mind. But at least it's clean. My philosophy on most items of clothing is, "It'll wash!" which is easier than trying to keep a distracted kid from wiping his fingers on his pants. My youngest might be crawling around under the dining room table, looking for old food to pick up and eat. Some days it's all I can do to say a prayer to protect my children from themselves and pray that God picks up where I left off. Most importantly, as Erma has taught us for decades, it's important to maintain a sense of humor - because sometimes, it's the only thing that will get you through the day.

I bet if Erma were alive today, she'd definitely have a blog. And a FaceBook fan page.


CR said...

I LOVE this (and Erma, or course)!

CR said...

Oops! I meant- of course (I think).

Kendra said...

Oh I loved erma! and apparently I should have CPS called on me all the time considering how "crazy" I talk to my children. But they know they are loved and generally well bahaved. when they aren't there is always the playpen. :-)

Amanda said...

"I knew one guy whose mother would tell her carload of kids, "If you don't stop crying, I'll give you something to cry about by ripping your arm off and beating you over the head with the bloody stump.""

Ha! My mom used to threaten to beat us until her arm fell off. If she was really mad, she'd follow it up with, "...and then I'll pick it up with the other arm and keep beating you with it!"

That made my stop doing whatever I was doing pretty quickly. My mom never hit us, of course, so I didn't really even grasp what the threat of being beaten meant. I just didn't want her arm to fall off!