I don’t really like being a parent. But as my father always says, “Everything worth having, takes work…” He learned this ethos in the Soviet army, and when he says it to me in his thick Russian/Australian accent (that’s a Russian accent that goes up at the end?) it sounds like exile to a Siberian labor camp. Perhaps you can’t see the parallels between that and my life in Malibu, so allow me to explain…1. Sleep – When Stalin sent you away to live in a remote freezing part of Russia sharing a concrete bunker with twelve other people (who had likely just written an offensive poem) you didn’t exactly get to “lie in.” It was up with reveille, and Commie calisthenics in the yard. And so it is with parenting, even when they have summer vacation (now) the sounds start at 6 a.m. and no material has yet been invented for earplugs that can shut out the sound of “MOMMY – I’m hungry!!!” (You have arms don’t you? I’m sure I recall you having hands at the end of those arms, would reaching into the seven clear plastic jars of cereal and scooping out a little and plunking it into a plate be too much to ask? Take the whole fucking jar and eat from it in front of the TV, I don’t give a shit, but LET ME SLEEP.)
2. Food – Yes thank G-d we are not starving, but sometimes I feel like I’m starving in my own house. The fridge is full of Nutella, and strawberry yoghurt and anything that ever tasted good that I had to give up because once I had children my metabolism slowed down to an agonizing crawl. Also I noticed that I developed a psychotic break every time I had sugar. I don’t eat sugar anymore, but I catch myself opening the fridge ten times in a row, checking to see if the kale, carrots and Swiss chard have magically transformed into a Stevia sweetened kale cake. If I didn’t have children, I would happily open my mouth and empty an entire nozzle full of whipped cream into my mouth every time I was feeling blue, because the resulting comedown would affect no one but my husband, and I can’t damage him because he’s already an adult.
3. Personal space – As you huddled next to your freezing Comrades, it may have been warmer, but at some point somebody must have smelled some foul breath or unshaven armpit stench and thought, “Wow, I could really use a little space right now.” There is no space with children, and believe me when I tell you that my kids get a lot of affection; hugs, kisses, positive reinforcement – honestly I think they must believe they are demi-Gods by now. But it is never enough, as they still insist on splashing/falling on/clinging to me, especially when I have to go somewhere or when I’m trying to take a dump. They see no connection between this and spending hours of the precious moments we have together staring into an electronic screen. Pick one – you can’t live without me, or you could care less if I existed; but it can’t be both.
4. Travel – I’m very lucky in that my husband and I traveled a lot before we had kids. We did this at a ridiculously breakneck pace – Greece in two days, Israel in a day and a half – I can’t believe we weren’t on meth because I have no idea where we got the energy. In contrast, I was recently forced to go on an RV trip with my husband and two kids, ages 7 and 8. I protested that the kids were still too whiney to drag across the country to see eleven landmarks in eight and a half days, so hubby finally relented and cut down the trip. Nevertheless he still sat in the RV like Clark Griswold urging us along to the next location. The Grand Canyon ain’t going anywhere, okay pal? It’s been there a LONG time.
RV’s are designed to trick people with children (or those who are retired) that they are actually doing something fun by getting into a tin shed on wheels, driving the unwieldy thing across these United States, and shitting in a bucket. You can call that lavatory where you pump your foot what you will, but if you forget to close your nostrils one time, you will be starkly reminded that it is, in fact, a bucket. And they trick you by making the RV’s have grand sounding names like “Freedom Express” or the “Prowler” or the “Explorer Lite.” Let me disabuse you of the notion that you are experiencing Freedom, Prowling around and Exploring roads and RV camps that have been traveled by millions of other junk-food eating slobs before you. Some RV’s have more frightening names like “Vortex” or “Outlaw” or even “Hurricane.” Why anyone would want to drive through the Mid-West in anything that even remotely sounds like a tornado is beyond me. And if you don’t see the connection between the Russian Labor camp and an RV trip, you have clearly never been trapped on an endless road in the desert with two children screaming as if they are being stabbed because the DVD player stopped working. (Hint: I found it very effective to threaten to leave them in the desert. I may even have used the word “carrion.”)
5. Drugs – Let’s face it, I’d love to drop acid right now. Seriously, the only TV show I really watch is Project Runway and how cool would it be to see Heidi Klum and co. when I’m hallucinating? A few weeks ago they made clothes out of candy! If that isn’t Timothy Leary’s wet dream… I don’t not take drugs for my children, but I can’t see myself being sober and straight without them as a big motivator. Again, hubby is pretty laid back even though he is straight as an arrow, but somehow, even though I once almost got date-raped in a cemetery, I still feel like I just didn’t do enough drugs. (This has no relation to the Soviet prison camp, but if I could take a little something for my tiredness, I may not have run out of metaphors…)
So there you have it, the honest truth that I love my kids, but parenting itself is kind of iffy. All week they have been climbing the giant tree in our back yard, it is incredible, not only that they have gotten to the top and it is 25 feet in the air, but that I haven’t developed hysterical blindness from watching them. After I put the fire department on speed dial in case my younger son got stuck up there, I brought a blanket outside and lay down so I could look up and marvel at the perfection of my life. I’ve never climbed a tree. Ever. And I don’t wish to. But to watch them, fearless and gaining confidence in their own choices every time they pick another strong foothold, is a joy words are inadequate for. And as I gazed up at my beautiful boys, the older one began throwing pine-cones at me. Hard. And full branches with needles still attached that missed my head by inches, as well as narrowly avoiding lobotomizing the new puppy. He thought it was hilarious, as I wondered how many seconds of joy I had actually experienced before the chaos started again.