Toddler eating snack

My time as a father has taught me a lot about life. For example, don’t take your kid to get their face painted if you ever plan on letting them use markers again. Hint: markers and face paint are exactly the same in their minds. Or, don’t let them out of your sight while they’re making a “potion” because they will definitely pee in it. Also be prepared for your kid to hand you their lemonade at the playground as they loudly say, “hold my beer”. The list of important lessons goes on.

If there was any one particular thing I’d have to say I learned about how to parent, it is don’t ever expect to feel like you know what you’re doing. The moment I start to feel confident I have figured out my kids, they completely change everything about themselves overnight. I’m almost certain now they do this on purpose.

Bedtime with my daughter has been easy as can be for about two years now. Brush teeth, read Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel (again), tuck her in and say goodnight. The end. I know, I can feel the seething hatred of parents everywhere whose children fight bedtime tooth and nail.

Fear not, loathing masses, for everything has changed in the blink of an eye. The new requirement is: Mike Mulligan (still), tuck in, nightlight, say goodnight, get called in before I can close the door, climb into her bed and lay with her while she wildly swings her arms around until I can’t take another hit to the nose, start to get up, reassure her that I will definitely come and check on her after I help her brother get into bed (I definitely won’t), attempt to leave, get called back, etc etc etc. Fun!

Bedtime with the older one has been chaos for the last seven years. I don’t have the space here nor the mental energy to begin that chronicle. At least some things never change!

There have been some changes for the better as they have gotten older and more independent. I am able to leave them alone while I go to my garage gym and do my exercises, provided I’m willing to relinquish control of the house until the Council of Demonic Children decides to let me back in after.

Sometimes they come out and join me, which is super helpful. Just yesterday they came out with me, and instead of rubbing chalk on their hands, as I sometimes do, they found a bucket of leftover plaster mix that provided all the white powder their little hands could hold.

Now that I have finished scrubbing the plaster dust out of the couch cushions I have finally come to realize that they are old enough to move out and get jobs and apartments. It’s been a tough thing to come to terms with, but I think I’ll be ok after a beer and some chips.

Something else that’s really exciting about kids is their ability to sense impending mealtimes and magically erase the burning hunger which overwhelms their consciousness throughout the day. My kids are hungry all day every day, but somehow three bites of dinner is enough to fully satiate them for (they tell me with utter conviction) the rest of their lives. My son has promised me on multiple occasions that simply smelling the salmon on his plate will be enough sustenance for him to make it through the end of high school.

Remember that scene in the movie with the two guys? You know, the one where they’re at church or a funeral or something and one of them is super hungry so he asks a lady who looks like a mom if she has any snacks in her bag because she’s a mom and they always have snacks? That’s true, by the way. I never realized it before I had kids, but at the hospital when you have your first child, they provide the mom with a special bag filled with Goldfish and granola bars. She got that right after they supplied me with my very own copy of The Big Book of Really Bad Jokes.

Where am I going with all of this? I don’t know, I lost the ability to concentrate on any one thing for more than three seconds after the ten billionth request for a snack (passed that milestone four years and seven months ago). Basically, if you’re the parent of a baby or small child, you’re used to strangers passing out unsolicited advice. So here goes: always have snacks ready, be prepared to lose your shit every once in a while, don’t buy any nice furniture, and know that you may never feel like you know what you’re doing. I promise you, most of us feel the same way.

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Tinian Crawford is a battle tested father of two and husband to one. In between fielding endless requests for snacks from his kids and attempting to keep his chickens alive he manages and authors lifeoutsidethebox.me, a blog focused on how best to approach parenthood and adult life in general. His work can be found at Red Tricycle, Medium, Just BE Parenting, the Good Men Project, parent.co, and more.

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