There was a time I thought I knew everything there was to know about parenting. It was that tiny little piece of time right when I was a million months pregnant and a blink away from actually giving birth to a child and had read every “How to Be a Good Parent” book I could lay my swollen hands on.
Of course, the moment I gave birth to my first child and she lay angrily gnawing on my boob all the while screeching out demands in a language I didn’t understand, I realized I was in way over my head.
My arrogance and ego was crushed by 8 pounds, five ounces of angry infant who looked alarmingly like the ancient old guy who liked to shake his cane at me in the grocery store.
Like most parents, I figured it out as I went, flying by the seat of my pants and using the ‘how to be a parent’ books mostly as tv trays and colouring books for my toddlers as they discovered the fine art of crayon scribbling.
But somehow, over the years, every thing got a little easier. Kids were toilet trained, they learned how to tie their own shoes and soon enough they were actually functional enough to make me a peanut butter and jam sandwich instead of me standing there ripping holes in the bread with hard peanut butter.
I once again slipped into that arrogant mindset thinking I knew everything there was to know about parenting.
And then my children started to want to hang around other people’s children.
I don’t know if you know this, but not everyone parents their children in the exact same manner you do yours.
Of course, rationally I knew this, and it would be reinforced when I would take my kids to public places where other people’s children would be about. There is always someone’s child who thinks it’s wholly acceptable to pull their pants down and pee in public (generally mine), eat sand (again mine) or pull a kid off the monkey bars (usually not mine.)
But my actual hands on experience with other people’s children was limited to being a bystander as there were always other parents around.
Until my kids started to want to bring other peoples children home with them. For the sleep over.
Now the sleep over is something I’ve managed to successfully elude for over a decade, always blaming our rural location as an excuse to avoid participating in the dreaded event. Sleepovers for my kids always just meant shunting them out to relatives homes where the people who would judge my children and my parenting style are morally obligated to love my kids and me regardless of their animalistic behaviors.
But now that my kids are older, their friends are older and they are smarter. They know how to get what they want, and what they generally want is to come to my house to swim in our pool, eat my food and deafen me with their video games. My kids don’t want to go anywhere, they want the world to come to them.
And other people’s children seem to want this too.
But this leaves me with the unique problem of having to parent other peoples children. When I can barely parent my own. For the most part, the gaggle of kids my own children call friends are a good crew. A great crew. I must have done something right in this parenting quest because my children’s friends are of solid stock.
But sometimes, there are inevitable moments when I have to morph from Tanis the friendly Mom into Tanis the Terrible.
And let me just say, there are no parenting books that explain how to walk into your house and find three boys unrelated to you, running around with your underwear on their heads.
Nor is there any actual guidelines to having to ask your daughter’s girlfriends to stop walking around without a bra on in front of your thirteen year old son, and please don’t touch my razor in the shower.
I’m not prepared for this.
I can easily tell a child not to shove another, to please eat their vegetables, and honey, we don’t use that word in front of mixed company, but I don’t know how to explain to another child why they can’t borrow the keys to my car or have the password to the prOn channel.
Parenting other people’s children is a whole lot easier when their parents are around.
Or is parenting in general just easier when all you had to worry about was if they were placing stickers on your furniture and stealing cookies from your pantry?
Either way, it would seem, like that moment I first held my new born child in my arms, I am once again reduced to not knowing what I am doing.
I blame other people’s children for it.