I was cleaning up after the kids' pumpkin-carving the other night, and as I mopped up gourd guts, seeds, and slimy strings of pulp from 17 different surfaces in the kitchen, I thought about the place where our Hallmark-moment parenthood expectations so often rudely collide with reality. Despite historical evidence, I had pictured my boys quietly focused on the task at hand, carefully producing adorably grinning jack-o-lanterns (along with precious childhood memories). Instead, what I had was a giant mess, two pumpkins that had been methodically stabbed into non-photogenic submission, and two kids who got in trouble at least five times for "swordfighting" with their carving tools.
There's so much in parenthood that involves compromise. I'm a big fan of dropping one's standards so as to retain sanity, but even with my aim-low perspective I'm continually amused (dismayed?) at how different my life as a mom seems to be from, say, the Pinterest version that lurks in the back of my head.
Fantasy: Children come home from school, drag chairs up to the kitchen table so they can eat homemade chocolate chip cookies while talking excitedly about their day.
Reality: Children come home from school, grab fistfuls of rainbow-dyed Goldfish®, collapse in front of Dragons: Riders of Berk. When pressed, they claim they "can't remember" what they did at school.
Fantasy: Children beg for The Velveteen Rabbit again, their eyes glowing with the pleasure of being swept away into an imaginary world of wonder and delight. We read these lines together: Real isn't how you are made. It's a thing that happens to you. Sometimes it hurts, but when you are Real you don't mind being hurt. It doesn't happen all at once. You become. Once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand. Once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always. All three of us wipe a tear.
Reality: Children beg for Ninjago: Way of the Ninja again, their eyes glowing with the pleasure of goddamned LEGOs.
Fantasy: Children sit with me for an entire rainy afternoon, cutting shapes and glueing colorful pieces of paper. Later, we hang our masterpiece on the wall and beam with pride.
Reality: Children instantly generate 3957925730158256 tiny vacuum-defying pieces of paper, then wander away to make spitty shooting noises at each other. Pshew pshew pshew.
Fantasy: Afternoons spent with toddler are full of charming, memorable activities: smelling flowers, feeding ducklings, baking muffins.
Reality: Afternoons spent with toddler look like this:
HELP ME PUT THIS CUP ON MY HAND. HA HA HA I AM CRAZY CUP-HAND BABY I HAVE A CUP FOR A HAND HA HA HAAAAAA HAAAAAAAAAAA WHEEEEEEEEEEE!
(5 seconds later)
OH MY FUCKING GOD THIS CUP IS ON MY HAND IT’S ON MY HAND IT’S ON MY HAAAAAAND WHERE DID MY HAND GO IT’S GONE IT’S GONE OH MY GOD I WILL BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN AND SLAUGHTER YOUR CATTLE OH MY GOOOOOOOD NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
(Repeat 700000000 times per day.)
Fantasy: Adorable annual photos of children sitting on Santa's lap.
Reality: Children take one look at that bearded guy in the mall and say (paraphrased) "Oh HELL no."
(Okay, I can't really blame them for that last one.)
Where has fantasy and reality clashed in your parenting experience?
Images via Linda Sharps