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The Perks of Parenthood in the 90's

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At the ripe old age of forty-six, I finally have my own life! Not that I have much energy left to live it! Raising three kids must have taken twenty years off my life! I should be happy that my child-rearing days are over, but instead I find myself in the Health Food store willing to swallow ginseng or anything else that might bring back part of my memory and restore my adrenaline. It's nice to be young when your kids are grown and gone, but it would be even nicer to feel young. My oldest daughter Shelly is twenty-five and blessed me with being a young grandmother five years ago. My son, Frankie is twenty-four. He is just starting to wake up to reality even thought he's been out on his own since he was eighteen. My youngest daughter Lisa, at twenty, is the one my mother cursed on me when I was a teen-ager! (I hope you have a daughter and she's just like you!) Remember that one? Funny, how I sound just like my mother. I said the same thing to Shelly when she had Amanda. A smirk covered my face, and I felt a wicked sense of satisfaction knowing what she will go through in about 10 years!

One day we receive the "good" news that we are pregnant. It's that moment that women should qualify for disability. The joy of morning sickness and heartburn find us popping Rolaids like they were M&M's. They claim the more heartburn the more hair the child will be born with. If that's the case, then my kids are really gorillas disguised as humans! We curse when our clothes shrink. Sore breasts bring out the beast in us. That's just the start of the rewards. Next come the mood swings, and the blaming it on our hormones. We know there is another person residing in us, so naturally we need to eat for two to prepare our bodies for the ride of our life. We use lotion to harden our nipples. I personally found nursing irritating. My blessing came in a can labeled Similac. Thank God for modern technology! Creaming our abdomen to prevent stretch marks becomes a daily duty. We exchange our beach bikinis for elastic shorts and long tee shirts because the abdomen cream didn't work.

As our bodies get larger, we find the simple things in life have become difficult. Sleeping through the night without having to use the restroom no longer exists. Bending over to tie your shoelaces becomes a Special Olympics event. You're in trouble if you've slept on your stomach all your life. Sheer exhaustion will train you to sleep on your back after about a week of losing sleep. You use to vacuum the floor and pick up and carry the laundry. Now it's all you can do to pick one foot up in front of the other. And we couldn't wait to get pregnant?

The next step is the hospital. If it's your first time, you usually go at least once only to be told it was false labor. Although your body is telling you the eviction notice is up, you have an inconsiderate tenant. So you wait. Meanwhile your contractions get stronger. Soon you're walking around panting like a dog. You have what feels like pre-diarrhea cramps! Finally you know it's time to grab the suitcase and head out the door. You know because you're suddenly wearing the soiled underwear that your mother hoped you'd never be wearing in an accident.

The hospital is a delightful experience! You're carted to a room where you lay hooked up to machines while a nurse points out that you can watch when you're having a contraction. As if we didn't know! The house specialty is ice chips. Try not to even think about food, because it's going to be awhile. Shortly you will want to change your food order to a drug order anyway. Each delivery I had was different. With my first one, I moaned in pain until they gave me Demerol, which gave me a legal LSD trip! I kept trying to get up to answer the phone at home from the hospital bed. Finally the nurse yelled, "I'll get it," and I lay back down. The baby couldn't decide what to do. She kept bearing down and pushing back up for eighteen solid hours. That was Shelly. She still can't make a decision to this day! Frankie was, and still is a gentle soul. Probably because I had a saddle block and didn't feel a thing. I just lay there. I hung out, watched my soap operas and made some phone calls. Each contraction felt like a little tingle. I thought, "This is the way to go!" With Lisa it was like she couldn't wait to get out into the world. I started worrying about that hamburger and fries I had eaten two hours earlier. I barely had time for Nurse Barber to prep me while another nurse attacked me with the enema stick from hell. I wasn't hooked up to the machine very long before I knew she was coming. I dialated from six to ten in about half an hour. There wasn't even time for my meds; no time for a saddle block either. With a couple shots of Novocain and pushing she made her entrance quickly. The total time from when I had left the house until the delivery was two hours. It was great and I healed much faster. I was up and around in no time ready to go home.

We beg to go home anxious to start our new life as a family. Then we spend the first week at home wishing we had gotten more rest. More sleep. We wish we had stayed longer at the hospital. If we're lucky, we may get blessed with a good, quiet baby who sleeps through the nights fairly well. But many of us are quickly handed the baby the hospital staff nicknamed "Colicky Kid." Now the fun begins. Our time was taken from us when we weren't looking. Suddenly, a long hot bath seems like a luxury. But there is housework to be done, and the laundry days are closer together.

Soon our cutie patootie realizes that those little flat things below the ankle can get them around. Now is when we play follow the leader for the next couple of years. We take on an additional job as bodyguard. They want to see, touch, and taste anything and everything. Yet, we still love our little bundle of joy! Sometimes I wonder if the drugs during labor have made us lose our minds. We must cook quickly, and take fast showers. We're always looking over our shoulder, and constantly on the move. Baby-sitters are hard to find. When you get one, you should relax, catch a nap, or take in a movie. Everyone tells you to. But what do we do? We race like a maniac to scrub the floors. We vacuum, dust, do laundry, and dishes. Before you know it there's a knock at the door and you're thinking to yourself "Back so soon?" and you're just as exhausted as before they left. Children give you little choices. . At any rate, our children have been in control from the moment they are conceived. Now we start the next phase.

The start of kindergarten gives two very different emotions. You shed a tear as you drop your child off for his first day of school. Within a week you feel a small sense of freedom, and you revitalize. Slowly though, they take more control. Suddenly you find you are a soccer coach, or involved with little league. There are gymnastics and dance lessons. The school looks "forward" to your PTA membership. You get to go begging to all of your friends, family, and co-workers. Sometimes you hang out with them in front of your favorite grocery store to sell Girl Scout Cookies. There is money for field trips and money for school pictures. All that's left in your wallet are pictures of the child who spent your money. You look at your broken nails with the chipped fingernail polish. The mirror shows the dark roots of your hair starting to show. Then you glance over at your daughter in her French braids, and designer clothes. All you can do is sigh. Bored without a part of life for ourselves we sometimes find ourselves eating the leftovers on their plate. This bug strikes and keeps you unaware until your jeans no longer fit! There's another pleasant reminder of your pregnancy. Your lower abdomen just doesn't remember it was suppose to flatten all the way back down. Oh I know there are women out there who look like they've never given birth. I don't think the female population should even acknowledge these traitors!

Why is it that there are so many days off from school? When I was growing up there were only the major holidays. I had two weeks for Christmas and a week at Easter. Now there are days off for spring break and holidays I've never even heard of. There's teacher-conference day, parent-conference day, and half days for report card day. Every time we turn around they are home. If you work, you have to pay for a baby-sitter. There goes the trip to the salon. And what is with the graduation from kindergarten and sixth grade? It's become like Senior Prom night! We are supposed to be saving for our kids to go to college or for that car for their sixteenth birthday. Instead, we are renting tuxedos or buying gowns for little leprechauns!

The moment arrives. The one no one prepared you for. PUBERTY! There are classes on parenting, but they do not cover the most important stage. One day your child comes home with orifices pierced you never knew existed and hair that looks like it's been stuck in a bucket of paint. Just as you are about to call the police thinking your child has been assaulted, your kid has the audacity to tell you they wanted to look like this! "It's cool!" they grin at you. I remember when my oldest daughter dyed her brown hair black. She wore heavy black eyeliner and dark eye shadow. She only wore black clothes. I told her she looked like Johnny Cash's widow. The sounds of Def Leppard screeched through the house so loud that no one could hear me. No wonder his name was Def!

Belligerence is a teen disease. Why isn't there a prescription for it? Your smiling little child has now become in need of an exorcism. Should you call the priest? They become dyslexic. At fourteen they think they are forty-one. They assume they can stay out late at night without letting you know where they are or what they're doing. You drive the streets looking for a shadow of the person that used to be your kid. You search their room with clean and dirty clothes mixed together on the floor for any evidence of wrongdoing. You toss them in a pile while you pick up pieces of paper with friends phone numbers. God forbid if they discover you have infiltrated their space! All hell breaks loose. All of a sudden we are the dunces, and they are the professors. They know it all. In today's world they've been given rights and they quickly learn how to use them. They are not hesitant to remind you that if you touch them, it's child abuse. If you don't play their way you are a negligent parent. Some of us are blessed with ones that make it through with relatively little problems. Then there are those of us that change our welcome mat to say Welcome to the House from Hell! They are in still in control.

I know parents from every walk of life that have gone through this. From the downtrodden and struggling to the most affluent people. I've met them in family group meetings. I've listened to them at Tough Love meetings. Tough Love has a great concept but it doesn't work if your teen isn't home so you can apply the techniques. All that really happens is you wind up in counseling to try to keep from going insane! So you tough it out for about four to six years, trying constantly to get your kid together. And silly us! We still love them. We would gladly welcome back those days of night-time feedings and diaper changes. That seems like a breeze to us now.

Eventually they want to strike out on their own. Freedom is their main cause in life. Of course freedom doesn't include working. I bought each one of mine luggage for their eighteenth birthday and helped them pack! But you're never really rid of them. They leave. They come home and then they leave again. One day you look up and there is the return of a human being. Slowly, they start to agree with you more. You find a smile on their face that you haven't seen in years. You wonder if they're on drugs! But, no, they are finally growing up. They soften. They actually show some respect. Your ride on the roller coaster is over. Your life finally becomes your own. Oh, the perks of parenthood!

One final thought is that when you finally get the time to yourself, make the most of it. Rekindle your marriage. If you're a single parent, find someone to share your life with. Or a career that you always wanted to try. Travel, read, and play. Do these things and enjoy life to the fullest, because the window of freedom may be short. One day you will discover your parents are aging and you will become a parent once again.