Wishful thinking, Berkeley, CA.
We had some folks over the other day for a caroling party (see 6 of 31, which provides a visual of but one of the dozens of merrymakers, an old friend without whom the halls would have been a whole lot less decked). Somebody saw this little chalkboard in the kitchen and remarked, “Ah. To set expectations?” To which I said, “Yeah! Of me!” When The Mrs is off at a rehearsal through the parental swing shift — which is multiple times a week, many many weeks of the year — I sneak a peek at this cheat sheet about every fifteen minutes from sunset ’til the last moppet is decisively tucked in.
Parenthood requires (/builds) a great many skills: inventiveness; patience; flexibility/improvisation; patience; a high tolerance for bodily fluids of all kinds; a ready playfulness; a clear bead on one’s values; an ability to articulate those values in comprehensible terms to people ranging in age from 2 to 18; a preference to teach rather than to boss; patience; a sincere respect for the autonomy of one’s kids (see K. Gibran on this one); the capacity to remember that after all is said and done, they still fall asleep hugging stuffed animals, useful to bear in mind when they’re trying hard to act older than they really are; the ability to distinguish between a kvetch-cry, a psychic injury-cry, and a mortal pain-cry; patience.
I feel pretty good about most of these items. Which is to say that even if I don’t have a grip on them at least I have a grasp of them. With the sad caveat that menopause can place my access to the best of these at arm’s length from time to time. (When the going gets rough, the girl child has landed upon the magic words: “Baba, don’t be a grumpy muffin.”)
There is one core parental competency, however, whose coattails I am doomed to be forever chasing, never grabbing a-holt of: TIME. MANAGEMENT. Even TIME. CLUE-AGE. I am on a riverbank, staring up at the bunnies forming and reforming in the clouds above, and there it is — time — rushing, rushing past me. Splashing me, even, every now and then. But what do I do with its spittle? I absently wipe it off, and go back to the cloud bunnies. All very bucolic-sounding until the sun drops down and it’s chilly and dark and the kids are crying because they’re hungry. “Woah! Dinnertime already?! Where did the time go?”
Which reminds me.