I was a much better parent before any of my three kids were born. When I used to babysit, children mostly listened and they never, ever made me want to hide in the bathroom for a few minutes of alone time. I was never compelled to put them to bed extra early or stress-eat an entire container of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.
As a casual observer of other parents, I vowed I would rarely take my kids to McDonald’s. I swore I would not give in to negotiation, buy sugary cereal, use the television as a nanny or a host of other imagined parenting sins.
That all changed in 2005 with the birth of my first child. My water broke, and it wasn’t long before I started breaking all my preconceived parenting rules.
Things don’t always go as planned, and we break our own rules all the time.
Or, even better, we adapt our rules. We bend the rules. We even change or ignore the rules.
Ok, fine, we lie a bit, too. But, we do so with every good intention, like to protect our loved ones. Who wants to tell a kid that the Tooth Fairy, Santa or the Easter Bunny isn’t real? We make up stories about how art projects accidentally ended up in the garbage can. Or we deny knowing about the disappearance of Halloween Kit Kats and M&Ms.
We even lie to ourselves about why we lie. And then we feel guilty about being liars. As a Jewish mother, I sometimes think we Jews own the exclusive rights to guilt. Catholics claim it’s a proprietary right to their faith. The truth is it’s a human condition — especially if you’re a human and a parent. And this mom is feeling a little guilty for some of the things I may or may not have told my children over the years.
Sometime in the future, maybe when we ship the kids off to college, I will confess the following:
1. Many of your Subway sandwiches were not made at Subway. They were made in our kitchen.
I was inspired by a monologue in the 1987 Eddie Murphy stand-up comedy film Raw.
Murphy delivers a hilarious spiel about his mom’s disgusting hamburgers even though she swore her burgers were just like McDonald’s. Murphy’s mom hardly fooled her son, with a homemade burger served on Wonder Bread and filled with chopped vegetables.
In the spirit of Murphy’s homemade McDonald’s hamburgers, I decided that you kids would get homemade Subway sandwiches. Why? Because weekly dinners from Subway got expensive. And, between swimming and karate, who had time to cook on Wednesdays? So, your very creative, cost-conscious mom decided to make her own subs. But I was smarter than Eddie Murphy’s mom. I went to Subway and talked the high school kid behind the counter into giving me a bunch of the Subway logo papers they used to wrap their sandwiches. Long after I stopped bringing home the real deal, you failed to notice that you were being served imposter sandwiches.
2. I had a favorite.
Most parents swear up and down that they don’t have a favorite. I, on the other hand, did have a preferred child. Before you get upset and call your therapist, you should know that my favorite changed as quickly as spring weather in the Midwest. Are you ready for it? My… favorite… child… was… the… one… who … was… the… best… behaved… at… any… given… moment.
3. We used to call the ice cream truck the music truck, and you believed it until the day Dad wanted a Good Humor bar.
I don’t think you remember this one, so I don’t feel so bad. I am just letting you in on this little secret so that when you have kids of your own, you can tell them it’s the music truck. This will be particularly useful when the ice cream man slowly and regularly passes by your house right before dinner.
4. I was the Tooth Fairy.
Yep, you figured this one out a long time ago, but what you don’t know is that I really was The Tooth Fairy. There were several of us, and we covered different regions because busy parents can’t be out all night. I was elected to my district by popular vote, so I can tell you it was absolutely a legitimate win. There wasn’t an electoral college to screw up things.
What do you mean you’re not buying this one? It’s totally true. My “region” just happened to be confined to our house.
5. We hid the good cereal from you.
Yes, we hid a lot of the good sugary cereal from Dad. Honey, you knew that, right? But we had an equally good hiding spot from you kids, too. Think about it. Who really wants to share a box of Lucky Charms or Cap’n Crunch with three sugar-deprived kids?
6. Honey, the kids want You.
In the spirit of full disclosure, here is a spousal confession. The kids weren’t really asking for Daddy to put them to bed that much. I just needed a break. My other favorite lines were: “Ask Dad; he’s a doctor” or “Have Dad help with your homework — he’s the smart one.”
7. I hated homework more than you.
I know you don’t believe this one because you thought the only words that came out of my mouth were: “Do your homework.” “Do you have any homework?” Or, “Not until your homework is done.” Nagging was exhausting and so was helping you with your homework. Math after the fourth grade was too complicated, and Siri was way better at answering science or social studies questions.
(As for snow days — I hated them, too!)
So, my dear family, these are the deepest, darkest secrets I’ve been keeping from you for years. I thought I had this parenting thing figured out before you were born. Then you all came along, and all within three years of each other, so things here were hectic. Parents go into survival mode, and that often involves doing things like hiding the cereal, making your own Subway sandwiches and celebrating the days of no homework. Just wait until you’re a parent — you'll have your own confession list, too.