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You are not in control

April 22, 2016 The Wine Time Dad 1 Comments Category : , , , , , ,

In quiet moments, I imagine coming up with novel insights that experienced parents aren't aware of or offering useful advice to new/ soon-to-be parents. I fantasize about the hordes of web-surfers coming to this site to be informed by me. Sadly, this is not the case. No one really comes here to be informed; they come here to waste time (my sincere hope, that), because it's what I do. I waste time.

Maybe after skimming this blog, poor souls discover that they’re not as much of a fuck-up as they thought they were. You’re welcome. They further realize that, like most social gatherings in the Cult of Parenting, this blog is a coping mechanism for the insanity of raising children. It is this, first and foremost, before it attempts to waste your time.

However, if I were to give advice, as much as I can after only 3+ years of parenting a single child, I would tell you to let it go.

No, that’s not quite it.

Really, I want to address the control you think you've regained after the chaos of the first several months (of parenting). It isn't there. It never was.

Disabuse yourself of the idea that you've gained control over this living thing by recognizing patterns and capitalizing on them, developing schedules and whatnot. All those patterns and schedules (P's and S's) you've manufactured are ephemeral, and their rate of entropy is higher than a fart in a stiff breeze. Yes, they can exist and they are necessary, but long-lasting elements of control are illusory. And, the P's and S's that don’t naturally get broken by the toddler or some outside force, must be periodically broken in order to save your toddler from your lazy, complacent ways.

There is no rhyme or reason for this breakdown (except for some very well-understood behavioral science I didn’t bother to look at, and that which I just mentioned). Yet every few weeks to months, that precious routine you’ve hand-crafted to artistic perfection gets challenged, upended, and then modified to suit the growing autonomy of your toddler.

Sometimes, after using screen time as a crutch for several weeks or relying on junk food as "real food" filler, you have to break your own patterns to thwart the imminent rotting of brains and stomachs. Sometimes the inverse is true, you get sick of maintaining a constant stimulating environment, so you turn on the TV and shove a bowl of pretzels in front of the kid. 

You hear that? That's your control trying to tip-toe away like a loud fart in a quiet room. 

It may not even be a set routine that gets altered; it could just be a simple way of interacting that gets scrambled, making “joy joy” feelings harder to predict.

For example, the expectation that well-ingrained polite qualifiers (“May I please…” “Please can I…” “Oh, thank you, daddy.”) will precede and follow every request until the end of time is foolish. One day, the scheduled naps end and there are no more polite requests, just banging on the wall and impetuous demands.

“Daddy. Daddy! DADDY (insistently jabs finger at desired object making meowing sounds)! I want it.”

I’ve been told that this is the behavior we should expect until they’re a couple years older. Too bad it’s taboo to cage them in soundproof boxes...

But, if you can afford daycare or live in a city with universal Pre-K3/4, then you can unceremoniously dump that recalcitrant little jerk off at a school five days a week. Let someone else can keep them in line. Now, you can enjoy that wine time mid afternoon, or morning, whichever you prefer. Let the State handle their sociopathic pattern breaking, I say.

I’m sorry. That’s a horrible thing to say. No one thinks of his or her kid this way.

Not even me.

Besides, my daughter is perfect. Between the two of us, we now have three functional light sabers. Now, we practice splitting zombie heads with a Jedi weapon, or learn how to theatrically die when you’ve been cut down by a plasma sword.

Coincidentally, light sabers are also useful tools for scaring away toddler autonomy.

But, seriously, about that control, those patterns and schedules, it’s not gonna happen.

Once you develop a controlled routine, one that lasts for more than several months, you should expect it to be abruptly upended at any time due to travel, sickness, visits, and/ or the alignment of the planets. These periods can last from five seconds to enough consecutive days, that you begin to forget your name. Every time this happens, your schedule, go to food menus, activities, and regular behavior goes through a gravity field and gets scattered about. How it emerges on the other side is always where the fun begins.

There is no advice I can give for this. Your life isn't yours anymore, its owned by a capricious semi-human. No doubt you’ve heard the expression “winter is coming”, well a toddler is like winter and your peace of mind is like the perpetually fading good weather in Westoros. Start shoveling that walkway and hope for an early spring.

If it ever returns…

It may take decades. It’s an exceptionally rare occurrence, but I’ve seen the hard years literally melt away from a parent’s face when it sinks in that a child has left the nest for good. There’s almost a visible change of facemasks when a person goes from being a parent back to Joe, Beth, Martin, Sue, or whatever their name was before they became mom and dad.

That’s my best, half-assed advice I can give you.