I must admit that there are times when I think my kids were born with the specific life goal of discovering things that aggravate me, so they could tweak those things on a regular basis. And there are other times when I wonder how such beautiful, caring individuals came from the DNA of a cantankerous, old grouch like me.
The other day, at the swimming pool, the girls noticed that someone was a bit frightened to jump into the water, so they offered to hold hands and jump in together. A small act of kindness, to be sure, but one which was unexpected given their behavior in other situations.
For example, they were singing a song in the house one day . over and over and over and over again. Then, they began singing it in the car. Then they found out that the song had started to get on their mother's nerves, so they decided to sing it even louder and more often. Finally, my wife had to say, "Do not sing that song anymore!" And, knowing our children so well, she added, "And don't hum it."
"And don't whistle it."
"And don't tap it out in Morse code."
Those extremely specific instructions must be given to our children because they would otherwise keep asking question after question after question. There's a great scene in "The Family Guy" TV show (which has since been borrowed for a commercial about the Chrome browser) in which Stewie says Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom incessantly, while Lois sits on the bed in a stupor.
That's what kids are like at a certain age. They seem to be able to drain your every last resource. And yet I've been told that the pre-teen years are the time when parents most enjoy their kids. I think that's probably true. My kids are at that age when they're old enough to know what's expected of them, but young enough to not be embarrassed by my very presence.
The infant years, on the other hand, were a challenge for me. I was constantly worried that my babies were going to spontaneously stop breathing, so I was inclined to wake them up at random times just to make sure they were still alive. And it didn't matter how many diapers I changed (my wife would say not enough), I still couldn't get over the gag response that baby poop brought on.
It was exciting when they took their first step and said their first word, but, for me anyway, those moments don't compare to the enjoyment I get from going on a walk or having an actual conversation with them.
I'm not sure who came up with the term Terrible Twos because I don't remember that either of my girls went through that. Maybe I'm just blocking that memory. I do remember that the first day of Kindergarten was especially tough. The school lets you accompany your child to class on the first day, but then you have to leave. Try being a grown-up man when your child is holding back tears as you walk out the door.
So now they're in grade school and have learned how to push Dad's buttons. They also pick on each other all the time, just for the fun of it. But they're also turning into really interesting people. We have family movie night; we have sleepovers; we have swim lessons. All the "normal" stuff you get to do with kids. I should be enjoying every minute of it, and I do, mostly.
But then I begin to think about how the natural meanness of some children comes out in middle school, and I worry about that. I worry about the mood swings that are undoubtedly coming with puberty. I worry about having to listen to boy bands. I worry about high school. I worry about them learning to drive. I worry about what loser is going to want to date them. In short, I worry too much.
Then again, that's what parenting is about, right?