One dedication post tonight, because I am so tired my blood is yawning.
[see here for
how to get a post dedicated to you]
This one is for Dana, a vet who donated a nice chunk of change to SOA today in the name of the Victory Coalition.
Dana asked me to write about parenting. I asked him if it was ok if I pulled an old post from Raising Hell and he said sure.
Thank you for your generous donation to Spirit of America, Dana. May the force be with you, always.
an expert of sorts
I didn't set out to become an expert on anything but my own children. But that's what happens. By accident, by fate, by the meandering path that is parenthood, we become experts at things we thought we had no business knowing. They are not always things we want to be well-versed in. But they are things we are forced to know and research and become familiar with to the point of it becoming a part of your vocabulary, your being, your life.
I myself became an expert at a few things. I learned how to negotiate the maze that is special education. I learned how to deflect criticism and pointless accusations and needless test results. I learned how to yell, how to beg, how to stand up for everything you believe to be true and how to disprove everything you know is not. I learned the correct vernacular, the phrases and coined terms, the euphemisms that the people who think they know your child better than you use to make you think that they are so much wiser than you. I learned how to rant and rave with dignity still intact and I learned that there is no better teacher and no better healer for your child than yourself. I learned that support groups and meetings and therapist, while they all have wonderful intentions, are not replacements for real knowledge and action. I became an expert, so much so that other parents in the same predicament would call me late at night and ask for advice. And honestly, I was only passing on advice that was handed down to me by other parents who unwittingly became experts in the same field.
I became an expert at ear infections. How to tell when your child has one, even if he isn't running a fever, how to predict when one was coming, how to stave off a night of ear splitting crying, how to keep your child comfortable and relatively happy even though the inside of his ears were swollen and red and filled with fluid. I learned that Tylenol just doesn't work for some kids and antibiotics may prove useless. I learned that your child banging his head on the wall night after night was a sign of pain and that when a chatty child suddenly stops talking it's a very bad sign. I learned how to calm a child by strapping him into his car seat at 3 am and driving around the neighborhood singing Tom Chapin songs. I learned how to get a child to sleep sitting up, in a stroller, while you push said stroller around your kitchen table endlessly. I learned that doctors don't always know what's best and don't always know what's right and when your child's doctor makes you feel incompetent and stupid, that it is time to find a new one. I learned that ear infections may really be the underlying symptom to something else and I learned, in a very hard fashion, how to stop yourself from fainting when your 18 month old son is getting a spinal tap, and that if you do not stop crying and carrying on, the kind nurse will take you from the room and make you sit somewhere far away where you can't hear your son screaming in agony and fright. I learned about allergies and milk allergies in particular and I learned that sometimes the best teacher you have is the library and a pediatrician who doesn’t' think you are stupid or incompetent.
I became an expert at things that weren't so heartbreaking. I learned how to use a broom handle to teach a kid to ride a two-wheeler. I learned the number for poison control by heart. I was an expert on which Burger King had ball pits and which McDonalds had the outdoor playgrounds and I was the one who taught the other mothers why you never ever let your child go in one of those pretty colorful play tunnels that only a child can fit in when you are planning on leaving the Chuck E. Cheese in about ten minutes. I was an expert at the songs on Barney and the names of all the Power Rangers and I could imitate Darkwing Duck like nobody else. I knew the name of every train on Thomas the Tank Engine. I learned how to get down on a floor and play like a kid. I learned every Raffi song ever written and I also learned that kids will listen to your music if you just give them a chance, but Guns n Roses will make any 2 year old cry. I learned that every parenting book gives different views and different opinions on all matters of child raising and you will make yourself crazy if you try to follow them all.
I became an expert on the revolutionary war and Thomas Edison and Tasmanian devils by default. I learned the difference between Tony Hawk and Bob Burnquist and why "Nsync rulz and BSB droolz." I learned how to negotiate fights between adolescent girls without making it seem like parental interference. I learned all over again the rules of basketball. I learned how to get to a baseball game in one place and a basketball game in another and make it look like I was there for most of both games. I learned how to call a truce, how to back down from a battle that wasn't worth it and how to get crayon off a newly painted wall. I learned that a summer night at the beach with a picnic, watching the sunset is worth more to your child than a day at an amusement park.
These are not things I thought I would need to know or want to know. They just happened. You are thrust in front of you a mission to learn something, and you learn it because someone needs you to. Not because you want to, not because it's interesting, although it usually is. You become an expert by default, and you take all that you have learned and pass it on to the next unsuspecting parent who needs it. Call me when your kid develops a small red rash on his leg. I know exactly what it is.