Babies crying in the wee hours of the morning, interrupted schedules, mysterious messes, things always getting lost or broken, fantastic tales explaining no longer functioning machinery, teenagers out way past curfew. These are just a few of the excitements awaiting those star-struck adventurers intent on marriage and family.
The task of parenting often seems impossible, the demands more than any ordinary mortal can master. But after raising children to maturity, the rewards can be gratifying. The trials and hardships of parenting develop specific virtues. Virtues like patience and selflessness, endurance and, with time, a sense of humor.
For those of you who are pondering this frightful step in life, I have attempted to condense my experience into ten simple steps. The survival of the race rests on the demands of procreation. Let us not surrender to the bugs, but go out and conquer the land.
STEP 1. FIND SOMEONE YOU CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT.
Get out and look. The rest is easy. Desperation often defines the emotional side of love’s beginnings. Only those unstruck by its gnawing demands can sit idly by and watch the object of their affection disappear into the distance. A man will do incredible things to attract the attention of a potential lover. Their inventions are like the mating dances of obscure tropical birds. Casual observers are mystified.
STEP 2. CAST ALL CARES TO THE WIND AND DO WHAT COMES NATURALLY.
Normally, at this stage of the game, all reason and prior instructions in living depart and are mystically replaced by the dreams and ambitions of lunacy. People embark on great adventures without even a modicum of preparation or wherewithal. Truly this is the point where greatness is born. Supernatural aspiration propels mortals forward to pursue seemingly unreachable goals.
STEP 3. IGNORE THE ADVICE OF RELATIVES AND HEALTH PROFESSIONALS AND HAVE AS MANY CHILDREN AS YOU CAN STAND.
The desire to procreate is compelling, second only to the need for air. People frightened by teenagers have invented numerous methods to inhibit the process. Ignore them. If you have too many children, people will sneer at you in the grocery store. Ignore them. Parents and grandparents, exhausted with raising children like yourself will counsel wise family planning. Ignore them. Children instill purpose, exhilarate creativity, demand endurance, and wonderfully open the faucet of love releasing life’s true potential.
STEP 4. EXHAUST YOURSELF CREATING WAYS TO STORE ACCUMULATED CLOTHING AND OTHER CHILD-RELATED PARAPHERNALIA.
Listen to the cry of the frustrated housewife: “More shelves.” A short stay in a small boat or camper will introduce you to the process of using available space. Scan ads looking for the word `stackable’. Do not succumb to the fleeting ideal of neatness and order. Just remember, only childless consumers and retired elders have places like those pictured in magazines. The rest of us live in organized confusion.
STEP 5. AS YOUR CHILDREN APPROACH PUBERTY, FIND A PLACE YOU CAN BE ALONE AND PRACTICE SAYING NO, EMPHATICALLY, IN FRONT OF A MIRROR.
No matter how frugally you live and what level of poverty you descend to, your children will consider you a veritable fount of provision. Peer demands and TV advertising will awaken in them urges yet unknown to previous generations. You must practice denying them for their own protection. Consumption is insidious and leads to all forms of lethargy. Note: Do not try to hide private caches of chocolate turtles or beer nuts. The kids will find them and accuse you of double standards. They are born snoops.
STEP 6. TAKE A COURSE IN LIVING MORE SIMPLY AND LEARN TO DO WITHOUT SUCH UNNECESSARY ITEMS AS SLEEP, FOOD, MONEY, PEACE AND DIGNITY.
It is truly amazing what a person can do without. Wonderful tales of men surviving decades in the barren cells of the Gulag and bitter winters in ice caves in the arctic will help prepare you for the sacrificial demands ahead. Try imagining going out to dinner at your favorite restaurant with someone who has rings in his face and pictures buzzed into his closely cropped hair.
STEP 7. STUDY DRAMA SO YOU CAN PROPERLY INTERPRET AND HAVE MEANINGFUL EXCHANGES WITH YOUR TEENAGERS.
In each generation, language takes on new meaning. The grunts and chortling of childhood give way to incredible new expressions. Attempts to reason with or nurture meaningful communications from your teenagers may result in serious dysfunction. The best approach is to develop a strange language with your mate and use it during family times. The kids may become curious and try to imitate you, facilitating occasional, meaningful exchanges.
STEP 8. TAKE ANOTHER COURSE IN AUTOMOTIVE MECHANICS SO YOU CAN KEEP CHEAP CARS RUNNING LONG PAST THEIR LIFE EXPECTANCY. AS THE KIDS LEARN TO DRIVE, BE PREPARED TO REPLACE THEM OFTEN.
Normally sedate and reasonable children become unrestrained and reckless maniacs as soon as they get alone in the car. Unaware of mechanical limitations, kids put cars through rigorous test runs. Even newer cars usually don’t survive, so why waste precious resources. Larger, older cars with mechanical problems are safer, run slower and break down more frequently, giving children down time to ponder the prospects of early demise. Remember, a parked automobile is much less likely to break traction and strike a tree.
STEP 9. GO TO A HIGH CLIFF OR BUILDING AND PRACTICE LETTING GO BY DROPPING FRAGILE BELONGINGS YOU HOLD ESPECIALLY DEAR.
It is hard to know whether it is better for your kids to hang around or get lost. On the one hand, staying is a confirmation of love. They seriously enjoy being in your home with you and prefer it to risking the rigors of life alone. On the other hand, the quiet of an empty home is enough to drive most anyone crazy. Sooner or later your children will be gone, starry-eyed and arm in arm with a new lover. Try to hold on. It is hard to let go.
STEP 10. GET A COMFORTABLE CHAIR, SIT BACK, PUT UP YOUR FEET AND ENJOY YOUR CHILDREN’S SUCCESSES AND YOUR GRANDCHILDREN.
The greatest recompense of parenting is grandchildren. To enjoy the pleasures of small children at your leisure, and to be able to relinquish them when they are unruly or you are weary is a privilege reserved for those who have successfully completed the parenting course. Watching young adults struggle with the difficulties of marriage, career and children, and knowing by experience the potential of human resourcefulness gives calm serenity and a spirit of wisdom and guidance that your children will gravitate towards. Sit back and enjoy. You’ve earned it!
– Larry Berger, HashtagWV #103. July 103