3 Things They Should Teach in Prenatal Classes

Bathing baby. Infant CPR. Car seat safety. Sure, those are all important things to know when becoming a parent for the first time. But now that I don’t have babies anymore, I’m starting to realize how short-sighted prenatal classes really are in preparing us for the grand scheme of parenting. You know the saying, “no one ever tells you THAT about having kids.” Well, here are my suggestions for a few things those classes should cover for long-term parental success…beyond the baby years…when no one seems to care if you are prepared or not.

P10000331. Clothing Negotiation Skills 
Your little one has begun forming opinions, and the first thing she decides to feel passionately about is wearing the exact same Disney-character-of-the-moment pajama shirt with a chocolate milk-stained skirt and a pair of sparkly leggings with a giant hole in the knee everywhere you go. Even to Great Aunt Ginny’s funeral. And when you try to at least swap out the holey sparkly leggings for the non-holey polka dot pair, she has a melt down, saying the polka dots are itchy. Not the leggings. The polka dots themselves. Because that’s what polka dots do. Itch people. And sparkles give relaxing mini leg massages. But the most messed up thing about this whole struggle is that in a few years, she will actually make you wish she did still want to wear the pajama-shirt-stained-skirt-holey-legging ensemble when she decides booty shorts and backless halter tops are appropriate attire for a prepubescent. That’s some pretty sick torture. My recommendation: this will clearly require a CTU-trained negotiator to teach this lesson. I don’t think Jack Bauer is doing much these days. Maybe call him.

2. School Handout Organization
No parent wants to feel the wrath that is unleashed when you pick up your child at school, only to find out it was Pretzel Day. And you never filled out the order form because it is somewhere at the bottom of one of four different piles scattered throughout your house. If your kid doesn’t get a pretzel on Pretzel Day, he may as well just run away and join the circus, because you obviously don’t care about him. In fact, you must actively and intentionally hate him to subject him to watching everyone else in school devour a warm, soft twist of carbohydrates, all because you didn’t detach a little sheet of paper and pop it in an envelope with a dollar by last Thursday. And don’t be fooled…even if it is discovered that said order form never actually made it out of your child’s backpack and into one of your four piles, it is still your fault. Therefore, a subcategory of this lesson would be Strategies for Remembering to Check Your Child’s Backpack Everyday For Important Things Like Pretzel Day Order Forms.

3. A Crash Review In Fractions
…Because those little f%*kers pop out of nowhere sometime around fourth grade. And your kid is going to expect you to help her figure out whether 5/6 or 7/8 is bigger. And if you can’t do it, you’re just going to end up looking like a dumb ass. And if you look like a dumb ass, then she’s going to start the whole “if you don’t know fractions and did okay, why do I have to learn them” thing. And if she thinks she doesn’t need to know fractions, then she’s going to start questioning the whole purpose of elementary school. And if she questions the purpose of elementary school, you’ll try to tell her she has to go so she can get into college one day. And if you tell her she’s going to college one day, she’ll decide she’d rather just work at the mall for the rest of her life so she doesn’t have to learn fractions. And if she works at the mall, she will probably get fired when she won’t know how to ring up a sweater that is on sale for 1/2 off, because, you know, fractions. And if she gets fired from the mall, she’ll probably end up as a jobless teen mom with no education. And if she becomes a teen mom, she won’t get a crash review in fractions in her prenatal class. And when those little f%*kers pop up again when her kid is in fourth grade, she won’t know how to help. And if she doesn’t know how to help, her kid is going to wonder why she needs to know fractions…

See? Learning how to swaddle doesn’t seem so necessary anymore, does it?

*Author’s Note: My husband suggested I end the post with the line, “By the way, 7/8 is bigger.” I asked him if it really was. He said, “I don’t know.” 

Boom.

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Dr. Spock, Freud, and Grade School Soccer

Both of my kids started soccer this past week. Naturally, that got me thinking deep philosophical thoughts about life and parenting. That’s normal, right?

The world of children’s sports is one of those arenas that tests my parenting skills. I have some really strong feelings about the ways in which we school our kids in competition, and I have also found that involving my own children in sports has led to the surfacing of some lingering insecurities over never being “a cool jock” in the days of my youth. Neither of these are things I want to project onto my kids. But I have to admit, it was hard to quell the emotion I felt at Grace’s first soccer game the other day when I watched her sit on the bench for over half of the game.

I will be the first to admit I have absolutely NO delusions about Grace’s talent as a soccer player. She is not the fastest runner, she needs a heap of lessons on how to be more aggressive, she’s much better at looking like she’s doing something on the field than actually doing something on the field, and she is likely spending most of her time admiring the other teams’ hair ribbons than paying attention to the goings-on of the game. But her team is not playing for Olympic gold, where the best players should be the only ones playing. They are simply in a second grade soccer tournament.

My friend Nicole wrote a really great post about participation trophies, and how it seems we have created a climate for kids where they get rewarded for just showing up, not for actually being good at something. I couldn’t agree more, and even commented, “Kids need to experience failure so they don’t go out into the world thinking they will win at everything…and this is the perfect time for them to experience failure because we are right there to help them through it.” (I know, feel free to award me with my child expert degree.) So after feeling a little upset that Grace seemed to have landed the role as team bench warmer, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I was being hypocritical. Everyone can’t be the star after all.

good sportsmanship sign in Metropolis, Illinois
Brilliant.

And then I remembered a photo of a sign posted at a Metropolis, Illinois little league field that made its way around Facebook earlier this summer. Maybe we shouldn’t be giving out consolation rewards to our kids when they don’t win, but we also need to teach them that winning isn’t everything. My husband and I aren’t seeking out uber-competitive select sporting teams for our kids to play on. We sign them up to play on their school-sponsored teams, where everyone can be on the team regardless of skill, where they can build camaraderie with their friends and learn about teamwork, and where they can actually have a chance to play and build some skills in the sport. Oh yeah, and where they can have fun. These words are spoken at LOT at our house: “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It only matters if you have fun.”

So there I was, agonizing over the fear that my child was getting cheated out of a fun soccer experience all because she is not the best player. As the game came to an end (we lost, by the way), I was trying to think of what to say to Grace when she asked why she did not get to play as much as the other kids. But she never asked that question. Instead, this is what she said to me:

“Well, we didn’t win. But I had fun anyway.”

(You can revoke that child expert degree now.) She didn’t even care that she probably had the least amount of playing time than anyone else on the team. Heck, I don’t think she even noticed. Parenting lesson learned: don’t make an issue out of non-issues.

Man, apparently being second-string on the freshman basketball team stung my subconscious more than I ever thought. This parenting thing is hard. Coach, I think I need a sub.

Addendum: I want to admit I had second thoughts about posting this piece in fear that it would be taken as a bash against Grace’s coach. It is not meant to be. He is a great guy who is volunteering his own time to teach a bunch of little girls how to play soccer. There may have been reasons unknown to me why she didn’t play much; or it could have been an accidental oversight altogether. And considering Grace’s statement after the game, he is obviously making it a fun experience for her so far. As I agonized over whether this would be seen as disrespectful to him (are you starting to understand that I agonize a LOT?), I realized that 1) the whole purpose of this post is to highlight how I was the one who blew the situation out of proportion and 2) I am not writing for the New York Times and have an audience size of about one millionth of theirs. The chances that Grace’s coach, or any other parent from the team, would read this are pretty small. So I need to take my own advice and stop making an issue out of a probable non-issue. Then again, one of my neighbors did happen across my neighbor post a few weeks ago, so just in case….Coach, you’re going a great job 🙂