Monday, 26 January 2015

The Great Divide

So, thanks to the great divide, Jason and I have what amounts to two separate sets of children, who have what ended up being two completely different sets of parents. Set #1 had poor parents with the will to live, and set #2 had parents with more money, but who were too tired to care.

As a couple, we have managed to figure out how to screw each and every child up in a completely new and different way from the child before them. I'm sure a lot of these problems are familiar to people with multiple spawn, but we're always seeing new twists caused by the age difference.

Our kids are currently ages 20, 18 (in 3 days!!!), 9, and 4. There are people closer in age to their own children than our eldest child is to our youngest. It makes it exciting when we go out for dinner as a family and Jason and I sit on one side of the table, the big kids sit on the other side, and we let the littles fall where they may. Then we lean back in our chairs and watch the rest of the diners try to do the math. It adds to their confusion that the smaller humans listen to and obey NOT A SINGLE ONE OF US. It's impossible to distinguish parent from child from possible grandparent from distant cousin. It provides us with an endless source of amusement. Add my own parental unit and THEIR age difference to the mix, and you can actually see people's heads explode.

We have paid for babysitters for the little kids exactly twice. Part of being a family (in our house, anyway) means that you have to babysit whenever we say so, and get paid exactly zero dollars an hour for the privilege of doing it. Both our big kids love this part of siblinghood so much that they've taken extreme measures to avoid it. I am even willing to hazard a guess that that's why Isaiah chose to go to college in Edmonton. Anything within driving distance was too close. Liz has gone one step further and has decided to move to Panama for 6 months in September. I feel like they're trying to tell us something. I'll let you know when I figure out what....

NONE of our kids know what it's like to have new clothes. Isaiah and Liz were raised on hand me downs because, quite frankly, that's all we could afford. The two younger ones are suffering the same fate because it's been part of my life for so long that buying them all new stuff is offensive to my sensibilities. Seriously- all they're going to do is wreck them. Eva has never met a tomato sauce she didn't need to hug, and Squid likes to roll on sharp things, like rocks, or razor blades, while wearing his school uniform. It seems to be affecting each kid differently in the long run- Isaiah can't walk past a pair of overpriced jeans now without spending that month's grocery money on the damn things, and even now that Liz has a job, her very favorite outfits come from thrift shops and farmer's markets. The end result here is that both my older kids are now dressed better than me, regardless of what they spend. Apparently, it doesn't take much to top my 'yoga pants and a tank top' ensemble. And my clothes are even new.

My kids also hoard chairs. It's weird. It matters not whether those chairs are in the living room, at the dinner table, or out camping. There are never. enough. chairs. The younger ones are especially sneaky about stealing the seat of someone else.  It's a thing of beauty to watch, actually- much like those species of trees that have evolved to produce poisonous leaves to deter caterpillars; my little ones, who are so easily manhandled out of chairs by children 12 and 16 years older than them, have developed a stealth mode to compensate for their weaknesses. Quite often, someone will look up from a campfire and realize that they've been sitting on the ground for the last hour and a half and their ass is freezing because there's a four year old in their $90 camping chair with built in cooler, and they have no idea when or how it happened.

Things I was morally opposed to with the bigger kids have fallen by the wayside. Hand held video games and DVD players on long drives no longer make me cringe (unless I forget the cord to plug the damn things in and the battery dies). Barbie dolls, with their unrealistic proportions and endless pink girliness were something Liz was never allowed to own. She was forced to play with them, in secret, at her friends' homes, and thus her body image was never in jeopardy- right up until I realized that Barbies had nothing to do with it, and all 12 year old girls thought they were strangely shaped and funny looking. Now Eva owns the entire collection, including such favorites as 'Naked All The Time Barbie', and 'Colored On His Face In A Fit Of Rage Ken'.

I once sent a gift home from a birthday party of Isaiah's after telling a relative in no uncertain terms that he was not allowed to play with guns. Toy guns promote violence and violent thinking, and my children were going to be raised believing in the sanctity of life, with the knowledge that words are better peacemakers than weapons. Now I don't care if someone gives Squid a fully automated SCUD launcher, as long as he plays with it outside and lets me relax for 11 minutes while he takes out the neighbors. It's about perspective.

Isaiah and Liz didn't learn about sex till they were in grade 5 and had THE CLASS at school, after which I explained anything they didn't understand in terms appropriate to their age and developmental levels. Squiddy and Eva know things that would make a sailor blush. In an attempt to have a meaningful dialogue last night with Squid, we had this conversation:

Me: Squid, what's your favorite thing about yourself?
Squid: I guess that I'm funny and smart. (Score one for positive reinforcement!) What's your favorite thing about you, mom?
Me: I guess my favorite thing about myself is that I somehow ended up with the four coolest kids in the history of the world. That a pretty neat thing- I wonder how I did it?
Squid: It's probably cause you and dad keep having sex.

Right, then.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that regardless of whether you have 8 kids under four, or are the 50 year old parent of a single 10 month old, or left a 10 year gap between each of your three kids, you're going to screw them up.

Perfect parenting is an impossible goal. You might as well take on world hunger single-handedly, or try to figure out how the caramel actually gets inside the Caramilk bar. It's probably less frustrating in the long run.

Aim low. Start small. Celebrate the victories and keep the failures in perspective.  Quit judging yourself. Any day you can keep them from biting the head off the hamster is a good day.

Now go have a bottle of wine.

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