When you are a parent, you are supposed to do what you can to support your children in whatever endeavor they want to pursue. You do this, in part, by providing them with the means by which they can do what they want to do. This can be things like soccer cleats, art supplies or even an iPad. You can’t be a carpenter without the tools to build something, right?
And then there are the words you are supposed to say to your kids. Mostly, words of encouragement. Words that tell your kids they are something. Words that let them know they can do anything and everything.
Well, I am here to tell you something. Your kids can’t do everything. And there are times when you should wonder if they can even do anything at all.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Your kid might have come to you this morning and said he wanted to grow up to be a Football Playing-App Developing-Gold Medal Winning Olympic Sprinting-Celebrity Chef-Astronaut and, hey, he just might do that. Nobody thought Tom Brady would ever play in even one Super Bowl, much less win so many that he needs both hands to wear all of his championship rings, when he was drafted in the sixth round out of Michigan back in 2000.
No, your kid may end up doing everything he or she wants to do. But, if you are honest as a parent, you will admit that your kids can’t do a lot of things. Hell, my kids may end up doing everything they want to do one day. But, believe me when I say that there are things they absolutely can’t do. And to prove that, here’s just a sampling of a few of the things that my daughters—who are 8 and 10 years old and have all the mental and motor skills necessary to do each and every one of the following very basic feats—are just stone-cold incapable of doing.
–Clean Their Room
My daughters share a bedroom, so I know that the more people there are in any location, the more likely that location is likely to resemble the county dump at the end of the day. Clothes, shoes, books, stuffies. You name it and my kids leave it on the floor of their room. I’m always amazed at how they can walk past a knee-high pile of dirty laundry that is in the middle of the floor without thinking those clothes might just do better if they were place in the so-called dirty clothes basket in the corner that, since it is rarely used, is actually the cleanest area of the room.
–Turn Off The Lights
I know I sound like every dad who has ever walked the Earth since electricity became a standard feature of the family home, but how hard is it to take the literal split second it takes to turn the lights off in a room? Remember that episode of “The Brady Bunch” when they all went to Hawaii and Bobby left a trail of popcorn that helped Mike and Carol rescue him from the dastardly Vincent Price? Swap out the popcorn for a trail of empty rooms with the lights left on and you have my daughters in action.
I would love to be able to say we have some kind of dinner-related issues with our girls “once in a while”. But, I have a policy of writing only true stories here, and to use the phrase “once in a while” would be a lie. We have some kind of dinner-related issue with our girls EVERY DAMN NIGHT. And the foods that cause them to not eat, whine, fight and moan over are the kinds that are about as basic as you can get.
One night last week, we had baked chicken, yellow gold potatoes, green beans and cottage cheese. The way the girls reacted, you would have thought we were serving up haggis and tripe slathered in vegemite. I recently decided to try something new and make spaghetti carbonara for dinner. But, I know my kids well enough to know that putting that on their plates, even with its delicious pieces of bacon mixed in, would have elicited enough moans and groans to make you think they had stomach ulcers. I quickly turned the kitchen into an Italian trattoria and made a batch with basic red and meat sauce (for 8-year-old Little Sis) and just plain damn noodles for 10-year-old Maddo, who proceeded to eat them with her fingers like a monster.
–Get Ready For School Without At Least An Hour’s Worth Of Nagging
I often work at home. And although I live in Oakland, I pretty much work East Coast hours. This means I am at my desk, in my office, by about 5:30 a.m. PT. The office is next to our daughters’s room. After about an hour of working, I get the girls up for school. Or, at least I open their bedroom door and tell them it’s time for them to get up. Maddo is usually good about this as she is typically an early riser, like me. However, trying to roust Little Sis is often like trying to get a reaction out of the Venus de Milo.
Eventually, she does get up and staggers her way upstairs. I then spend the next hour or so getting some work done while the kids they…Well, I don’t know what they do, but based on the volume of my wife’s voice, I’m pretty sure what they are not doing is eating their breakfast, getting dressed and, generally, doing anything she, or I, have told them about 600 times to do. After a while, l usually check my watch and, upon realizing school starts in less than five minutes, run upstairs to find them still lounging about on the sofa, with an episode of either “Friends” or “We Bare Bears”. The odds are 50-50, at best, that their socks and shoes are on. Those odds jump up to 75-25 that they haven’t brushed their teeth and/or hair. And of course, they act utterly stunned that I would be about to burst an aneurysm because they aren’t anywhere near ready to go to school.
I mean, it is pretty foolish of me to expect them to have their shit together, right? We’ve only been doing this every morning, five days a week for more than five years now.
–Not Fight With Each Other
After looking at everything else on this list, and acknowledging the limits of my kids’ capabilities, I don’t know why I even think the girls might stand a chance at getting anywhere close to being able to make it through even three hours, never mind an entire day, without re-enacting the Tet Offensive upon each other, and my wife’s and my psyches.
I should include a disclaimer here and admit that, yes, I know siblings fight with each other. It’s one of those givens in life. It’s kind of like how if one day you put some food out for a stray cat that shows up at your back door, you are going to end up with that cat coming around to your back door every day for the rest of time. Brothers and sisters always find a way to fight. They can’t help it.
But, man…The things they fight over. This morning, Maddo, our 10-year-old, was in the bathroom, ostensibly to brush her teeth and hair as part of the aforementioned daily drama of getting ready for school. However, before she could get into any of that, she decided she needed to pick up and carry our pet cat downstairs and she left the bathroom. Seeing that the room was open, Little Sis figured it would be fine for her to go in and take care of her morning routine.
Of course, Maddo came back upstairs just as Little Sis was sticking her toothbrush in her mouth. And then all hell broke loose as Maddo yelled at Little Sis for invading her “privacy” and Little Sis cried back at Maddo for being “so mean” and then they started pushing each other and yelling some more and then the cat hid under the guest room bed and my wife looked like she wanted to drive straight to Mexico and I considered what it would take for me to drown myself in my bowl of Cocoa Puffs.
It was a glorious morning.
Eventually, the girls settled their differences long enough to finish getting dressed (all the while leaving piles of pajamas and wet towels all over the bathroom floor) and get out the door and off to school. Sure, they did it, but not without all the craziness and drama that was unnecessary from the start.
I’d like to say that after they got home, the girls were able to get through the rest of the evening without having another ridiculous spat over something trivial. But, like the other things that they can’t do, they couldn’t do that. Luckily for me, I can’t remember just what it was that they brawled about when they came home. And that is one thing that I am proud to say that I can’t do.