Whose Kids Are These?

 

By Jen Holman

I’ve tried to be more conscious lately of the ‘highlight reel’ I post to social media. Life, and especially parenting, is not all lemonade and rainbows, despite the Southern-fried cuteness I tend to show the world.

My youngest may be adorably sassy, but she also threw a screaming fit last month because she’s a human. Yesterday, she threatened to “break” my house if I didn’t let her play longer. Hulk Smash isn’t the only problem. Whenever it’s time for chores or bed, suddenly, like magic, my 6-year-old’s legs no longer work. He wriggles on the floor saying “help me” over and over. And over. Noodle Man has a pre-teen sister whose life is so hard. I mean, we make her clean her room and put up her own laundry and pack her own lunch three times a week. We’re the worst!

 HULK SMASH, NOODLE MAN AND THE PRE-TEEN!

HULK SMASH, NOODLE MAN AND THE PRE-TEEN!

From looking at Instagram, I thought my kids were the only turds in a pond full of lily pads. Turns out, they’re fairly normal. And I never would’ve known it if not for time spent commiserating with parent friends. The camaraderie, the normalcy I feel when airing my struggles to other parents, is not only enlightening, but empowering. “Your kid set fireworks off in the house, too? Awesome! We can handle this!” (Not a real example, but close enough.)

The biggest problem in my house right now is arguments among siblings. Do other people’s kids fight like this? I mean, it’s like there’s not a type B personality in the bunch. I remind them to be kind to each other, to talk civilly, but if they’re not arguing over a TV show, they’re fighting over the bathroom— and we have more than one. I kid you not, the youngest two even argue over who’s dumber. When I caught them, I walked away and let them work it out. I mean, is there a winner?

Who raised these kids, anyway? That guy from “Animal House,” apparently. I swear they would be fine if I never cleaned the house again and fed them chicken nuggets for every meal. This got me down until I realized…job security! They actually need me to rear them, to gently show them the way toward broccoli and the second bathroom.

Another struggle you won’t find on my social media feed is the kids’ addiction to technology. More specifically, iPads. We know from brain imaging research that gaming and tablets affect the brain the same way cocaine does, damaging impulse control and decision-making. And when you take the tech away, look out! Grouchy little terrorists—like they’re suffering withdrawals. I read that many in the tech industry are the most tech-cautious because they know its effects. Steve Jobs was a notoriously low-tech parent. Silicon Valley execs enroll their kids in no-tech schools. Nearly a year ago, we made a rule that iPads are only allowed on weekends. It went far better than we anticipated, actually, after some initial grumbling.

Now, do their eyes practically suction to the screens when they know it’s Saturday? Yes. But, we still have time limits that seem to work and keep everyone relatively safe and happy.

The thing that makes the struggles of parenting bearable is the knowledge that we’re not alone. The issues in our family are probably being felt by others at that very moment. In fact, I know they are because I’ve commiserated about them with parent friends.

Studies show that parents who have regular nights out and strong support systems are happier and deal better with stress. So... there’s one excuse to schedule a girls’ night out ASAP. Here’s another: Did you know cheese dip was invented in North Little Rock in the 1930s? It’s true! Celebrate the culinary innovations of our great state with like-minded parent friends over cheese dip and margaritas. You may just learn that their kids sleep as terribly as yours, and you’ll all go home feeling a bit more confident. But still dog tired. Sorry; I can’t do anything about that.

 Jen Holman is determined to be a voice of reason amongst reality TV and mom judgment-gone-wild. Her newest novel (as yet unpublished) won the 2017 Rosemary award for excellence in young adult fiction. She lives in Little Rock with her husband and three (im)perfect children.