Friday, December 12, 2008

10 Things They Don't Tell You About Parenthood

Ahh, I remember it well...

I remember when my kids would eagerly climb up into my lap with a book and snuggle in for a nice long bedtime story.

I remember when they couldn't wait to open their backpacks and proudly show me their Kindergarten art.

I remember when they would wrap their arms around my neck and give me a big giant goodnight kiss AND tell me they loved me.

But things are different now. In a few weeks my oldest son will be turning 18. A year and a half later his brother will follow. Things are different now because these guys are no longer kids. These guys are young adults.

And now that my wife and I have raised two of our three children to adulthood (nearly), I feel I'm qualified to share some parental wisdom with those of you who are still in the earlier stages of parenthood - those of you who have yet to be blindsided by the surprises your children are surely going to spring upon you.

With that being said, I'd like to share a little list I put together for you. This is not a warm and fuzzy happy list, the kind found in the parenting books that people buy before they have kids... this is a cold reality list, the kind written by a real parent of grown-up kids.

THIS is the list of:

10 Things They Don't Tell You About Parenthood

1. At some point after 5th grade you will no longer hear the words "I love you" voluntarily. Don't take it personally, they still love you... they just won't say it.

2. Your kids will do things many times over that will scare the living hell out of you. And when they've finally reached the age of 18 you'll wonder how they managed to make it that far, and you'll thank God they did.

3. No matter how much money you think it will cost to raise your kids - it will only be a fraction of what they really cost.

4. Your children will, at some point, tell you they hate you. Guaranteed.

5. No matter how many times your kids disappoint you and break your heart - you won't love them any less.

6. Your kids and their friends are not as innocent as you think. This bears repeating....
Your kids and their friends are not as innocent as you think.

7. You will never be able to strike a balance of discipline that will satisfy you. If you're too easy on them they will take advantage of you. If you're too hard on them you will feel guilty.

8. You will, at various points throughout your parenthood, feel like you're a failure as a parent.

9. You are not alone. All parents struggle with these exact same issues.

10. No matter how much pain and heartache your kids cause you over the course of their childhood... IT'S STILL WORTH IT!


Anonymous said...

Our goal was to get our kids out of high school with a). no arrests, b). no drug addictions and c). no pregnancies.

We did it! My only addition to your superb list is not to let your expectations get too out of hand.

Windyridge said...

I think kids are more apt to say "I love you" to their mom, than their dad, as they get older. My 16 year old still tells me he loves me...tho' mostly on the telephone.

Your experiences otherwise are just like mine, t'is true. I'd like to point out an excellent post written on a similar subject by Peter, whose blog I have been reading for over a year now. Please check it out. It's called Fathers and Very Young Sons Listen Up:

yellojkt said...

I also met the Doug at Taunt Vortex Test. It's a good goal. To do this, I used the X-2 rule. Whatever trouble you got into as a kid, count on your kid trying two years younger.

Anonymous said...

"Your children will, at some point, tell you they hate you. Guaranteed."

Sometimes repeatedly. Wow, I feel so much better now. :(

Meg said...

Dare I reveal I failed the Taunt Doug test as a parent. My son was arrested a day before he turned 16. In spite of his experience, he insists that marijuana is safe and he will indeed smoke it again someday. All I can tell him is that it's illegal, and if he makes that decision after he's 18, he'll need to pay for his own lawyer.

Dare I reveal that I failed the Taunt Doug test as a teen as well.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

doug - Great comment. You've unknowingly set the parental benchmark test for comments to follow. And I agree with your point about expectations.

windyridge - We can still occasionally get our boys to say "I love you" in response to our prompting, but to the untrained ear all you hear is "mmfoo."

yello - Too true. Does that mean in a few generations kids will be doing these things in preschool?

maninthemoon - I know... but don't worry, I'll publish the happy side of this post soon.

fantasy life - Thanks for your candid reveal. We parents need to draw from each other during tough times and it helps to know we're not alone.

Sandy said...


I'm going to go and stick all of my kids in the freezer now so they won't grow anymore.

In all seriousness, from what I've seen in your blog, it appears that you've done a fantastic job raising your three kids. So I take every word on your list to heart. I might even tape it to the fridge.

April said...

Thanks for this, Jeff. Means so much more coming from you!

Mom Thumb said...

They will do things which will cause you to wrack your brain repeatedly, wondering what in their upbringing would lead them to think that was an okay thing to do.

I can honestly and quite thankfully say that my daughter has never said she hated me.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

sandy - Hey, I did a post recently about freezing people. See... it IS a good idea!

april - You're welcome. I guess somebody had to say these things.

mom thumb - Fine, then I'll say it... I hate you. ;-)

Elizabeth said...

I can't wait!!

Babs (Beetle) said...

People have always told me that I am lucky that I never had kids. I still don't believe them :O)

JD at I Do Things said...

I don't have kids, but I was a kid, and as such, I can attest that all these are true. Even #4, to my deep shame.

JD at I Do Things

MYM said...

You sound like a good dad ... and I'm sure that also means your wife is a good mom :)

I don't have kids - but I've watched my sister raise 2 amazing kids, now adults. And now I'm watching her daughter raise 2 little boys. Damn it looks like hard work! I have such admiration for all the parents out there.

Anonymous said...

i can especially relate to #7 right now!

Anonymous said...

I think the purpose of life is not the "stuff" you acquire, but how well you raised your children. You will know this, when people say how much they like your children. You have already heard that, but so have we!

Heather said...

Yes, kids are never as innocent as parents might hope are they? I know I wasn't. This scares me about my children.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

elizabeth - Unfortunately, you've had to become good at waiting. ;-)

babs - It's probably true that kids aren't for everyone, but I think you'd make a superb mom.

jd - As long as you made it up by telling your parents how much you loved them after you were all grown up. Anyway, that's my hope.

drowsey - T'aint easy, that's for sure. But like I said... it's definitely worth it.

memarie - We've struggled with #7 from day 1. Nobody likes punishing their kids, but sometimes a strict punishment is required. That is one of the toughest parts of parenting.

bill - Good point. Hey, when my kids move out... can I have my "stuff" then?

heather - Be afraid. Be very afraid. ;-b

Ed (zoesdad) said...

Dang, man. Can I quit now. Maybe trade mine in for a puppy or something like a goldfish?

Fancy Schmancy said...

Thanks. Sometimes it is good to hear that I am not alone, that I shouldn't be ashamed of feeling like a failure as a parent. I appreciate hearing that from someone that I think is an awesome father, part of an incredible set of parents.

Unknown said...

Well at least I know I'm not alone. Think I'll go look at them while they're sleeping and not mouthing off or getting into trouble.

Anonymous said...

I've had the honor and pleasure of meeting your children. I found them charming, polite, funny, smart and an absolute joy to be around. If I had kids, I'd want yours. In fact, I'll take them now, since you've done all the hard work and stuff.

Anonymous said...

My daughter used to write "I hate you" notes. I'm saving them for when she has children.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

ed - Sorry bud... they're totally non-refundable.

fancy - Thanks for the nice compliment. I can't imagine any parent getting their kids raised and out the door and thinking... "Hey - everything went perfectly!"

gette - LOL! Good one! :-) Now that you mention it, I think I'll do the same!

kathy - Perfect! The only thing they'll need from you is college money. Thanks Kathy!

ann - That's so funny - especially since I've met her. She was sweet and polite and never ONCE told me she hated me. Go figure.

bon bon said...

my two boys are in their twenties now and i can't say i recall ever hearing "i hate you". maybe it's coming yet. they'll admit it as they're committing me into the home.

"i love you" was often used during those moments of lost innocence.

hmm, i think i may have been played.

United Studies said...

Great post! And even though Emma is only 4, I have the same experiences where she can totally irritate me one moment, then later on that day give me a huge hug and tell me "I love you Mom" and that makes it all better.

Michael from said...

Not the news I wanted, but I can't say I disagree with your prophesies.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

bon bon - If they didn't tell you they hated you at some point in their lives, then you've done something seriously wrong and you should be committed to a home. Sorry... you needed to hear it eventually. ;-)

jacki - Hmmm, maybe you can store up her "I love yous" for when she's a teen.

muskrat - Yes... I am dad. I am blogger. I am prophet.

Michelle said...

I think you just made me cry. I really am not ready for big kids. And that's more than something I say to get the wee ones to drink their milk!

Roger Miller said...

Being the parent of 17 (18 on the 23rd), 14, 11, 9, 6, and 2 year old children - all at the same time no less, I see nothing wrong with your list and have experienced every single item in one form or another. Number ten sums it up the best though, and I wouldn't change a thing about my life. Now I'm just waiting for the part when they realize that Dad isn't so dumb after all. :)

*Holding my breath.

Maureen said...

Well, I only have a few months left to make Doug's benchmarks... fingers crossed!

Karen MEG said...

What a great post, Jeff. I can see all of this coming ... a little too fast, even with my kids being as young as they are.

You are a wise man...