There have been many moments – too many to count, really – when I am confronted with the fact that I am grossly ill-prepared for parenthood.
Sure, I took child development and classroom management in preparation for becoming a teacher. Yeah, I managed rooms full of teenagers suffering from intermittent hormone-induced psychosis. But, nothing – and I mean NOTHING – really prepared me for this gig.
There is no principal, no bell, no textbook for parenting.
Now as any teacher worth her salt knows, the best teachers rarely send kids to the principal. But the principal is there. She’s a backup, a Plan G, a not-so-secret weapon. And even if the principal doesn’t actually do anything about the child’s problem behavior (be it throwing desks or shouting the f-bomb in class), when you send a kid to the principal’s office they are gone, even if it’s just for the remainder of the class period. And that little break is heavenly.
And, oh, the bell! Its clarion call heralds the end of your forty-seven minutes of heaven or hell. It is bliss, Nirvana, Paradise. It reminds you that no matter what madness you have endured, this too, shall pass.
And I’m not sure a textbook would have helped, but I’ve never had a lesson go so wrong, so fast as a conversation yesterday about the human skeleton. (Except for the time a girl stood up and began preaching in class because I was teaching a Hanukkah song.)
Scooter: “Mom, what’s that?” [Points to my handy visual aid.]
Me: “Oh, that’s the pelvis.”
Scooter: “Is that your butt?”
Me: “Well, it’s what your butt hangs on.”
Scooter: “Oh. [Points to lower part of spine.] And there’s the penis bone.”
Me: [Long pause.] “No, that’s not the penis bone. There isn’t a penis bone.”
Scooter: “Well, there is.” [He points to another visual aid.]
Me: [No pause.] “No, no there’s not. I know it sometimes feels like there’s a bone, but…”
Scooter: “Well, there is a bone in there.”
Me: “So, how about a snack?”
So when Scooter launches a hard plastic alligator into my gut, I can’t send him down the river. I am it. I am the prosecutor, judge, jury and bailiff. And I certainly don’t have a bell. Cheech wants to nurse for the forty-seventh time today? Moo. Scooter wants me to read “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” again, and this time, in a pirate voice? Argh. There’s poop on the bedroom curtains? Bleach. And there isn’t a book to help you explain why some animals have legs and some don’t, why Mommy isn’t going to go commando, and what to say when your kid asks you exactly how people die in fires.
No principal, no bell, no textbook. It’s a tough gig.
But, you know what? Some things are the same. The pay is still crummy.