How My Kids Taught Me To Not Be White Trash

**This post was originally published as a guest post on Clint Edwards‘ blog.  **

Parenthood has turned out to be very much like I thought it would be in some ways: I haven’t slept past 7 AM in years; I’m always carrying a bag stocked with toy ponies, trucks, and Goldfish crackers; and going to a movie and holding a large popcorn instead of a small person feels like winning the lottery.

Early in our marriage and parenting years, my husband had a bit of a potty mouth.  I told him very sternly and self-righteously that he had better clean up his act, lest our kids should learn bad words from him.

He did clean up his act. Imagine the very smug look on his face then, when our 3-year-old spilled yogurt on the floor, growled (in the exact way that I do when I’m frustrated) and yelled, “Dammit!”

I will NEVER live this one down. I also exacerbated the problem by laughing at the situation, which only encouraged her. I then spent the next several weeks ignoring Ava’s “Dammit!” outbursts and laughing hysterically when I could get her to say “Dangit” instead. Occasionally, I still slip and use the language I have acquired since having kids (I have less self control than usual when doing 3-am diarrhea cleanup), and on such occasions I get a gentle “Mom, we don’t say dammit” reminder.

As a parent I sometimes find myself saying things only a drunk would say, or something I would only say to a drunk.  But really, having kids is totally like living with a bunch of drunks  — people who ransack your house, slur their speech, and keep asking you for another drink when they should be going to bed. All too often I find myself begging people not to pee on my couch. My life revolves around other people’s bowel movements. I am allowed to swear once in a while.

There are other things I have said and done as a parent that I’m not particularly proud of.  I’ve thrown tantrums louder and more childish than my kids’. I’ve put my kids to bed at 6pm so I can binge on Netflix.  I have bribed my 3-year-old daughter with Skittles to let me tweeze her eyebrows (before you judge, know that I did purchase Oragel teething gel for that purpose).

Sometimes I wonder what my friends would think if I talked to them or treated them the way I do with my kids.  Obviously it would be awkward if I reminded an adult not to take a dump in their pants when we go to the mall. I guess it would be weird if I told my husband he can’t have soda until he starts eating vegetables, but really I don’t think that’s a bad idea.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to do ANYTHING but ask someone 20 times a day if they need to pee.

Sometimes my kid does really say the weirdest things.  Some things are all too familiar, like “Mom, you stop yelling RIGHT NOW!” Some are embarrassing: “Mom, that lady is FAT!” (shouted in the middle of Hobby Lobby, four feet from said lady). I have no idea where she learned to say some things, like “Mom, just leave me alone!” or “Don’t talk to me while I’m eating.” Didn’t teach her those ones. Promise.

“Mom, I’m going to go play with my ownest ponies in their ownest doll house.” Um, OK.

Sometimes she says just what I need to hear. On one particularly frustrating day, as I was dealing with a teething, sleepless baby and my daughter’s refusal to potty train, she entered the room where I was tending to the baby and said,

“Okay, Mom.  Take a breath.  Now count one, two, three.  And calm down.  Now come see the mess I made in the kitchen.”

I have no idea what show she learned this from, but I think God knew I needed this little person to warm my cold heart that morning with those sweet, unexpected words in a moment where I was ready to drop both kids off at a daycare center for the day.

Being a parent is helping me grow up.  My kids test my patience, but are able to soften my heart in ways very few things on this earth can.  I know I was blessed to have this girl in my life, who drives me crazy with her antics but frequently surprises me with her innocence.  Being a parent is very much like working in a mental institution at times; it’s an opportunity to live with some extremely interesting people, but it’s also an opportunity to learn to not be the crazy one in the house.