Friday, April 20, 2012

Stories Parents Tell

I often get grief from people that publicly, here and on Facebook, I share only the negative, frustrating aspects of parenthood.

Actually, that's not true.  Several friends who are also slogging through the daily grind of raising kids have been kind enough to tell me I am amusing, and everyone who thinks I bitch too much pretty much keeps that opinion to themselves.  The one exception is my husband.  I suppose he has a right to voice an opinion. He may not want the world to view our home life as overrun by devil spawn offspring and a cranky wife who likes her wine just a little too much.  Plus, his perspective reminds me that there may be people reading my words who don't know me very well, don't appreciate my level of sarcasm, or just don't want to hear it any more.  All true and well-deserved.

I frequently defend my negativity by explaining that I use these forums--for better or worse--as a relief valve.  However, upon further reflection, I think it may be more than that.  I think I may have an inherited need to share my worst stories about parenthood.  I'm sure that my parents have many fond memories of adorable things I did, but those aren't the stories that come up most often.  Some day, ask my mother to tell you a story about my childhood.  Odds are, what she has to say will be one of the following three anecdotes.

1.  I am blind as a bat and first needed glasses in the second grade (thick plastic bifocals, mind you--it's no wonder I'm bitter).  The family optometrist led me through my annual eye exam that year.  Matter-of-factly, he looked to seven-year-old me and asked, "Have you been having trouble seeing the board at school?"  Never wanting to give a wrong answer, I promptly said, "Yes."

Unfortunately, I apparently had omitted to mention this little problem to my mother.  As a parent myself, I can see how this may have made her feel a bit out-of-the-loop, but she has never let me forget it.

2.  Like most kids, I always had my annual check-up with the pediatrician immediately following my birthday.  As the doctor poked and prodded me one morning, he reached my stomach and, trying to distract and engage his child patient, asked what breakfast was in that tummy.  Again, always wanting to be truthful, I answered, "Birthday cake!"  At the time, this didn't seem tremendously outrageous to me, as it was true, but I don't think my mother has yet recovered from her parental mortification on this one.

3.  When I was seven, my parents generously took me to Disney World.  I grew up in Northern Ohio in a family that drove to their destinations.  I don't know how many hours it took my parents to drive to Orlando while I slept and read in the backseat, but I'm guessing it was well into the teens (and I'm guessing they each still know the precise travel time).  For nearly every waking moment of the many-houred ride, I talked about Space Mountain.

In case you are of a different generation, let me tell you about Space Mountain.  In 1978, it was a pretty big deal in the world of seven-year-olds.  It was an indoor, in-the-dark roller coaster.  Didn't get much better than that.  I grew up in a town with a major amusement park and was already a wily roller coaster veteran at age seven.  I thought that Space Mountain was the most exciting thing that would ever happen to me, and I let my parents know so at every opportunity while confined in a car for a bazillion hours.

We arrived at Disney World, entered the park, and waited dutifully in a long, winding line for entry into the Space Mountain building.  And that's when I realized the fatal flaw in my plan;  I loved roller coasters but was afraid of the dark.  Terrified.  Slept with the closet light on every night afraid.  I cried and refused to even enter the darkened building, while my father simmered.   I think that, nearly 35 years later, they are beginning to get over this one, but I'm not confident about that fact.

So there you have it.  My childhood in a nutshell, summarized by the three times I most annoyed or embarrassed my parents.  It's not my fault that I want to tell the world every time my kids drive me nuts.  It's nature.  Or nurture.  Or something.  But it's a common sentiment and one I'm not afraid to share publicly.  Perhaps the rest of the world is trying to build a brand or craft an image online, but not me.  I'm the same person, sharing too much information, that I always have been, hopefully with a dash of good humor about it all.

And, in case you're wondering, missing Space Mountain was one of the great wasted opportunities of my life.

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