Parenting is a long hard row of stickiness, colds, smells, messes, whining, drama, and chaos—occasional moments of unparalleled joy thrown in to keep the species propagating. I have mostly accepted this. Whatever tasks comprised a busy day before kids I now accomplish before my first cup of coffee. But there are still things that push me over the edge, things that are bewildering and unexpected, that shouldn't be, therefore I cannot get used to.
1. Not being able to get up before the kids. If you are a writer, and you have children, and you thus have trouble finding time to write, writing books browbeat you into getting up before your children and write before they wake. E-Z breezy! Problem solved. Ignorant advice brought to you by the same people who told you sleep-while-your-baby-sleeps! back when you had a newborn and were near-dead with exhaustion. Don't listen to these insidious deceits. No matter how silently I creep down the carpeted steps, how stealthily I situate myself in the remotest part of the house the furthest from their rooms, how silently I press pen to paper, the children WAKE! Bleary-eyed, confused, tired, up hours before their usual time, they trundle down the steps to find out what all the racket is about, and upon finding none, make one.
2. Nothing being more fascinating to the kids than me writing. If my kids have friends over, or giant bunnies arrive bearing candy, or Despicable Me is on TV, their entire beings will be deliriously drawn to these things like moths to a flame—unless I am trying to write. In which case, their bat ears detect the nib of my pen rolling across paper, which must sound to them like a chain saw ripping through a tree, because they come running over to find out what is going on. "I'm writing," I say, words that are the kiss of death to the writing process. They cannot keep themselves from wrapping themselves around me asking what I am writing about and whether I would like suggestions to make the story better. They also like to watch me write, it's like a lava lamp to them. Forget the Pied Piper, just pull out a writing notebook. Children materialize. And they don't go away.
3. Things I can't identify, in places they don't belong. It's one thing to find the broom on the front lawn, or the colander in the bed, or the training potty in my office. These are all things we own and they drift hither and yon throughout the house, aided to various locations by the little people we live with. This I understand. It's when mysterious items appear: a circuit board on the dining room chair, some kind of thermocoupling device in the bathroom sink, the styrofoam packing to what looks like a flying saucer in the cupboard. What are these things? Where did they come from? Are they important? Is the furnace going to explode because this essential gee-gaw is lying on my pillow? Forget asking the kids where the whooziewhatz came from. They've never seen it in their lives.
4. Bags of second-hand clothes appearing like spider eggs around the house. Where did this bag of clothes come from? I ask my partner. She does not know. It just appeared, bursting with clothes of various sizes for various types of weather. Winter coats appear in July, shorts in February. Of course the coat is expensive and high quality and barely worn, a perfect specimen of a winter coat but for the broken zipper. One never wants to toss a bag of clothes, especially an expensive child's North Face full-length down jacket with a broken zipper. Because someone could fix that zipper! Take it to the cleaners. Yes, we will take it to the cleaners, and for the prize of a zipper replacement, we will have an expensive child's North Face full-length down jacket. Trust me, the jacket will never get to the cleaners. The zipper will never be fixed. Nothing short of absolutely essential tasks ever get completed and even those, such as our roof replacement, sometimes years late.