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Never a dull moment when raising kids - Valerie Baldowski

I have found out that mommyhood, one of the most important jobs of all, does not come with directions or any type of instruction book.

Since the beginning of time, moms everywhere have been winging it - learning as we go. It can be exciting, it can be fun, but sometimes humbling as well.

I have finally gone through a rite of passage many parents have gone through, brought about by kids' tendencies to leave their toys lying around, and compounded by parents' tendencies to get in a rush and not look where they are going.

Sunday afternoon, I jumped in the car and was in a hurry to get the grocery shopping done. I threw the car in reverse, began backing up, and ran over my son's bike, which had been tossed aside at the edge of the driveway. Thankfully, it was not the bicycle he got for Christmas. We keep that in the house. It was the tricycle he has long since outgrown, which for some reason he has become attached to. I felt silly and sheepish. Fortunately, it was not totally wrecked, and was able to be straightened. I guess it had to happen sooner or later.

But that fits a normal pattern, and kids will be kids. You can remind them a thousand times to pick up their toys, and maybe after the one-thousand-and-first time, they will remember.

I recall a story my mother told me, about when I was a toddler eying my older brother's toys with increasing interest and getting into everything. His Mad Magazines, with all their colorful pictures, were one of my favorite things, and my mother warned him more than once to put them away instead of leaving them laying on the floor after he read them.

He did not heed the warning. Sure enough, one day, a pair of curious little hands found them, and carefully and methodically ripped them to shreds. As proof, one day, years later, my mother showed me the photo she took of me sitting on the living room floor absorbed in concentration while I tore each page into little, itty bitty pieces.

But then again, he got me back. Sometimes he would hide behind the couch and, while wearing a scary mask, pop his head up when I walked through the living room. That was also captured on film, with 2-year-old me looking very worried as my mother snapped the shutter. For a long time I was afraid to walk through the living room.

As I got older, I'm sure my mother wondered if she would ever have a kid who remembered to take care of her toys. I was a tomboy, and one day after playing in the back yard, I left my favorite cowboy hat outside. It rained that night, and the next day, when I went out to retrieve it, the hat was ruined - completely shapeless. She bought me several Slinkys, and each one ended up hopelessly tangled up with my other toys in the toy box. She bought me cans of Play-Doh on several occasions, telling me to put the lid on after I finished with it, to keep it from drying out. Of course, I left it out, only to find it rock hard the next day. She finally stopped buying Play-Doh.

I think back on all my mother went through and realize, now, that I am getting it all back. Dealing with all the situations that can come up with my child reminds me of the need to be patient. I remember I went through the same phases when I was his age, and what I see my son doing brings back memories.

Sometimes I pray about what to do. Other times I ask other parents who went through the same things with their little ones, and after getting their advice, we share a good chuckle. Thank goodness for the mommy network.

Valerie Baldowski covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald. She can be reached via e-mail at vbaldowski@henryherald.com.