Daily Foglifter: Animal Species that eat their own young: polar bears, burying beetles, hamsters, wolf spiders, and Mormon crickets.
Today’s Foglifter was inspired by my friend Becky, who occasionally posts as her status on Facebook, “I know why some animal species eat their own young….” Becky has a pre-teen daughter. I have a son the same age and I know exactly how she feels. He’s moody, mean to his siblings, and gets angry for no apparent reason. He’s annoying. Sometimes his moods can ruin my whole day. It’s not just him or his age. Kids always annoy their parents.
Newborns. This is by far my favorite age. The newborn is tiny, cute, and can’t speak or move. I am in complete control of what the newborn does. I make the newborn happy simply by holding her close to me. The newborn smells fantastic and makes my heart want to explode with the love I feel for this tiny miracle. Until it’s 3:00 in the morning and the newborn is wide awake, screaming, unable to tell me what is wrong, and I am tired and still sore from childbirth, and realizing the newborn will only be happy if I walk her, for hours, in a clockwise direction.
Crawling babies. Still a great age. Crawlers are mobile but limited in their scope. It’s easy to keep up with the crawling baby and easy to keep potential hazards out of their way, since they can’t stand or reach very high. Crawlers do super cute things like babble and point and play peek-a-boo. They also actively and loudly fight sleep, probably because we’ve taught them that they or we disappear whenever they close their eyes (peek-a-boo is really kind of cruel.) They develop separation anxiety. The degree of this affliction varies. Some babies are content to remain within visual or vocal range, making it possible for the parent to leave the room for a second or even bathe, so long as baby is in the bathroom in a bouncy seat or exer-saucer. More often, the baby isn’t content unless planted firmly in mommy’s grasp. This is the point when mommy’s back pain develops, as the mom’s body is now in a constant semi-bend at the waist, supporting baby on the hip. This is also the point when mom learns what is possible with only one arm–cooking, cleaning, going to the bathroom.
Toddlers/Terrible Twos. It’s an exciting age. The toddler is walking, learning to talk, and developing quite a personality. Every day brings a new experience. This is when moms start bragging incessantly on their babies to anyone who will even half listen. It’s understandable. The toddler starts saying words, contorting their little mouths around new sounds, delighting parents and grandparents with their intelligence and overall cuteness. Inevitably, the first word a toddler masters is “no.” They use it when they don’t want to eat, to sleep, to listen, to sit, or to be bothered. They also learn to destroy things and to test boundaries. When they get “in trouble” they poke out their little lips and do the fake cry. If the toddler is truly gifted, she brings out the dances, the faces, and the giggles parents find irresistible to escape correction, thereby gaining control over the entire household. They become tyrants– little, cute, angel-faced tyrants.
Pre-School/Kindergarten: Kids at this age are incredibly smart. They have a unique outlook on life and surprise everyone with their revelations. (My 5-year-old son, Billy: I know why antibiotics taste gross. An-ti-bi-ot-ICK! Get it? ICK?) It’s especially endearing when they mix metaphors or misuse grown-up expressions. Kids this age are also smart-mouthed. They lie to stay out of trouble. They learn to be pests to their siblings. They are picky eaters and don’t like anything their mom cooks for dinner, unless it’s macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, or chocolate cake. “This is gross!” is how they usually start a dinner conversation.
Elementary School: It’s fun to talk to kids this age. They are interested in everything and ask lots of questions. They are slightly in awe of their parents’ knowledge of things like the names of all the state capitals and knowing who invented the light bulb. They discover love and popular music. There’s nothing cuter than an 8 8-year-old girl singing Taylor Swift songs along with the radio in the backseat of a minivan. There is, however, nothing more maddening than that same 8-year-old rolling her eyes whenever she’s told to do anything. This is when the phrases, “I’m bored” and “It’s not FAIR!” are used about 50 times a day. It’s also the dawn of the drama queen.
Pre-Teens/Teenagers: Occasionally, this particular age group can be sweet, surprisingly astute, and fun. Most of the time they are moody, taciturn, smart-mouthed, eye-rolling, sighing, and lazy humanoids who think their parents are the dumbest creatures on earth.
College/20’s: Pretty much identical to the teenager but more eloquent. They think that college or living “independently” has given them some credibility. They are cynical, whiny, and convinced of their own superior intellect. They still think their parents are stupid and express this openly with rancor and contempt.
Late 20s/30s: Slightly less “in your face” since the pressures of a job and a family have brought them down to earth a little bit. Still believe they are smarter than their parents, particularly in their parenting skills. Loud, philosophical arguments have been replaced with smug looks and condescending remarks.
40s and beyond: Still think they are smarter than their parents. They’re concerned about their parents’ eating habits, driving ability, sleep patterns, and social life. They look for signs of incompetence or insanity. Condescension has become an art form.
Kids, from the moment they are born, test the psychological and emotional limits of their parents. Parents, in a mysterious and miraculous way that only God can be given credit for, relish every moment of it. My kids annoy me, horribly. They also amaze, delight, and humble me. It’s a trade-off I’m honored to make.