When I was younger, we would almost always go to my grandma’s house on Sunday for a delicious Sunday dinner of roast, mashed potatoes, and gravy. One of my favorite parts of visiting on Sunday was reading the Sunday comics. Among many memorable strips, I enjoyed the classic Family Circus by Bil and Jeff Keane. One regular Family Circus collection was the It’s Apparent You’re A Parent. Remember those? If you’re not familiar, you should check them out (especially if you’re a parent).
Between being a parent myself, and watching my own parents with my younger siblings, I can identify a number of ridiculous, funny, and even touching things that indicate you’re a parent. Without further ado, here is my list of the top 10 ways you know you’re a parent.
1. You Wipe Snotty Noses with Your Bare Hands
This one used to always kind of gross me out as a kid when I’d watch my dad do it. One of my sibling’s noses would be runny, and without hesitation, my dad would reach out and squeegee it clean with his thumb and index finger. No hesitation. He’d then reach down, and depending on what he was wearing, either wipe it on his pant leg or his sock. Or if he was in a suit, which he often was, he might just wipe it on the child’s own pant leg or sock.
As a dad myself, I have been called on to perform the same act. Runny nose, no tissues in site, and nothing but a bare hand and a pant leg. But I haven’t developed the same unwavering resolve that my dad has. I still hesitate a moment, hoping my wife might see it and do the dirty work.
2. Your Purse Becomes a Magician’s Magic Hat
In a perfect world, baby and child supplies would be kept neat and tidy in their perfect little pouches and pockets in the diaper bag. But when you’re in the middle of a child-raising war zone, things can get a bit messy. You quickly learn that to be unprepared can lead to terrible results: you forgot the snacks and your hungry toddler is having a meltdown at the shopping mall. You just sat down to eat at a restaurant and realize you have a stinky baby and no clean diapers. You’ll only get caught unprepared once or twice before the purse begins to resemble a magician’s hat: bandage for a scratch? Check. Hand sanitizer? Check. Carabiner, harness, and belay rope? Check. (Just in case.)
3. You Hold a Fussy Baby from 2-3 A.M.
Probably every parent has been called upon to make this sacrifice. For those like me that cherish a good night’s rest, it can be a challenge and is very much not a laughing matter. But I list it here to acknowledge how impressive it is when you perform the same selfless sacrifice as a grandmother, after having already paid your dues as a mother to 10 children. When we had a late night getting some Bookroo boxes out the door a month ago, my mom took care of baby C. for us right through the middle of the night. Thanks, Mom.
4. You Have an Opinion about Baby Food Flavors
Have a thing for fine dining? Nothing will cater to it like becoming a parent. Suddenly, peaceful, romantic, delightful dinners out become noisy, messy, cold dinners in. But you get to enjoy baby food, and you start to develop an opinion about which flavors are the best. You also understand why your child refuses to eat others. And you sometimes sneak one or two of your favorites into your bag for a snack at work. My personal favorite? I’m actually a huge fan of the yogurt chips. My three-year old and I like to eat more of them than the baby.
5. You Spell Out Words
Like I-C-E C-R-E-A-M. And C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E. This is a classic maneuver that comes pretty naturally. We are currently using it for our three-year-old and our one-year-old, both of whom know a good word when they hear it. The funny thing is when you start to spell words to adults. I remember reading a story about a mom and dad who were shopping at the store. When the mom felt like a lady had cut them off with her cart, she said, “Boy, that lady is R-U-D-E.” To which her husband responded, “Ya, and I’ll be she can S-P-E-L-L, too.”
6. You Factor in an Extra 15 Minutes to Get out the Door
Or if you’re like us, you don’t, and you always wonder why you’re 15 minutes late. Either way, the leaving-the-house process becomes excruciatingly painful and long, especially in the winter. Tracking down shoes takes 4 minutes. Actually getting them on takes 3 more, since about the time you’ve got the left shoe on, the right shoe has managed to pop back off. Getting coats on everyone takes 2 more minutes, and then you’ve got to make sure you’ve got diapers, wet ones, and snacks. Thinking you’re ready, you load up your arms with babies and bags only to hear a little voice say they’ve got to go to the bathroom. At which point you’re back to square one.
7. You Can’t Wait for Bedtime
Before I was a parent, I used to judge parents who said how much they enjoyed when bedtime rolled around and they could put their kids to sleep. “Lousy parents that don’t even love their kids,” I would think to myself. I now offer a sincere apology. If you’re living for bedtime, you’re probably missing some great parts of the day. But if you don’t savor a little quiet time once the kids are asleep, please share your secret. A time and a season for all things, and there’s nothing wrong with loving your kids just as much when they’re asleep. The ridiculous part, however, is looking forward all day to bedtime only to sneak back into their rooms so you can watch them sleep. Don’t worry, we all do it.
8. Your Favorite Sports Team Changes All the Time
Your favorite team becomes whichever one your child is playing on at the time. This I include again with my parents in mind. My own boys aren’t in sports yet, but just this week I sat with my parents as we all cheered on my younger brother in his basketball game. With 10 kids and two businesses, my parents have never felt they had the time to watch or follow any professional sports teams. Yet they have sacrificed countless hours watching, coaching, and supporting each of their 10 kids in their sports endeavors. The same applies to activities besides sports: your child becomes your favorite musician, author, artist, dancer, or entertainer.
9. You Find Child Paraphernalia Everywhere
Reminders that you’re a parent start to show up all over the place: little people clothes in the laundry, toys in the tub, coloring pages on the fridge. But even better than those reminders are the unexpected encounters. As I arrived at work one wintry day, I took off my gloves and reached to put them in my pocket. I was surprised to feel there was already a big object inside the pocket, and I reached in to see what it was. What did I find? A diaper. Luckily, it was a clean one.
10. You Wouldn’t Trade Any of It (at least, not most of the time)
Being a parent is an exhausting, messy, never ending job. Yet despite the challenges, the quirks, the difficulties, I can’t imagine giving it up. And I’m glad my parents didn’t either. I appreciate every parent out there that makes the ultimate sacrifice of becoming a parent and putting their own needs, desires, goals, and wants second to those of their children. Most of the time, I know you when I see you, because as Bil and Jeffe Keane understood so well, it’s often apparent you’re a parent.