I thought parenting would be easy. Naive? Maybe...but I like to think of it as my own quirky brand of optimism. I thought having kids would be all cotton candy and carousels with some mild custodial responsibilities, like dressing and bathing. I felt qualified for the endeavor because I love cotton candy and I am really good at personal hygiene tasks. Seriously, I almost always remember to wear deoderant. I figured parenting would be like living in Candyland. Luisa and I would hold hands and skip down a fanciful, multi-colored path with our children. We would nibble on the flowers in Gumdrop Pass and stop to admire the peppermint sticks in the Peppermint Forest. I imagined that the worst thing that could happen would be that we would get stuck in the chocolate swamp which really wouldn't be so bad at all. Chocolate, yay! Kids would be fun, fun, fun! Nearly seven years in, I have to say that Candyland isn't always as I imagined. For one thing, we have to tell the kids to stop licking everything because of the germs and because, by george, they need to learn a little delayed gratification. We have to tell them to stop breaking off the damn peppermint sticks because they need to learn to take care of the environment and, besides, brandishing peppermint sticks like guns and swords is not behavior consistent with a peaceful family. We have to remind them to use kind words with Princess Frostine and stop pushing the Gingerbread Man around. Don't even get me started on the chocolate swamp! It is such a mess and the sugar just makes the children lose their minds anyway. All of that is nothing compared to this overriding revelation: the children won't even stay on the fucking path. They are everywhere and we are running around trying to redirect them to the path and they are all like, "What path? Bwah ha ha!" Our happy little romp through Candyland is chock full of peril and fun-sucking morality lessons. I have realized that our children may very well bop King Kandy on the head with a jagged lollipop at the end. Then, the smiling and jovial people of Candyland will begin to look at the ground and shake their heads and I will begin to feel parental failure. Even jolly Gramma Nutt will suggest that, perhaps, our children need a good whoopin' or at least more capable parents. Really? Et tu, Gramma Nutt?
This is all to say that parenting is hard, what with all of the imparting of wisdom and values that has to be done. It is challenging in ways that I never expected. Parenting has taught me more about myself than I really ever wanted to know. On difficult days, I want to beat King Kandy with a peppermint stick to erase that smirk on his face and get him to change the spelling of his name. On good days, the kids hug me with their sticky little hands and Luisa and I dip our toes into the messiness of the chocolate swamp and we are all okay. This parenting thing is not easy. It is not all joy. There are good times and bad times. Yes, this game of Candyland is making me wise and also, apparently, a fan of cliches. It all comes down to this...it's too late to play Sorry.