Is there anything more surreal than being a parent?
I can’t tell you how many times I have been in the midst of some hardcore parenting and thought to myself “is this real life?” Pretty much every day of my life is the ultimate performance in the theater of the absurd.
Take, for instance, when I’m arguing with my almost 3-year-old about something ridiculous. And LOSING.
TODDLER: I can’t use the potty.
ME: Why not?
TODDLER: Because I can’t.
Or when the dog senses the exact moment the baby has finally fallen asleep and chooses that exact moment to make every old man dog noise in his arsenal (you know, groans, farts, clickety nails, unnecessarily loud yawns, whole body shakes that makes his collar chime like church bells) RIGHT BESIDE THE BABY.
Or when your child demands toast but toast that is not warm or brown or toasted. But Lord help you if you try to give them just BUTTERED BREAD.
Or those moments when I realize I’m less a mother and more just a living, breathing, no machine.
These days, I produce no’s like Kardashians produce tabloid stories. I’m a bustling no factory. I’m a volcano of nope gushing a river of hot lava negatives throughout my children’s lives.
Can I have a cookie?
Can I wear my swimsuit to play in the snow?
Can Mr. Doody have a cookie?
Can I eat this rock?
Can I have two cookies?
Can I use your body as an elaborate jungle gym as you are making an important phone call?
Ow. No. Ow.
Can I draw all over the TV in permanent marker?
Can I bang incessantly on the table with these two huge sticks I illegally procured at the park, producing a sound I imagine they play on a loop at the entrance to Hell, for 45 minutes straight while staring directly into your eyes because I’m hoping for some kind of passionate reaction because that is how I get a perverted toddler thrill?
*gritted teeth* No.
Even the baby gets told no pretty much around the clock. And she can’t even talk yet.
Can I bite your nipple with my two brand new and razor sharp teeth?
Can I head butt you when you least expect it?
No–oh my god, that’s so much blood.
Can I only nap while you are holding me?
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, ok, fine, whatever.
And yes, sometimes I feel awful about always having to tell them no. It’s no fun being the fun police. But the alternative is to say yes, and if you’ve ever met a small child, then you know that they simply cannot handle the freedom of unrestrained yes.
See, as far as I can tell in my limited experience, the main goal of a small child’s life is to kill themselves in the most spectacular manner possible. Whether that manner is death via sugar overdose, or jumping off very high and very unstable items, or running up to hug the huge and clearly agitated stray dog that looks like a mix of Cujo and Vin Diesel, is really up to them. But as someone with a working knowledge of physics, and the limits of the human digestive system, and wonderful yet cheesy cinema, I simply can’t stand by and watch it all unfold.
Thus, it is my job to stop that spectacular death from happening. And I personally choose the Sword of No as my weapon in this daily war.
Oh sure, I could use the Shield of Compromise or perhaps the Scythe of Indifference, or even, in desperate times, the Cuddly Ax of Indulgence.
But I like my kids. And I want them to live forever. And more importantly, I want them to live forever in such a way that they can eventually function in this world without me. And be successful in their own lives. And afford the fancy retirement home for me and their father.
So, I am currently ruining their lives with a never-ending verbal conga line of no.
They’ll thank me some day.
Actually, they won’t.
But at least I’ll have the consolation of eating all those cookies I won’t let them have. Which I will do in secret. In that dark corner of the kitchen. While laughing manically.