I was going to write about A Very Important Topic this week. Something timely, something smart, something with a great moral at the end.
Instead, everything at my house has devolved into chaos. So you get to read about that instead.
Being a parent of very small children means the mental-emotional atmosphere in your household is unstable. At best. Someone is always crying. Or naked. Or laughing maniacally. Or cuddling. Or sticking something they shouldn’t be up their nose. Basically it’s like a 1960s music festival, except there are no drugs and the music is just the Kidz Bop version of “Who Let the Dogs Out.” Over and over.
Because God gave parents the supernatural ability to tolerate these onslaughts and many others, we sometimes get lulled into thinking we have everything under control. We get a little too confident, a little too cocky.
So we got a puppy.
Now, the veteran parents reading this are shaking their heads at this point, rolling their eyes in disdain and muttering insults under their breath. Rookie mistake.
Yes, we got a puppy. An adorable, jet-black, lab mix puppy. Who is teething. And potty training. To be a companion to the 2-year-old, who is also potty training. So now when the dog puppy goes potty outside in the grass, the human puppy cries because he also wants to go potty in the grass. The best I can hope for at this point is that they are both housebroken by Christmas.
When we got the dog last weekend, the weather had started to get crisp and cool. Again deceived into over-confidence (I am starting to notice a pattern), we took the pup outside to run around in the yard, I planned my fall flowers, got in lots of healthy exercise ... and then the rains came. And with them, came the ragweed pollen. And I sneezed. And sneezed. And sneezed. It’s never just one sneeze with me. It’s eight. Loud, carrying sneezes, accompanied by an embarrassingly runny nose, itching face, red eyes. They don’t make Claritin strong enough for what I go through in October. So I drink copious amounts of hot tea and Coke and shove little bits of tissue directly up my nose to keep it from dripping. It’s lucky I’m a writer. I fear this habit may make me unemployable in the traditional workplace.
So, this vivid scene being set for you, dear reader, imagine now, if you will, all of these elements converging.
One incontinent Labrador puppy, exuberantly tasting everything within mouth reach, including shoes, rugs, toys, and toes. One proud, potty-training 2-year-old with a penchant for stripping items of clothing whenever it suits him. One sensitive and artistic kindergartener who forgets to get ready for school because she is drawing angry faces on a butternut squash. One father, just trying to hold it all together in the evenings. And one stay-at-home mother, puffy and tired, with homemade tusks of Kleenex shoved up her nose.
“Yes, you must wear pants in church.”
“No, you may not bring glue to bed.”
“Stop chewing on the rug.”
“Mommy has to go write, buddy,” I say to the crying, exhausted, toddler, who replies that NO, HE HAS TO WRITE. At this point, I’d like to let him. I’ll get in the bunk bed with a sippy cup and a blankie, and you can tell the people of Sedalia what’s on your mind. You don’t even have to wear pants to work.
Chaos doesn’t usually have a moral, but I can make something outta nothing (as evidenced by this column). So here goes: Parenting small children is hard work. It will make you feel like you’re in a nursery-rhyme fever dream on a good week, let alone one filled with potty accidents, allergies, rain and chewed-up socks. But when confronted with chaos, sometimes the best thing to do is to say a prayer and let go. Embrace it. Turn on some ‘60s psychedelic rock, get out the tissues and put the tea kettle on. Draw on some vegetables with your kiddos, cuddle them while watching the rain fall, and if anybody asks “who let the dogs out,” feel free to reply “Who? Who? Who? Who?” But then also go check the yard. The toddler is very literal.