In second grade, my teacher,
Sister Mary Joseph, tried to impress upon us a simple fact of life: There are
no guarantees in life except death and taxes. I have no idea why she was telling 7-year-olds about taxes or death,
but her lesson stuck inside my head. I
still hear its faint echoes today.
And what I want to tell
Sister Mary Joseph, who, by virtue of her vows of celibacy, never had children
of her own, is this: There are plenty of guarantees in parenthood. In fact, I’ve come across a solid five absolutes that are as ironclad as Uncle
Sam’s tax collection or the grim reaper’s soul gathering.
We parents know that there are
immutable truths lurking behind the parent-child relationship. I picked a few in honor of Sister Mary
Joseph, who will never know the joy of parenting children in this modern age.
1. You must always pack a snack, even if you are walking
less than a block to attend a smorgasbord. If you forget to pack snacks,
your child will suddenly teeter on the edge of starvation, begging you for a
helping of Pirates Booty or a Goldfish to stave off inevitable death. This is true even if you are on your way to
get food or on your way home from eating your child’s favorite dinner at her
After a certain age, your children will reject your efforts to cuddle them in public, unless and until they are covered in mud or spaghetti sauce.
2. Your snacks will always suck compared to other kids’
snacks. Other people’s food will always look better than
whatever you packed. Period. It’s like a
natural law. This is true even if you packed double-fudge chocolate chip
cookies, and another child has a handful of organic snap peas and dehydrated
3. No public cuddling unless your child is filthy and you
are all dressed up. After a certain age, your children will reject your
efforts to cuddle them in public, unless and until they are covered in mud or
spaghetti sauce or tempera paint and you, of course, are dressed up for a major
life event like a job interview or a funeral or a chance to be in the studio
audience of a major talk show. Somehow
they just know.
4. They’ll do their best sleeping for someone else. Your
children will always sleep better for other people. Grandparents, babysitters, daycare
teachers — they will reap the benefits of extra sleep. Never you. And definitely never you on the mornings after you’ve stayed up too late
drinking adult beverages and dancing to CeeLo Green like you were still a
20-year-old sorority girl with no curfew or chronic back pain.
won’t hear you until you try to sneak a snack for yourself. Your children will not hear a word you
say for hours — none of your
well-reasoned pleas for them to pick up their socks or throw their yogurt
wrappers away. But the second you sneak
into the kitchen and put your hand in your secret chocolate stash, suddenly
they have super-human hearing. They will
come running from the far reaches of your house and beg you to share. If you’re smart, you’ll pretend like you
don’t hear them.