By Marla Jo Fisher, The Orange County Register
Having children has turned me into a liar.
The process of raising children changes you so profoundly, it is simply impossible to fathom it honestly before it happens to you.
The only thing I can compare it to is being taken over by pods from outer space, so utter is the transformation after that first wailing bundle of moist, squirming flesh arrives.
That’s why they call it becoming a parent. Because you are becoming someone else. And, as many of you hope, not your own parents.
Before you have kids, you realize that your life will change — i.e. you will have to get a babysitter before you go out clubbing at 10 p.m. since your favorite nightclub frowns on small children because they can’t see over the bar to order drinks.
But it never really dawns on you how profoundly your thinking will be altered.
In my case, the children arrived together as a pair, at ages 3 and 5, when I adopted them after their mom couldn’t take care of them anymore. I was 46 years old, which made me older than some grandparents. It also made me considerably less stupid than a lot of younger parents, but not nearly as smart as I thought I was.
As evidence to this fact, here are some of the lies I told in the past:
I’ll never live here. I’m getting kids, not a lobotomy.
When I was shopping for my first house, before the kids arrived, I drove around one particular suburban neighborhood and thought, “I’ll never live here. Too ugly and boring. I’m getting kids, not a lobotomy.”
So, instead, I bought a 90-year-old historic shingle bungalow in a bad neighborhood, with a big front porch. I could walk to town. It was cool. My friends thought it was cool.
Of course, some of them never came over because they were scared and couldn’t find parking. Still, it had style and panache.
Fast forward 10 years. Where do you think I live now?
In the same boring neighborhood that I disdained before. In the ugliest house, the only one I could afford.
After the fatal gang shooting across the street from my old house, I decided maybe, possibly my kids should not live in a house with style and panache. Maybe they should live in a hideous tract house, two blocks from an excellent school, in a tacky neighborhood full of supermarkets, pizza parlors and cheap places to get haircuts.
It’s still boring. But now, greatly to my surprise, so am I.
I’ll never do that.
Walking through a supermarket, I used to find it annoying to see a child in full tantrum, screaming at operatic volume, being wheeled in a shopping cart by a parent who seemed totally oblivious to the sound pollution being wreaked on everyone within earshot. Rolling my eyes, I would think about the extreme discourtesy of this parent and how I would handle things differently.
Post-parenthood, my views have changed. Somehow, just saying “No” to my kid’s desire to grab 37 boxes of chocolate peanuts off the shelf as we pass became more important than caring whether nearby shoppers were assaulted by the resulting screams of displeasure. Since shushing my kid always seemed to prolong the tantrum, I would just let him scream it out, even though it meant mortifying glares of disapproval from the smartly dressed girl next to me carrying the tiny shopping basket full of nonfat yogurt, a bottle of $20 wine and radicchio.
I’ll never go to Disneyland.
For years, my beat as a reporter was covering the city of Anaheim, including Disneyland. This gave me a deep and abiding cynicism about all things Disney, and the pervasive hold of the Walt Disney Co. on the world’s children. Even though I had an annual pass to Disneyland for work, I never, ever imagined going there for fun, not after incidents like being forced out of the park by security guards for having the gall to interview people there without an official Disney escort, and covering freak fatal accidents.
Then I got these kids. And there was a birthday trip to the park. After seeing the rapture that their first visit to Disneyland inspired, I not only took them again, I bought annual passes for us. The words “hypocrite” and “sellout” occasionally pass through my mind when I think about this, so I try not to think about it often.
I’ll never get a dog.
I am a cat person. I had dogs as a child, and dogs are fine. I don’t hate them. I’m just not interested in them. Since cats are easier to take care of and have fewer annoying habits than dogs, I considered my house a permanent dog-free zone.
Then my daughter became dog crazy. After she begged me unceasingly for four years, and my doglover friend Teri accused me of child abuse, I finally broke down and adopted Buddy the Wonder Dog from the local pound. He’s not bad, as canines go, except for his tendency to make a break for freedom every time the door opens. But he’s not a cat.
I’ll never be like that.
Before I had kids, bumper stickers like, “My child was student of the week at Millard Fillmore George Washington Thomas Jefferson school” used to annoy the hell out of me. Stupid annoying bragging parents, I frequently wanted to ram their bumpers when I sat behind them at a traffic light.
I even had a refrigerator magnet that said, “My child was inmate of the week at county jail.”
Then my daughter, Curly Girl, brought home one of those bumper stickers. She was so proud of it, that it created great disquiet in my mind. “Mommy, can’t we put it on the car?” she asked. A few weeks later, she asked again, sadly. “Mommy, why haven’t you put my honor roll bumper sticker on the car yet?”
After looking at her sad face, I compromised. The honor roll bumper sticker went in a place of honor on the refrigerator. It hasn’t quite made it out to the car. Yet.
So maybe that wasn’t a lie.
But I can think of maybe 20 other things that I vowed I’d never do. And now I have done them.
What about you?
Marla Jo Fisher was a workaholic before she adopted two foster kids several years ago. Now she juggles work and single parenting, while being exhorted from everywhere to be thinner, smarter, sexier, healthier, more frugal, a better mom, better dressed and a tidier housekeeper. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at http://themomblog.freedomblogging.com/category/frumpy-middleaged-mom-marla-jo-fisher/.