Classes Every Parent Should Take

I learned a lot in college.

For example, I can recite a great deal of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in old English. I conjugate verbs in Latin when I can’t sleep. And I always get all the questions correct on Jeopardy when the topic is Shakespeare.

In short, I learned very little that is of any use to me in my current life as a mother to an inquisitive, science-minded little boy.

I’m sure than one day my English degree will be handy when it comes to teaching my son. But right now, I’m wishing I’d been able to take classes like these:

Common Sense 101 (also known as How to Answer Questions about the Universe that you Probably Learned in 3rd Grade but Forgot by the Time you were 30): JC has been informing people how a steam engine runs since he was two or so. I thought it was cute and quirky. A few months ago, he asked me how ice was made. I told him that when water gets cold, it freezes. And frozen water is ice. This answer was not good enough him. After a long talk with his father, Little Man informed me that water is made of molecules, and when molecules slow down, they freeze. When they speed up, water boils. He then applied this information to his prior knowledge of steam combustion engines. And left me scratching my head.

Then came the question, “Mom, what is the difference between batteries and electricity? And where does electricity come from?”

Um…Georgia Power Company?

It is unnerving to feel like you can’t answer questions posed to you by someone who just learned to pedal a tricycle. I spend a lot of my downtime on google, researching his questions.

Budgeting: I took a personal finance class in college. I learned to balance a check book. What I didn’t learn was how to be prepared for the sudden onslaught of $20 Thomas the Train toys and the damage they would do to a household budget. Or how to coupon so that I could made space in my grocery budget to buy organic food so that my kid doesn’t grow up to have three arms.

Public Relations: It would be useful to know how to smooth over a random person at the grocery store after my kid looks at her critically and says, “My daddy owns gyms. You could go there and get skinny!” Classes related to this subject matter would be “Tact” and “Conversational Appropriateness” (ie, teaching your child that the entire population of the Lowes restroom doesn’t need to know he has a small tushie and, according to him, Mommy has a huge one).

Methods of Withstanding Torment: Topics would include “Meditation for Mental Removal during Prolonged Viewings of Elmo’s World”, “Differentiating Between Manipulative and Actual Need Crying”, and “Repetitive Reading of the Same Bedtime Story”.

Coping with Sleep Deprivation: Sure, I was sleep deprived when I was in college. But I was only responsible for my own life and the life of my houseplant. I really could have done with a formula that would help me figure out the ratio of caffeine consumption needed per lost hour of sleep for optimal job performance.

I will say that there were some classes in my collegiate education that have offered me some help in parenting–and those were my theater classes. Yes, the very classes my father thought I was crazy for taking have been the only ones that have offered me “real life” preparation: I use improvisation skills on a daily basis, as well as tricks like being able to keep a straight face.

Motherhood has been its own crash course in all of these topics, but it would have been handy to know some of the answers going in. I guess that’s why, by the third or fourth kid, parents are more relaxed.

But I’m still on kid #1, so until that changes (if it ever does!) I’ll just get back to googling where electricity comes from.

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