It is almost embarrassing how little I understood about parenting before having kids. All the memes, jokes, and warnings could not properly prepare me for what the experience would be like. I thought delusional sleep deprivation was an exaggeration. I assumed that it was only the boring parents who let their kids dictate their social calendars. I believed kids clothing was cheap and hardly a worry—after all, there’s less material, right? I even thought disciplining a child was only difficult for the weak-willed. Most of all, I was under the impression that a kid was just a lovely addition to the parents’ life; in reality, kids become the life—or, at the very least, they’re the impetus for a new life.
Unfortunately for my two older sisters, this lack of understanding for all things parenting manifested itself rather poorly in my 20s. I was single and stupid while they managed to pop out 5 kids between the two of them. Not only was I thrilled at my new designation as uncle, but I also had these lovely infants to use as a weapon in my quest for romance. Females could hardly stay away from me without the adorable nieces and nephew, can you imagine the madness when I had them in tow (*ahem* this is how I choose to remember my 20’s so let me have this doctored memory). With great love comes great responsibility, and there is nothing more important for an uncle than to provide the little ones with spectacular presents.
I thought I was incredibly clever with the presents I started delivering to my nieces and nephew. A plastic drum set. Recorders. Tambourines. Keyboards. Karaoke player. Microphones and speakers. Do you notice a theme? Apparently bent on punishing my sisters for the temerity of having kids, I decided every present I purchased must inflict damage on the mother. The louder and more annoying the toy, the better. If it rang and buzzed, I bought it.
I didn’t stop there either. A 5 pound chocolate bar? Yep. 20 bags of candy? You bet. PG movies when G was the limit? PG-13 a hair too soon? Sign me up for all of it, as that was just what uncles should be doing. Every time I made a holiday purchase for my four nieces and nephew, I contemplated what my sister would think. If I thought she would approve of the present to her child, then that was a telling sign that I needed to discard and find something more outrageous. If it was unhealthy, it was on the table. Loud and obnoxious were the desired adjectives.
The terrible thing about this practice was that I somehow didn’t stay in my 20s forever (crazy, no?). Not only did I age and mature (barely), I also managed to snag a bride—most likely because she saw me with a beautiful niece or three. This bride and I eventually decided to have a child and here I am: on the precipice of my first daughter reaching the age where the annoying toys can either be handed down or re-purchased in vengeance. And now that I have two daughters and am deadlocked in a never-ending battle to keep my sanity, I understand that I might have errored. Perhaps my sisters weren’t amused after all with the never-ending barrage of obnoxious toys? Back then, I was giving out pounds of sugar as often as possible; now, I’m fighting daily to keep my daughter away from all the sweet stuff!
I suppose there isn’t a real substitution for parenthood so let me be the one to extend myself some grace for the misunderstanding (how big of me). This might normally be the portion of the post where I offer a heartfelt apology to my sisters for my reckless attempts to punish them via gifts for their kids; however, that isn’t happening. I was the youngest of 3, which meant I was nothing more than a tortured plaything for my two older sisters. I’ll write this off as retribution.