These kids are already screwed.
So I read in my Maxim that our personalities are finalized by the tender little age of 6 according to some study out of the University of California, Riverside. Now, I love my Maxim. It’s my thing. Let it go. But no amount of love can negate the fact that it’s not really the New England Journal of Medicine. So I double checked the facts, and lo and behold, it seems to be very solid stuff.
This story gives me hope. See, growing up I always wanted a big family. Seriously. I know you can’t picture it now, but a one time this was really important to me. I wanted to adopt all these little foreign babies and run a sweet-ass orphan Annie situation (sans abuse) WAY before Angelina stole all the thunder. Well, I don’t know where that burning desire went, or exactly when that flame burned out, but I know I absolutely do not want that for myself anymore. (And if the name Andrea Yates means anything to you, you wouldn’t want it for me either.) Better we find this out BEFORE the children, right Bluebirds?
But I do still want kids. Most of the time. I think. Like, when they are sleeping. (That’s cute.) Or when they are the age where they are able to verbalize what the hell they are about to cry for. (I appreciate the heads up.) Or when they can walk under their own power. (My two arms are already full without carrying your obnoxious body weight too, kiddo.)
When do I not want kids? I do not want kids when I am trying to pick out a new toothpaste at Target. (Because I need to smell each and every one.) Or when I want to watch a movie all in one sitting. (I already get ADD without any breaks in the action) Or when I want my entire Saturday to consist of sleeping in, coffee and reading all the newspapers that have piled up over the week. (There’s no nice word to use here, so I’ll just admit it. I can be selfish.)
But now, thanks to this study, my perception of parenthood has changed. It’s not the long drawn out 18 years I had previously imagined. Sure, it’s still 18 years of having to look at your kids in the face when they stick their tongue out at you, and having to hear them complain about what’s for dinner, and fighting about their right to drive your car that they never paid a penny for at the dealership or can even manage to put some gas into on the weekends. That stuff is not going anywhere. But the need to censor yourself is.
The first six years, everything is new, and therefore, the most exciting. Baby does everything for the first time, and this makes you happy, proud, encouraging, surprised, and convinced your child is the smartest, prettiest, classiest, most athletic and best overall human to ever walk the Earth. I could play into that for a while, and my kid could too because the first six years they don’t really get it yet. They love you because, on some level, they know they will die if they piss you off to the point where you quit feeding and clothing them. The fact that you do not allow television, sugar or pajamas without footsies in your home, which will make them a social outcast at birthday parties and sleepovers years down the road, is still beyond their comprehension.
And you cannot ever believe that this cute little bundle of puke and poop will one day tell you that they hate you and that you are the worst parent in the world. With no part of your being will you believe your child will be the one to grow up and steal chapstick from the gas station, or the one to skip school, or the one to get the beer to the after prom party.
But they will. And now, with this study, you can throw all your sleepless nights out the window, pack away your literature about raising responsible teenagers, and save your voice explaining for the MILLIONTH about why “because I said so” is, in fact, a sufficient answer. That personality is pretty much set in stone.
18 years is a long time to fake something. But 6? I could do 6. Easy.
I have been at the worst job of my life for nearly six years now, and while each day drags by minute by minute, in a small, weird way, parts of it have gone quickly, too. I did six years on a campus between college and grad school, and being a student is kind of like having a baby in the sense that you don’t ever sleep more than a few hours in a row, you are up for feedings at 2 am, at least one of your roommates is always crying/whining/screaming about something that you feel to be relatively minor. Nearly six years ago was my college graduation. Now that is scary.
So 6 years is the magic number? Yeah, I could probably manage that.