When I grow up…

Leo has it all planned. When he grows up, he’s going to have lots of children. And he knows exactly how he is going to raise them.

Among his parenting tips are:

On sleeping: “My children will never take naps on the weekends. They will play all day long.”

On hygiene: “My children will never take baths.”

On nutrition: “I will let my children eat Spider-Man fruit snacks every day. And they will eat lots of food with bad coloring in it.”

On rules: “When I grow up, there will be no rules.”

Now I have no doubt that Leo will be singing a different tune when he becomes a father. But I had to laugh the other day when I thought back to the sweeping statements I would have made about parenting before I became a mother.

On sleeping: “We’ll never co-sleep.” As it turned out, co-sleeping was the only way we could get our toddlers to sleep in our first days with them. And we still let them sneak into bed with us in the mornings.

On hygiene: “We’ll brush our children’s teeth twice a day.” Sometimes your 2-year-old won’t even open his mouth for the toothbrush.

On nutrition: “Our children will never eat food off the floor.” I used to worry about germs. Then we watched our sons eat Cheerios off airplane seats and hotel floors in China.

On rules: “Our children will always know the rules because they’ll be stated clearly. In reality, you find yourself declaring “No Irish dancing on the stairs,” “No touching your brother in church,” and “If you are going to make that Pop-Tart into a gun, don’t point it at anyone.”

Parenting is like being a sports fan. It’s so obvious how to handle a parenting moment when you’re watching someone else’s child melt down in a store, act up during Mass, or revel in using potty words.

Naturally, your own children will never behave that way.

They’ll be obedient and well-mannered.

And they’ll never disagree when you refuse to buy Spider-Man fruit snacks at the grocery store.

I love that Leo wants to be a father so much. He even wants to know whether he or his little brother will be a Baba first.

Whenever it happens, Leo feels sure he’s ready.

Just don’t ask him how he feels about diapers.

One afternoon as I was changing Daniel’s diaper, Leo stood behind my shoulder watching.

“Mama,” he said. “I am not going to change diapers when I get big. My wife will do it.”

I was a bit taken aback. He has most certainly seen his father change diapers—many of them, in fact.

“Oh?” I said. “I hope she’s OK with that.”

“Yes, you will be OK with that, Mama,” Leo replied.

“What?” I said, half-listening as I fumbled with the wipes and tried to keep Daniel from wriggling away. “I’m going to be your wife when you get big?”

“Yes, Mama.”

I hesitated.

“I wonder how Baba will feel about that,” I said.

“He’ll be OK,” Leo said. “He can be Daniel’s uncle.”

As I say, he has it all planned.

Check back with him in 30 years.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.