“I never thought I’d be fishing golf balls out of the toilet,” is the thought bubble that filled my head as I plucked the slippery wet golf balls from the trap at the bottom of the toilet.
That actually happened one night as I gave my youngest son Michael a bath.
He had filled his pockets with golf balls after finding them in the yard. The natural place for a three-year-old to put them would be down the toilet, totally logical. It’s going to be the title for my book someday of all the wild, weird, wacky stuff that happens when raising children, and no one warns you.
I always tell soon-to-be new moms to get the owner’s manual upon delivery at the hospital. I forgot all three times after giving birth. You just have to learn as you go, and you never know if you are doing it right. You have to get into a groove, and trust your instincts, and apply loving tenderness.
Now my children are grown or almost there, aged 22, 20, and 15, all boys. It was like living in a fraternity house. There were lots of dirty clothes, many trips to Costco, meals to be made, and bathrooms to clean. Don’t even get me started on the bathrooms—male urine pH is just stronger and fouler, and the smell gets into anything within spraying distance, including the shower curtain (wash the shower curtain).
I actually found a sandwich one day behind a pillow, wedged between the cushions and the couch frame. I used to joke that they’d let me out of [the] laundry room long enough to go grocery shopping.
Never underestimate the amount of food that teenage boys and their friends can consume. Gatorade should be purchased in a 55-gallon drum. Let me tell you that you haven’t lived until you have experienced picking up a carload of sweat-soaked soccer players, wrestlers, or football players.
The pay really sucks, because you have to wait years for the dividends to slowly roll in. However, the rewards arrive in an intrinsic way, as you watch them grow into clever, intelligent, creative, hardworking people whom they eventually evolve into. The paycheck is that you had something to do with the fact that they are becoming these unique individuals.
There is a side bonus, too: you become a better person yourself. Not that you are not a good person without being a parent; I would never say that. However, being a parent teaches patience and to be less selfish. You grow along with them. This work of familyhood takes you to the school of hard knocks; you make mistakes, you try again, you realize you aren’t perfect—and, really, who is? We are muddling around trying to make it appear that we really all have our sh*t together. Psst—that’s kinda bullsh*t. No one’s life is perfect except on Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook.
Here’s the real deal, and it only took me 50 years to figure this out. It’s the illusion of what we dare show people, but inside in our own worlds, our private thoughts, everyone is really trying to hold it together. They are having their own golf balls in the toilet moments.
Let’s try to remember that and cut other people a break, especially if they are having a bad day or make a bad call. Don’t be doormat, but no need to make other people feel less than either.
To quote Ram Dass, “We are all just walking each other home.”
And let’s hope no one yells “Fore!” while you are getting there.