Joey Tribbiani’s Parenting for Dummies
By Jessica Guerrieri
As a mother, I am often reminded of the Halloween party episode of Friends in which a newly pregnant Rachel is poorly navigating the demands of naughty trick-or-treaters. Joey tries to calm her nerves.
Rachel: I am awful with children.
Joey: You’re good with kids. They’re just crazy on Halloween. You know, they’re all greedy and they’re hopped up on sugar.
Rachel: Really? That’s all it is?
Joey: Absolutely. Halloween is the worst. Except for Christmas. And their birthdays. And they kinda get a little crazy during the summer, too. And any time they’re hungry or sleepy. Kids are tough. Good luck with that.
Even Joey, with his limited wisdom, recognizes the truth about children: They are only difficult when they’re awake.
Early on, we are told that babies only cry when they are hungry, wet, or sleepy. Tend to one or all of these “magic three” needs and you’ll be rewarded with a calm infant. But it doesn’t take long to realize that sometimes there is no scientific justification for babies’ flails and wails. And because being defeated by a 10-pound lump of dimples that poops every 30 minutes isn’t an option, we rely on a fourth go-to excuse for fussy behavior: teething.
The plus side of kids getting teeth is that, as they age, they can finally verbalize which of the magic three is the issue. Except everyone knows that if humans could solve all their problems simply by eating when they’re hungry or sleeping when they’re tired, talk therapy would grow obsolete and the divorce rate would plummet.
For my birthday weekend, I went to San Francisco. Since I’ve come home, I’ve been reminded of why I needed a break from my kids. Not only have they struggled to perform previously mastered basic tasks, such as sleeping, eating, and getting dressed, but also the very act of existing seems to be an enormous ask.
For instance, one would think that the 40-degree winter walk to school would inspire my girls to dress warmly. Nope. My oldest only wears a single layer of black clothing, like she’s auditioning for an emo-ska band whose members also moonlight as ninjas. My middle daughter can’t wear jackets that are too “flue-fee” (not to be confused with “fluffy”) because she doesn’t like the noise the puffiness makes when she moves. The youngest wears rainboots no matter what. And she hates socks, so by the end of the day her feet smell like baked cabbages rolled in freshly cut lawn.
The entire walk to school I remind myself that the number of times they complain is also the number of times I won’t have to listen to them when I gleefully walk home. Later, I make a mental note to tell the kids about their great grandparents, who had to walk five miles—not five blocks—in the snow to school. Joey Tribbiani may have been right: It does seem to be kids’ role to complain. But it’s also mine to continually remind them of just how blessed we are.
Jessica Guerrieri is a mom and a freelance writer/blogger. Find her at witandspitup.com and on Instagram @witandspitup.