The Playroom: Best-laid plans

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

In the wee hours of this morning, I woke up with the dog snoring in my ear, his leg over my shoulder. As I was lying there thinking, “This is so not right,” I also thought about how happy and content my dog was, lying there with his head on my pillow, flews flapping, snoring away. I kicked him out of my bed, said a few grown-up words about owning 153 pounds of dog and went back to sleep.

Owning the dog hasn’t turned out exactly the way I planned, but then neither have a lot of things in life, such as parenting my kids.

I’m not sure what I thought parenting was going to be like or what the plan was.

If I had thought about it I might have conceded that there would be some back talk but not sure I would have come up with “I hate you, you’re the worst mother ever,” from a 6-year-old, and it certainly never occurred to me that it would be so difficult to take a bedroom door off its hinges.

I knew I would get tired, but never knew that sleep deprivation was a CIA-endorsed torture technique that would make me contemplate gluing my eyelids to my head with superglue just to keep them open long enough to nurse a hungry infant. I didn’t know some kids would rather use a shower curtain than toilet paper. And I didn’t realize that following my mother’s advice, “If they’re hungry enough they’ll eat,” is a good way to starve a fussy eater until they pass out at school from hypoglycemic shock.

My husband often tells me to manage expectations. It’s good advice and gets me through Mother’s Day every year. But what are my expectations?

I expect that the kids will have some physical problem with their inner ear and they can’t hear my voice telling them to put their clean clothes away. I expect them to fight in the car, fight when brushing their teeth, fight over the stupid Wii I’m about to throw out the basement window, fight over breakfast cereals, pencils and water bottles. I also expect that given freedom of choice with the remote, they will watch horrible cartoons about an ambiguously ageless character named Bob, who is a sponge. And no matter how often I try, they will not eat organic kale roots and esoteric grains from ancient Peruvian civilizations that turn out to be better for you than butter.

As their own people they are never going to do or say what I might plan for them. Like this morning, after kicking the dog out of my bed and getting the kids ready for school, I was on the way out to the car and heard my son say to his sister, “Hey, I’ll give you 10 bucks to smell the dog’s butt.”


As I back the car out of the garage, I am thinking, “Who says stuff like that?” I realize we are on time for school and the dog’s vet appointment. I’ve got my coffee, my dog, a beat-up minivan, a house in the suburbs and my kids. I am happy and content, just like my dog. Sometimes everything around here does go according to plan.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. Her website is Email her at