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I wish you had known me before I had kids. I was a different person. I was a calmer person. A thinner person.

I had it all in B.C. (before children). I possessed a waistline, temperate speech, the patience of Job and the wisdom of Dr. Dobson, Dr. Rosemond and Dr. Seuss combined.

Oh, it's true, I didn't have any actual hands-on experience with children back then. In fact, I'd never once baby-sat a child overnight. I had never rushed a gushing facial wound to the emergency room and until I was age 26 I thought that Bert 'n' Ernie was one person. Burton was his first name and Ernie was his last.

Despite my lack of experience, I had a clear vision of what motherhood would be. I was certain I knew what it would be like to be a mom. At the center of the vision was a tidy house with a front porch and a wooden screen door.

The house would continually be full of children, not just my children, but neighbor children. Kids would be running in and out of the house, baking cookies in the kitchen, building forts in the back yard and studying bugs under magnifying glasses.

When their energy was spent, my children would not become quarrelsome little things protesting a commonsense nap. No, my children would come to me and say, "Mom, we're tired. We need a snack. Apple, banana, whole wheat muffins, no preservatives please." Then, the children in my vision, would beg me to read them verses from Longfellow while they quietly lie down to recharge their batteries.

If one of my children were, by some fluke, shall we say, disruptive, I, the expert without children, knew exactly what I would do. I would calmly and rationally discuss the problem with my child. After all, I would be dealing with a sequential-thinking, logical human, not an ordinary Ozark mule. A quiet talk, a hug, and the unpleasantness would be neatly behind us in less than 30 seconds.

The children in my vision were cheerfully compliant. They never stood in their high chairs, they never shoved peas up their noses, they never talked back. They never whacked off three pink peony bushes at the base with pruning shears, and the children in my vision never went door to door selling gravel to the neighbors for 50 cents a stone.

So much for fantasy. Three kids and many years later, I now realize that my initial vision of motherhood was a Normal Rockwell vision.

Reality comes with shades of Stephen King.

In all fairness, I must say that parts of the vision are there.

We do live in a house.

Knight Ridder Newspapers

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