by Amy Simon

They say being in the armed services is the hardest job you'll ever love.

Try parenting first.

People have NO idea what they're getting into. Ask any parent - especially of a teenager - if you knew then what you know now wouldja still have 'em?

I had no idea what I was getting into. I read all the books like "What To Expect When You're Expecting". Not that helpful. Did not prepare me. I took the LaMaz courses. I was SO eager and so na´ve. I did everything they said - quit smoking - crack - quit drinking - took long walks and all that and when I went into labor I brought my little food bag for the beer they said I could finally drink and my Led Zeppelin tapes - yes tapes in those days - they said would help me pass the time. PULEEEZE! I had one of those long long labors - 37 hours. three days of labor! Oy. We got to the hospital on a Friday night after hours of hell and they sent me home - said I wasn't "dilated". I was devastated until they told me I could drink the beer - had that bottle open before I hit the elevator. By Monday I was a mommy.

Why do we have these kids anyway - besides the need to feel immortal? Lotsa reasons. Babies are cute and cuddly and you don't realize that they turn you into a fluids control monitor or a sleep-deprived nurture shocked multi-tasking slave. But then they hug and kiss you and their eyes light up when they see you and you realize you are important so that'll hold ya for a while. Then they start tawkin' - momma dada and your heart grows bigger then you ever imagined. Then they turn into toddlers and become mobile - oh she took her first step and your life is over and you realize you can't sneeze or pee without wondering where they are which is invariably hanging from the chandelier or trying to get out the front door or sniffing paint.

Then they hit daycare - if you can afford it - or pre-school - if you can afford it and what happens then? They bring home every germ on the planet and there's snot and puke and crap for years and that's the way it's supposed to be so their immune system develops. Then they hit school unless you're one of those people who home-school - I'd personally rather burst into flame - I couldn't WAIT for those little humans to be out of my hair for a couple of hours - and they come home from the playground with all sorts of stuff - opinions, ideas, beefs "How come Janey's allowed to eat pop tarts and Doritos for snack"!

"Because Janey's parents don't care if she gets cancer or diabetes, sweetheart". Yeah yeah it's all a big learning curve isn't it? Then the scariest thing happens. They turn into teenagers. Strange alien beings. I am the mother of a teenager and I'm ready for rehab. She's fourteen and I never imagined puberty would have been harder the second time around. And she gets all "leave me alone" and "don't touch my hair" and I walk into her room and she's all "Can I help you" Can I help you??? I'm your mother. You used to live inside of me for Chrissakes! Let's not forget that little piece of info!

But she's out there in the world and I am terrified. When she was little she would say "oh mom you're so smart you know everything" and I would say "oh honey I don't know everything. But I always know when you're lying and I always will". Now when she goes out I say have a good time honey, make good choices and remember... GOD IS WATCHING! Never mind that she doesn't believe in god. Guilt works. And fear. She's scared and that's the way I like it. I want her to be terrified of "consequences". And she is. I don't wanna be her friend - she has friends. She has one mother. I am one mother if you know what I mean. Whatever works. But here's the thing. I know exactly how to keep tabs on teenagers.

Sniff 'em. If my parents had sniffed me - they would have been surprised. The nose knows. When I was a teenager my parents had no idea what I was up to. They weren't even up when I got home. This was the seventies - need I say more? Being a parent can be a thankless job. Sometimes you can't win. Just ask Paris Hilton's parents.

Or blame them.

Oh yes, of course I had to bring up Paris Hilton. Look, I don't know anything about that family other than what I read. Maybe they tried to instill good values in her and maybe they are really great parents but I'll tell ya this. If I ever turned on the TV and saw my kid in a bikini eating a cheeseburger and humping a car, I'd kill her. I don't know - these kids today. You look at the few that get all the bad press - Lindsay Lohan and how her mother was her party pal and her dad did her no favors. The point is - you can't win. And it's easy for me to look like a good parent when you have parent's like Paris Hilton's. Or Lindsay Lohan's and of course the poor "pop wreck" as she's called - Britny Spears. Tawk about a disaster.

How about HER mom. Yikes.

A couple of years ago when my pre-teen thought I was "mean", I found a horrible and true article in the newspaper about a family whose son was so difficult that the parents couldn't figure out a good way to discipline him. So they made him sleep outside and when he didn't take the dog for a walk they put dogshit in his backpack. Swear to god true story.

So I cut this article out and made my daughter read it. And I said "Who's mean"?

Why do we have kids anyway? Oh sure when they do well, such nachas. Nachas is a Yiddish word that means pride from your children. And it is the best feeling in the world.

But when they screw up or turn out to be a serial kier - who takes the rap? The mother.

What kind of mother did he have? Where were the parents, we say, when kids are driving around drunk.