For real. If your parenthood status is anything under the first birthday of your first child (including prospective and currently gestating parents), stop reading right now. This entry is full of BPA! And parabens! And lead! It’s full of lead! And if you read it, it’ll leach into your precious baby’s bloodstream! Run along, now.
Are they gone? That was cruel, I know. I had to make them leave, though. If they saw what’s really in this entry, it would be far more toxic to them than lead.
It has seemed to me lately that I am no longer considered by my peers as a new mom who is expected to be dazed and scared. I’m not exactly a seasoned veteran who’s earned retirement, but I’ve done a couple tours of duty. I’ve got some battle scars, and the new recruits are starting to look pretty young to me.
Nobody’s really asking for my advice. I wouldn’t expect it – the world is full of grandparents and parenting books. Besides, in the end, parenting is something you just have to figure out how to do your own way. Nevertheless, as proof that I’ve actually learned something in the last six years, I present the For Your Eyes Only Super Secret List of Parenting’s Most Unexpected Lessons (please note that the examples given here are all completely hypothetical and for the purposes of this exercise only):
Lesson #1: The stuff you expect to be hard is never actually the hardest part of parenting.
People expect some difficulties: exhaustion from a newborn’s round-the-clock schedule, missed work because of sick kids, debates with co-parents about whether that lollipop from your mother-in-law ought to have been declined or not. We probably universally underestimate these challenges, but they don’t completely blindside us.
Here’s what’ll get you: The day you thought you had it all together. You were on schedule to drop the kids off on time, you remembered to put the shopping bags in the car so you could run errands later without stopping at home, your cell phone was actually charged for a change, the “go” bag was packed with everything the kids would need – in short, you’ve anticipated Potential Emergencies 1-4. And what happens? PE#5. As you are heading out the door, someone throws up.
And what’re you gonna do now, punk, huh? All your advance planning is for naught. Feels good, doesn’t it?
Or, the day when everything was going wrong. Stuff you thought was all organized turns out to be missing or in complete disarray. Every task is taking three times as long as you thought. Everyone is crabby. Finally, you decide that if you don’t stop for a minute to pee, your bladder is going to explode, and that’s just not going to make anything better.
Too late, you realize there is no toilet paper. None on the roll, none in the cupboard. And suddenly you are sobbing in the bathroom because you are the only one who ever cares whether there is toilet paper or handsoap or clean towels and if anything ever happened to you, you just know your children would be living in a toilet paperless, handsoapless, towelless world and think of the children!!! And then you start to think they wouldn’t care, except maybe to wonder what happened to that lady who was always harping on about the damn handsoap. And you know that you’ve maybe lost perspective a teensy bit, but when you emerge from the bathroom and stomp downstairs for the toilet paper, you add a little extra oomph to the stomping just so they know.
That is parenting in the trenches, my friend.
Lesson #2: You are going to break those rules you made up for yourself.
At this point, I’ll just reiterate that these stories are fictional, and when I say “I,” I really mean “my made-up friend, Schmulie.” If we can all remember that, it’ll be far better for my self-esteem.
My junior-high Home Ec class included a unit on child development. Because I was 13, I believed myself to be an expert on child-rearing based on this class (In the sewing portion of the curriculum, I created a pair of fugly shorts into the hems of which I sewed the masking tape I was supposed to use to mark the length, and then remove. So, master seamstress AND child-rearing expert. Am awesome!). One of the things that really stuck out was when the teacher explained that around age 4, most children will start asking a lot of questions. I’m pretty sure the example she gave was, “Why is the sky blue?” And she rolled her eyes and told us how trying this could be for the parents of these little inquisitors.
I virtuously promised myself that I would always answer every question my kids asked. If I didn’t know, I would research it! We would explore the world together! It would be grand!
“Why is the sky blue?” is a terrible example of the kinds of questions kids ask. Kids ask, “What happened to that lady’s face?” and “Why is that a butterknife?” (It’s still undetermined whether this meant “what is the purpose of a butterknife, ” “why is that called a butterknife,” “what is a butterknife made of,” or “why are you giving me a butterknife” – actually, at this point I’m pretty convinced there never was a butterknife.)
13-year-old self, if you can figure out appropriate-for-time-and-place answers to those kinds of questions, be my guest. Otherwise, I suggest you take that high and mighty attitude elsewhere. Also, please reconsider your hair. It is very frizzy.
And now, all of you who ignored my warnings at the beginning. You just had to read it anyway, didn’t you? The good news is, you don’t believe me. You know you’re different. I mean, the monster at the end of the book turned out to be sweet furry old Grover after all, right? (Oh, oops. I meant to say *Spoiler Alert.*) You’re right. I’m probably exaggerating the dangers. Anyway, I’m off to read about how if I do everything exactly right now, my future teenagers will be unfailingly polite and will never break curfew. Catch you later!