Having a child is the greatest thing that ever happened in my life. I used to hate hearing parents talk about how much their children changed their life. I still do, but now I get to join in the conversation, so it’s not as bad.
However, there are a lot of things that they don’t tell you about parenthood that would be nice to know. I’m not referring to diapers and bottles and crying in the middle of the night.
No, I’m talking about the stuff that really matters. There are some lessons that I have learned in my nineteen months as a dad that I think all prospective parents should know.
Everything requires assembly
All things that babies need require assembly. They all come with directions written in hieroglyphics. It is clear to me that the people who write the directions never actually bother to put these toys together. Look at box 12.
What the hell is that? And box 14? What exactly are you supposed to do? Which direction? Hey, so long as the word CLICK! shoots out, you’re in good shape. And directions that come with car seats basically inform you that doing any step incorrectly will lead to the immediate death of your child, even before they are placed in the car seat. Here’s an idea… if it’s so critically important to have done right, why not charge $5 extra and have it ready when it comes out of the box?
Pacifiers are always behind the crib
It does not matter how many pacifiers your infant starts the night with. By morning, they will all be behind the crib. And I don’t mean next to the crib or at the side of the crib. I mean behind the crib. I can very easily reach three of the four corners of my daughter’s crib. All of the pacifiers always end up under the fourth corner. There are two ways to get them. Method one involves lying on the floor as flat as I can and reaching under the crib, hoping to grasp a pacifier with the tips of my completely outstretched fingers. This is when my daughter takes the opportunity to sit on my back, which is both cute and completely unhelpful. Method two involves moving the crib and getting back there. This is when my daughter inevitably runs in the room, which means that I can’t put the crib down, due to the risk of crushing little toes.
I love my daughter. But she’s a liar. Not about anything important, luckily. She lies about one thing: how tired she is. She just about never tells the truth about this particular topic. I ask if she’s tired. Frantic headshake. No no no, she says. I double check again… frantic headshake again. I ask a third time, this time picking her up. No no no no, she says. She frantically shakes her head…. while falling asleep with her head on my shoulder.
“Childproof” is a baldfaced lie
Childproofing the house guarantees one thing: adults will never figure out how to use it again. We have childproofed our blinds, doors, stairs, cabinets, and more. My father and father-in-law can no longer get up or down the stairs because the gate at the top is such a pain. The lock on the oven gets incredibly hot and makes it nearly impossible to get the chicken out on time. Plus, nothing is really childproofed. At best, I would say it’s child resistant. It’s like those water resistant watches: you can wear it if it’s raining, but you probably shouldn’t swim laps with it. Essentially, everything is stored away tight, so noone BUT the baby can get to it.
Swim diapers are not a substitute for regular diapers
My wife and I got our daughter ready to go swimming and realized that she was way too tired and needed a nap. So, we figured that we’d just take off her swimsuit, put her in her sleep sack (that’s parent-speak for “blanket,” by the way), and put her down for a nap. A couple of hours later, she woke up and I went in to get her. Sopping wet. Turns out that swim diapers do not keep the pee in. They’re designed to keep the poop in. The pee is just supposed to dissipate into the pool (makes you feel good about the pool, eh?). We did not know that. We changed the sheets.
Every new stage brings more things to worry about
We used to leave our daughter in the living room lying on her blanket, batting away at her little mirrored music-playing toy. Then, she learned to roll, and we had to worry about what was around her. Then, she learned to crawl and we had to worry about electrical outlets and steps and leaving things on the ground. Then, she learned to walk and we had to worry about what we left on the couch. Then, she learned to operate handles on doors and we had to worry about toilets and what we put in drawers that she can open. Then, she learned the climb. That’s a recent development and we now worry about everything. She can get on and over just about everything. Think something is safe on the kitchen table? On a nightstand? On a bed? On a shelf? Leave it there and let me know how that goes for you.
Nothing is ever lost. It’s merely been misplaced.
I’ve never been terribly organized, but I generally know where certain things are. My car keys and wallet, my glasses, my phone, and my shoes. Especially my shoes. Especially when I’m not at home. A couple of months ago, we were at my in-law’s house for dinner and we all decided to get ice cream. So, we get our daughter ready (a process that is discussed in the next section) and I go to put my flip flops on. No problem for my left foot. My right flip flop, though, is gone. Vanished. Nowhere to be seen. We searched everywhere. We had eight adults turning the house upside down and it was nowhere to be found. Finally, I dug into the trash. Nothing. Gone. I love ice cream, but walking into an ice cream parlor barefoot just seems wrong. No ice cream for me.*
A quick run to the store is the stuff dreams are made of
I used to do this thing some weekend mornings. It was called “running to the store.” It went like this: wake up, throw on clothes, grab keys, get in car, go to store. Now, the process is a bit longer: wake up to crying baby, steal fast shower, get dressed, get baby, change diaper (hers, not mine), put baby in high chair, make breakfast for baby, feed baby, clean up the kitchen (mostly the floor, but occasionally the table, walls, and the top of the dog), clean up the baby, dress the baby, find the baby’s shoes/sandals, get keys, get diaper bag, attempt to get baby in car seat, discover baby has pooped, return to baby’s room, change baby’s diaper, wash hands, put baby’s shoes back on, forget which pocket my car keys are in, get diaper bag again, put baby back in car seat, go to store. l
You will never use the bathroom alone again
Women, I’m talking mostly to you, but men, you’re not immune either. I’m not certain about this, but I don’t think that my wife has used the bathroom alone at our house since our daughter began crawling. I am more willing to use the lock than she is, but basically, there’s always a chance of a toddler toddling in. And they never leave.
Having a child has absolutely been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. But, damn… no one wanted to throw us a warning? Perhaps a short note with a heads up? Come on!
*The flip flop was found by my father-in-law more than a month later. It was buried behind a big, heavy couch. What we can’t figure out is when she did it. She’s watched all the time. This is when I came to the conclusion that my daughter – my cute, lovely, precious daughter – is actually an evil genius. Or a sorcerer. Or a wizard. Or a… well… something sly.