With great power comes great therapy bills

I had no idea, you guys. No idea. I was ready for the sleepless nights, the dirty diapers and even the ass-numbingly dull act of reading the same stupid children’s book over and over again. But nothing, NOTHING, could have prepared me for the power that comes with parenting.

The sheer POWER, people!

And I’m not just talking about the immense physical power you have over a baby. Although I think we can all agree it would take very little effort on your part as an adult to kick a baby’s ass. I mean, sure, their little hands are always balled up in tiny fists, but most babies can’t throw a decent punch. So right there you already have a pretty big advantage. Plus it’s pretty difficult to execute a decent roundhouse kick when you can’t even hold your head up properly.

And I’m not even talking about the almost god-like power that comes with you being the only thing standing between your baby and certain death. They count on you entirely for food and shelter and clothing and hitting that button on their toy that starts the music. (They’re not like cats. You can’t just put them in a crib with a bunch of bottles and a litterbox and leave for three days. They’re much more like dogs in that they will alert you every five minutes with their status update. Hungry now. Want attention now. This ball appears to be stationary and I’d really like it not to be now). In fact, a baby’s survival rate without your direct interference is pretty low.

But even so, the greatest power you hold as a parent is that you are your child’s first and most important teacher. Seriously, these kids come out of the womb knowing nothing. They haven’t even heard of the Kardashians yet. You have to teach them EVERYTHING. (Well, everything except how to suck on a nipple and how to poop in the tub, both of which they do automatically by instinct).

As a new parent, this is a pretty intimidating thought. One, because with that much power, it’s very hard not to become corrupt. History has taught us that. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and whatnot. I mean, just think how easy it would be to teach them that the sky is called a nurple and that they should call your mother Dave instead of Grandma. If you think about it, there’s really nothing stopping you from doing this besides basic human decency and the priceless look on Grandma’s face when junior yells “Hi, Dave!” across the restaurant pretty much trumps that.

And two, that much power leaves a lot of room for mistakes. Take, for example, how my husband and I have accidentally set back our son’s language skills by years, if not decades.

It all started innocently enough. About three months ago, when Riker was at that stage where he was smiling but not quite laughing yet, we were doing everything short of standing on our heads to get him to giggle. Goofy dancing. Silly songs. Some Louis C.K. jokes while standing in front of a brick wall.

Nothing.

And then we did stand on our heads. And then we stood on each other’s head.

Again. Nothing.

Nada.

Zilch.

Just the vacant stare of a baby who is wondering just how crappy of a person he was in his previous life to end up with these two yahoos as parents this time around.

But just when we were about to give up and face the reality that we gave birth to a tiny Ben Stein, we finally discovered his particular brand of humor: The Horsey Noise.

Yes, for this kid, that sound when you vibrate your two lips together like a horse’s neigh was the height of comedic genius. He just laughed and laughed. And so we kept doing it. Because once you hear your baby laugh, you never want that sound to end. We did it 50 times in a row. And then another 100. He would just laugh and laugh and then poop and then laugh some more.

We did it so much, in fact, that he started imitating us. Spittle and drool flying all over the place as he Horsey Noised and then we Horsey Noised and then we all Horsey Noised together. We just couldn’t stop. It was so adorable. Not to mention so monumental considering it was his first major attempt to communicate with us that wasn’t in the form of screaming.

So there we are, the three of us, just doing the Horsey Noise back and forth for weeks. When one day we noticed he started doing it the moment he saw us. He’d greet us with Horsey Noise and say good-bye with Horsey Noise. And then he started doing it every time we talked to him.

“Are you hungry?”

“…(horsey noise)…”

“Can you say ‘Momma’?”

“…(horsey noise)…”

With growing uneasiness, we also noticed that whereas he used to babble and coo and make different sounds, they’d all been replaced by Horsey Noise. My name? Horsey Noise. Daddy is also Horsey Noise. The dog? You guessed it. Horsey Noise.

It’s gotten to the point that I know we should stop but I worry that if we do, it may cause some severe psychological damage. The Horsey Noise is the first time we’ve been able to verbally relate to each other. So suddenly no longer doing it back to him would be like your parents having spoken to you in French your entire life and then suddenly addressing you in Chinese with no explanation.

And he’s just so proud he finally mastered Horsey Noise. I can’t take that away from him.

So, obviously there’s only one solution. Everyone is just going to have to make Horsey Noise their primary language. Even Dave.

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Time flies when you’re elbow deep in poo

It is currently 9:04 p.m. as I write this. If you were to put a gun to my head right now and demand that I recount how I just spent my entire day, I’d be dead. Like super dead.

(Super dead, of course, being more dead than just regular dead and a lot more dead than mostly dead).

That’s because I have no bloody idea what I did today. Or yesterday. Or for the past five months.

It wasn’t always this way. I used to be able to flawlessly recall my daily activities, from what Netflix show I was currently binge watching to what specific type of pizza roll I was mindlessly eating while binge watching said Netflix show.

And then I became a parent.

See, as it turns out, parenthood is a constant state of being where you never have any free time and yet nothing ever seems to get done. And even though my to-do list has now been whittled down to just one main objective every day (“keep kid alive”), at the end of the day, I can’t tell you how I got there.

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I mean, sure, in general terms, I can say, yes, I fed him and changed his diapers and played “I’m Gonna Eat Your Tootsies” roughly 316 times. But the math just doesn’t add up. Because doing those things technically only takes up a relatively small portion of my day.

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So, how is it then that when I crawl into bed at night, I have no idea where the other 70 percent of my day went?

Well, being the scientifically minded person that I am, I came up with some theories.

Possible Theories On Where The Time Actually Goes:

  1. Babies are like vampires. You look into their adorable eyes and are unknowingly glamoured. But since they can only babble instead of talking in full sentences, your brain isn’t filled with false memories but rather with a jumble of random sounds and images.
  2. Just like road hypnosis, where you are suddenly sitting in the parking lot of work but don’t remember driving there, there is such a thing as diaper hypnosis, where you change diapers so often you no longer remember doing it.
  3. Patrick Stewart invented some kind of machine that steals minutes from the lives of anyone who watches reruns of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and that’s why he hasn’t aged in 30 years.
  4. Maybe time really does fly when you’re having fun. And it shoots off like goddamn rocket when you have a baby screaming directly into your face.
  5. Technically bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly because their bodies are too heavy for their wings and other science stuff. And yet, they still fly. I don’t really know how this relates to me never having any time but you gotta admit, that’s pretty shady. They’re up to something.

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Or it could just be that you can no longer remember what you’ve done all day because as a parent, you’re doing 12 things all at once, all of them one-handed and at least three-fourths of them half-assed.

For instance, I still watch Netflix but now I’m also trying to shovel a spoonful of glop (the technical term for rice cereal mixed with breast milk) into a tiny and constantly moving target at the same time. And then I’m cleaning up the glop from the floors and the walls and the target’s hair and feet while trying unsuccessfully at the same time to keep the dog from eating the leftover glop that is smeared all over the kid’s face. All while also talking to my mom on the phone because this was the only “free time” I had to talk. And then I empty only half of the dishwasher because I just remembered I need to take the clothes out of the washer, the same load that’s been in there for 11 days because I keep forgetting about it, just rewashing it over and over again because by the time I remember it’s in there, all the clothes are dank and musty. But on my way there, the kid throws up and so I go to change his clothes, putting him in my old Nirvana T-shirt because all his clothes have been in the washer for 11 days. And then he’s crying so we go for a walk in the park (first packing a diaper bag with 98 percent of my son’s belongings inside it) while I try to pay bills online via my smartphone, steering drunkenly one-handed and running over squirrels and small dogs. And then we’re home and I take him out of the stroller only to discover he left behind the entire contents of his lower intestines. So then I’m elbow deep in poo and bleach and my husband calls to see what we want to do for dinner and all this continues for 16 more hours until I go to bed wondering what the hell just happened.

It could be that’s where all the time goes.

But personally, I think it’s the bumblebees.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Baby Toy Assembling

I was told a lot of things about being a parent before I had my son. For example, some of my favorite gems include:

“You’ll never not be doing laundry.”

“You’ll never not be covered in fluids that aren’t yours.”

“You’ll spend the first part of their life trying to teach them to talk and the rest of their life telling them to shut up.”

But the one thing I wasn’t told? That I would need a degree in engineering.

Yes, I was, and still am, highly ill-equipped to deal with the barrage of “some assembly required” items that have entered my home since junior arrived. Toys, activity play sets, swinging chairs, various contraptions that basically serve as baby jails. All of them needing a toolbox and a set of skills that are more advanced than my current level of construction knowledge, which begins and ends with the phrase “rightie tightie, leftie loosie.”

And silly me, wasting all that time getting a journalism degree (which now should just be called a “Hey, want to write for my website for free? It’ll give you good exposure” degree) when I should have been building a replica of the Death Star or whatever it is they do in engineering school.

Take my most recent baby item building adventure. Last week, I discovered a still-in-the-box bouncy chair, which was revealed after the Great Stuffed Animal Mountain Avalanche of 2014 (a mountain hastily constructed by me a few months ago while “cleaning” the nursery closet, which should already give you some idea of my engineering capabilities).

I immediately decided I had to put it together because as I’ve learned (and here’s a little parenting gem I can pass on to you), you can never have too many places to set your child down. So, I opened up the instruction manual and spent the next three hours doing the following:

Step 1: Hold down the two sides of the dobbler and insert the dobbler into the doohickey. But only if you happen to have the natural strength of Hercules because the dobbler is actually manufactured to be just slightly larger than the doohickey because we here at Generic Toy Company have a cruel sense of humor. In a last ditch effort, use a hammer (not included) to just bang the crap out of both parts until they fit.

Step 2: Take the oddly shaped bright red thingy and screw it into the oddly shaped bright yellow thingy.

Step 3: Insert the dancing cow beside the singing duckies until you hear it click into place.

Step 4: Hook the canvas piece onto the tiny plastic hook and then attempt to stretch it all the way across to the other tiny plastic hook. Which is, of course, impossible because we manufactured it to only go three-fourths of the way across. But that won’t stop you from pulling and stretching and pulling and cussing and getting all red-faced and sweaty until you finally get so fed up you throw it across the room while your dog cowers in the corner.

Step 5: Spend a frustrating 20 minutes looking for that stupid blue piece, which was JUST HERE A MINUTE AGO, DAMMIT!

Step 6: Locate the battery panel. Which you probably won’t be able to do because we hid it. Extremely well. And even if by some miracle you do happen to find it, we screwed it tightly shut because of all the criminals out there who sneak into homes and steal all the batteries from children’s toys. Even though technically that’s a counterintuitive measure considering there are no batteries in there yet. Spend 45 frustrating minutes trying to unscrew the battery panel screws, which are specifically designed to not fit well with any standard screwdriver. Insert 28 double AA batteries.

Step 7: Debate internally for at least an hour on whether or not this death trap is safe enough for your child.

Step 8: Decide “screw it” and plunk him down in the bouncy chair because you’ve been up since 5 a.m. and haven’t peed since 5:01 a.m. and it’s now 8 p.m. and your arms are numb from carrying him around and he hates the crib and the swing this week and you haven’t eaten since Tuesday and hey, kids in the 60’s survived licking lead paint walls and cars with no seat belts.

Step 9: Enjoy 12 blissful minutes of peace as he plays in the bouncy chair, which seems, at least marginally, structurally sound.

Step 10: At 13 minutes, take him out of bouncy chair because he is now crying hysterically.

Step 11: Add bouncy chair to the Corner of Useless Baby Crap, which is now no longer really a corner but more three-fourths of your living room.

How to simplify your life in one easy step

When you become a parent, you quickly find yourself looking for anything that will make your life easier. This is exactly why I own no less than five Fisher-Price devices that are all just glorified chairs, each of which moves the kid in a slightly different way. Oh, you’re tired of vibrating? How about swinging? No? Bouncing chair it is then.

Seriously, most of my day is spent just moving the kid from chair to chair so I can do fun parent stuff, like washing the covers of whatever chair he is not currently in because he doesn’t consider it a successful day unless he’s pooped through his diaper at least three times.

And suffice it to say, my kid is an overachiever.

But this quest to make my life just a little bit easier has led me to my greatest idea of all time. I am currently writing this using a speech-to-text app. Yes, no more trying to write with a squirming kid climbing all over my face. I just talk and it types. I know. I know. I am brilliant exclamation point.

Oh crap. Well, I’ll just go back and fix that later.

Where was I? Oh yeah, simplifying my life. Oops. I forgot it writes down everything I say. Don’t forget to erase this part.

Thankfully, we modern parents have fabulous technology available with just a click of button to help us out. I mean, I can’t imagine how hard it was even a few decades ago for a mom to try and work from home without all the conveniences that we have BUFFY, STOP LICKING THE BABY’S FACE. I mean it. I will spank your little puppy butt if you don’t knock it off.

New paragraph. Oh, son of a beach. Come on.

Well, at least the auto correct works on this thing. Thank Bob.

OK. So, modern conveniences. Just imagine, for example, how much time is saved with disposable diapers and the freedom that is gained with a breast pump. The fact that I can pump and leave my husband with a bottle so I can leave the house is pretty much the only reason that my sanity is still intact. I would have gone crazy long ago if Riker, get that out of your mouth. How did you even manage to pull that much hair off the dog? No, icky. Give it to mommy. Bob, I can’t wait until summer is over and the dog stops shedding.

Technology. Technology. Maybe insert some joke about Angry Birds raising my kid. No, that’s dumb. No one plays Angry Birds anymore. Words With Babies? Is that anything? This is going to be my worst column ever BUFFY, I SAID DUCKING KNOCK IT OFF.

Oh, sweetie no, don’t cry. Mommy was yelling at the dog, not you. Come here, little butt. Man, I really need to think of a better nickname for you. You’re going to kill me someday when you’re older and it gets out that I called you little butt when you were a baby. Speaking of which, do you need a diaper change? Oh, I think you do.

Whoa. Buddy, that’s a lot of shot. What have you been eating? Or, I guess, what have I been eating? With little butts come big packages, eh? Oh my Bob, I have poop on my shirt. When the he’ll did that happen?

OK, we a happy boy again? Who’s a happy boy? Who’s my happy boy? Wanna go in your chair so momma can finish dictating her column? Alright, let’s try Mr. Swing. I’ll even turn on the Bob awful music feature, where all the songs sound like they were composed on an eighties keyboard. No? You don’t like the swing today? OK, how about the highchair that feels like it’s made from Nickelodeon slime? You good there? Yes? Yay! That’s my good BUFFY! I will punch you in the face if you don’t quit it. That’s not your ducking toy and you know it. Drop it. I SAID DROP IT. Good boy.

Oh Bob. It wrote all that down? Shot, this was a horrible idea. I’m so ducking tired. And I should probably do the dishes before that leaning tower of plates collapses.

Hmm. I guess I could just come back later and fix all this. I’m sure I won’t forget. I mean, ha! Even I’m not that sleep-deprived.

Yeah, screw it. I’m gonna go stuff my face with chips.

33 Things I’ve learned in 33 years*

*(New Parent Edition)

1. A baby’s cry has the magical ability to make time stop. For instance, 45 seconds of crying feels like three hours. And three hours of crying feels like you can’t remember life before the crying started and will probably die before it ends.

2. There are a lot of perks to having a baby. Using them as an excuse to stop cleaning your house is the best one.

3. How much a baby wants to vomit is directly proportional to how much you like the outfit you are currently wearing.

4. Never get mad when someone gets the gender of your baby wrong. Only get mad when they get your gender wrong.

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5. Watching your kid get a shot at the doctor really does hurt you more than it hurts them. But then you remember how much the first six weeks of breastfeeding hurt and suddenly you don’t feel nearly as bad for them anymore.

6. Babies are born with two very strong instincts: To suckle and to headbutt you right on the nose. They will want to do both of these things often.

7. Ironically, babies themselves are the best form of birth control.

8. You will love your baby more than anything else in the world. Except for sleep.

9. Always assume a pregnant woman is hungry. Because she is.

10. You cannot fathom how much you will talk about poop once you have a baby. How much, how often, consistency, color, smell, whether or not it exploded out of their cute, little tushie like an erupting volcano. It will sneak into every conversation you have.

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11. Apparently, there is such a thing as a stupid question. Or at least that’s what my son’s pediatrician told me when I called him at 3 a.m. last night.

12. Dogs love babies. And they show this love by licking them directly in the mouth every chance they get.

13. Hearing your baby laugh is the best sound in the world. I don’t have a follow-up joke for this. It just really is.

14. You will often find yourself oversharing incredibly personal information to your other mom friends, such as how your C-section scar is healing and why you need to use a nipple shield while breastfeeding. And you will do this loudly. While in public places.

15. Never tell a pregnant woman that cheeseburgers are not an acceptable breakfast food. She will stab you.

16. Babies use sleep deprivation as a mind control device. You will quite literally be willing to do anything for them if it means you can just take a five minute nap.

17. No matter how clearly you explain it to them, babies will never understand the correlation between them shoving their finger in their eye and why they are currently in pain and crying.

18. Never ask a pregnant woman if you think she should be eating that. She will stab you.

19. You will completely forget how much you hated people who constantly posted photos of their kids all over Facebook and Instagram while you’re busy uploading 56 photos to your album “Baby’s First Tuesday!”

20. Never eat off a pregnant woman’s plate. She will stab you.

21. If there was an Olympic sport called “Who can pee the farthest?”, a baby would win.

22. If there was an Olympic sport called “Who can spit the binkie out the farthest?”, a baby would win.

23. If there was an Olympic sport called “How many times can I make this idiot pick up the binkie off the floor?”, a baby would win.

24. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure maternity ward nurses are angels. Angels handing out magical painkillers made of rainbows and unicorns and the happy tears of a teacup pig.

25. The second you brag about how well your baby sleeps through the night is the second he decides to wake up every 15 minutes every single night for the next six months.

26. Never ask a pregnant woman if she ate that entire cake. She did. And she will stab you.

27. Grandparents are the only people on this earth who will not immediately hand back to you your screaming child.

28. Screw sliced bread. Disinfectant wipes are the best invention since forever.

29. Once you have a baby, eating a meal becomes a luxury. One you can no longer afford.

30. For some reason, babies hate any entertainment that isn’t jiggling keys. Hence, you will never watch a full TV episode or a movie in its entirety ever again.

31. Never tell a pregnant woman you think she’s gained too much weight. She will cry. And then she will stab you.

32. There are a lot of things wrong with the world. But it’s hard to think of any of them when you have a sleeping baby on your chest.

33. It’s likely at some point in your life you will be stabbed by a pregnant woman.

Don’t take time to be a dad today

Remember those public service announcements a few years back that showed a dad playing with his kid and then encouraged other dads to “take time to be a dad today”?

Cute as they were, I always hated those commercials. Even though I understood the reasoning behind it (addressing the high numbers of absent and deadbeat dads in the U.S.), I still hated the message, for two reasons:

  1. There were no equivalent “take time to be a mom today” ad campaigns because it’s just assumed that mom will take care of the kid the rest of the time once dad is done “being a dad today.” And…
  2. The message set the bar pretty low, in my opinion, and did a great disservice to all the fathers out there who are dads every hour of every day of every year.

Perhaps it’s because I grew up without a father myself but nothing irritates me more than watching society pat crappy fathers on the back because they did the bare minimum in terms of fatherhood. This is especially true now that I have a child myself and have watched my husband not only step up to the plate in terms of fatherhood, but knock it out of the park.

Ryan was the first one to change Riker’s diaper. He was the first one to give him a bath and file down his Freddy Krueger-like talons. When I needed a break from breastfeeding because of the pain, he fed him with his finger and a tiny tube attached to a syringe to encourage correct suckling.

He’s the one that puts Riker to bed every night. He’s the undisputed king of sucking that kid’s gigantic boogers out with the booger sucker thingy. He faces diaper blow outs with the bravery of a knight in King Arthur’s court. He’s walked miles around our house trying to calm an unappreciative and very loud Riker during the witching hour.

And perhaps most importantly of all, when he gets home from a long day of work, he immediately takes our son from my arms to give me a break so I can write or clean or finally shower or, if need be, just stare vacantly at the wall for awhile because my brain is oatmeal after getting up at 4 a.m. and taking care of a 3-month-old (who views napping in the crib as a special kind of torture) all day.

In fact, he’s so good about this last part that I actually feel slightly guilty that the poor guy gets no down time during the week. His response when I told him?

“Taking care of him is my job too. I helped make him.”

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Yeah. Feel free to hate my guts, ladies.

Now you could easily dismiss this as simply Ryan being an anomaly. But over the years, I’ve watched several of my male friends and relatives turn into amazing dads. Dads that don’t just show up for the fun parts of parenthood but are there for the dirty, haz-mat suit should be required, parts too. Not to mention, all the men I’ve met over the years with older kids who were already amazing dads. Married, divorced, single, stay-at-home dads. It didn’t matter. Because what all these men had in common was that they didn’t need to take time to be a dad. Because they never took time off from being a dad.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a big problem in this country with men not being good fathers. Or even bothering to be fathers. There is.

But perhaps because of this problem, we tend to overlook the dads that need recognition the most. The guys who don’t just show up to the birthday party, but helped plan it. The guy who doesn’t just spend an hour on Saturday playing with Legos with his son, but spends all weekend building a giant Lego replica of the Death Star. The guy who volunteers to be chaperon for their daughter’s weeklong field trip to some awful campsite in the middle of nowhere.

Regardless of custody agreements, geographic location, work schedules, relationship with the mother or any other obstacle, these dads find a way to always be there for their children. And more importantly, let their children know, not just with words, but with deeds, that they will always be there for them.

So, fellas (especially you, Ryan), just know that someone, lowly and non-famous writer that she is, sees what you do and thinks you’re amazing for making the ordinary dad things you do extraordinary by simply thinking they are just ordinary.