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- No matter how many times you check to make sure your baby is still breathing while he’s sleeping, you will still need to check one more time. And then, just to be safe, one more time after that.
- Babies are born with the mistaken idea that diapers grow on trees. Which is why they think it’s totally cool to immediately poop the second they get a fresh diaper velcroed to their tooshie. Hey man, don’t sweat it. Mommy can just run out to the diaper tree in the backyard and pluck a fresh one. Which I will also immediately poop on. Because diapers are plentiful and free, dude.
- Vegetables truly are the worst. Human beings were never meant to eat them. Because if they were, babies (who have very little to compare them to and haven’t even TRIED cheeseburgers yet) wouldn’t spit peas out with the speed and accuracy of an AK-47.
- Newborn babies like to cry between 7-8:30 p.m. for no other discernible reason than they never want you to watch TV again. Which is why moms are always out of touch with pop culture and call celebrities by wacky monikers such as Jack Gypsypants and The Girl Who Looks Like She Smells Bad And Is In All Those Vampire Movies.
- The only people who can successfully swaddle a kid are wizards and my cousin Andrea. And I’m pretty sure Andrea is a wizard anyway.
- Babies don’t care if you lose the baby weight or if you have makeup on or even if you smell like a dead weasel carcass. They just want a nice, warm, soft place to vomit on.
- Children will think it is absolutely hilarious for you to gently throw a big rubber ball at their face for exactly six times in a row. The seventh time they will give you a look that says “Mommy, why would you hurt me?” and immediately start crying hysterically.
- You’re only as good as your last game of peek-a-boo. Babies know when you’re phoning it in.
- Cheerios taste better when they’ve been hiding under the couch for eight days and have a nice dust bunny coating on them.
- Babies spelled backwards is Seibab. There really is no point in me telling you that other than to demonstrate how child-induced sleep deprivation makes you very, very stupid.
- The only thing more joyous and wonderful than looking deep into your baby’s beautiful eyes is looking deep into your baby’s beautiful eyes while the babysitter is holding them and you are halfway out the door already.
- It’s never going to be about you again. And you wouldn’t want it any other way.
Remember when I was pregnant?
Of course you do. Everyone within a thousand mile radius of formerly pregnant me does. It’s hard to forget a real-life Stay Puft Marshmallow Woman wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting city and terrorizing the innocent town folk while loudly complaining about her swollen ankles.
Fortunately for me, those miserable 10-months (yeah, 10 months…since SOMEONE, I’m not naming names or anything, refused to exit my uterus in a timely manner and became a tiny squatter in my lady parts), are now all just a faded blur of eating cheeseburgers in bed while sobbing. That’s one of the major perks about having kids. Your brain is so busy forming new neural pathways, like which is the best way to extract a raisin out of a tiny nostril, that it pushes all the bad memories of how you got said kid right out of your brain.
This is how siblings are created.
That said, however, there is one thing I can never forget no matter how many memories are abolished by creative problem-solving the best way to pull out a squirming baby stuck under the coffee table. And that is all the horrible parenting tales I heard from other people.
I can’t tell you how many times I heard:
“You think you’re miserable now? Just wait until he’s born and you never get to sleep again.”
“Well, if you think newborns are bad, just wait until he starts crawling.”
“The worst part is when they turn two. That’s when they turn into Satan on crack.”
“You’ll want to kill yourself when they hit puberty. And them. Mostly them.”
“Basically, children ruin your life. Oh, but, I mean, it’s worth it.”
Almost every day I was pregnant I was bombarded by these remarks. It got to the point that I started having panic attacks that the next 18 years of my life would be sheer hell. Which, of course, when I told other parents this, they responded with, “Eighteen years? Pffffft. Parenting only gets worse once they become adults. Your life is ruined until you die. And even then, as a ghost, your kids will ruin your afterlife.”
I never understood this cruel need to inform pregnant women of every bad thing that had ever happened ever in the history of parenting.
That is, until my own little swamp demon was finally forcefully evicted from my uterus, and I found myself telling other pregnant first-timers all the worst things that had happened since he took his first breath. Which is ridiculous because I love being a mom. I can honestly say this is the happiest I’ve ever been. And yet, there I heard myself, cracking jokes about how breastfeeding feels like taking a honey badger with a cheese grater for a mouth to your bosom every three hours (I mean, it’s true, that’s exactly what it feels like, but why did I feel I had to share that with an already terrified and miserable woman?).
So, why don’t parents talk about the joys of parenting? Why do we choose only to share the worst aspects of family life?
For a long time, I couldn’t figure this out. But then, I started trying to write about it, trying to write about all the good things that come with bringing a life into this world.
And to my surprise, I found I couldn’t. I, a professional wordsmith, couldn’t find the words.
See, I can easily describe to you the sights, sounds and smell (especially the smell) of every diaper blowout my baby has had. And yet, the first time I sang my crying baby to sleep, describing that is damn near impossible.
Oh sure, I can describe to you the circumstances, the facts of the matter. He was 2-months-old. He’d been crying for an hour. Nothing I did could get him to stop. Not bouncy-bounce time. Not the flying Superman baby game. Not even my last resort option of “Hey, look, a boob! Please eat again and shut up!”
Worst of all, Daddy wouldn’t be home for another hour.
Out of sheer desperation and because it worked in every single movie ever that has a baby in it, I started singing to him. “Close To You” by The Carpenters, to be exact. Not because I had a particular fondness for that song but because it was the only song I knew all the words to that did not include curse words.
Over and over I sang that song, pacing back and forth the length of our house. He screamed. I sang. He screamed louder. That loud, piercing scream only young babies can do that stab you directly in the brain.
And then it happened. Slowly, at first, almost imperceptibly. The pauses between cries grew ever so slightly. The volume lowered at a snail’s pace.
And on I sang.
Eventually, I dared to look down at him, mid-chorus, his head resting on my shoulder. Eyes wide open, just staring at me singing. The cries had stopped. Just the occasional sniffling.
So I kept singing. And he kept staring. And I kept staring. Two more trips through “Close To You.” Until his lids got heavy. And then heavier. And finally, mid-“that is why all the girls in town,” he fell asleep.
And yet, I kept singing. One more time, the whole song through. Because I wanted to remember what this felt like. And that’s where my descriptive powers come to an end. Because I can’t tell you what it felt like. Not really. I love words. I’ve built my entire life around words. And yet none of them, alone or clustered together in a sentence, can accurately portray the love I felt in that moment. The meaningfulness I felt. And the power. The sheer power I felt. My voice had comforted another human being. And not just any human being. The one I loved most in the world.
It’s the closest I’ve ever come to having a superpower.
But all of those are just words. It still doesn’t describe the bigness of that moment.
The best I can do is just matter-of-factly tell you that as I finally got to sit down with my peacefully sleeping baby resting in my arms, I went to rub my tired eyes and realized I was crying.
I have a confession to make. And I realize by confessing this, there is a very good chance I will be thrown against the closest available car hood, handcuffed in the non-kinky way and hurled into one of those torture cells that don’t let you fully stand up by a mob of lithe, blonde, yoga moms who all became friends via Pinterest.
But, consequences be damned. I have to get this off my chest.
My baby, my beautiful, amazing baby, turns one-year-old in less than two weeks.
Yes! I know! Big deal, right? Huge, major milestone, deal!
And…here it goes…(sigh)…I don’t have anything planned yet.
OK, Heather, Stacy and Taylor, you can put the handcuffs on now.
The worst part is that this lack of planning isn’t even something I can blame on the baby. (Although if anyone asks, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. The only reason to have children is so that you have a cherubic-faced scapegoat readily available for any and all occasions).
It’s not like he’s kept me so busy I couldn’t find a spare minute or two to make a list of people to invite. And then write out those invitations. And then plan a menu to feed all those people. And then a separate menu list just for the booze (because I think it’s cruel to invite people to a kid’s birthday party without offering them copious amounts of alcohol as compensation for showing up). And then, like, games or some crap for the people who show up with their own demon spawn. And then bake a fancy, Spiderman-themed, three-tiered, professional-looking cake that according to Facebook every other mom is capable of not only doing but doing while also making it vegan and gluten-free.
Technically, I do actually have the time to do all that stuff if I really wanted to (although it would be a great personal sacrifice considering it would severely cut down on my “X-Files” marathon watching time). And I really do want to celebrate this important event in my son’s life. I mean, he’s my favorite person in the world and I’ve celebrated far lesser events in his life so far, such as the day he got more than half of the green beans on his plate into his mouth as opposed to on the floor.
But the reasons I haven’t planned anything yet are because:
- I’m just not that mom. I’m never going to be that mom. My kid will be the one with the last-minute toilet paper mummy Halloween costume and store-bought birthday cakes that say “Congratulations, Julie!” because I forgot to order one ahead and took whatever was readily available). And…
- We don’t have any family living close by and very few of our local friends have kids close to my son’s age. Or kids at all, for that matter. And…
- He’s not even going to remember this event.
I know, I know. None of that should matter. According to modern mommy standards, I should still throw a huge party complete with organic balloons and artisan party favors and an exotic, free-range petting zoo and little marshmallow Olaf appetizers, even if the invited guests are all non-baby-having grown-ups who probably have better things to do on the weekend.
However, a part of me, the selfish part, would rather celebrate the fact my husband and I kept him alive for an entire year. I mean, my baby did absolutely nothing to help himself get to this milestone. If anything, he worked actively against surviving to the one-year mark.
But even I know it’s wrong to hire a babysitter to watch your baby on his birthday as you two go out to the bar to celebrate your parental prowess.
(Right? That’s wrong. Right? Or is it? Could we do that? No, no, no, it’s wrong. I know it’s wrong).
So, just how will we celebrate Riker’s birthday? I still have no idea. But I’m sure I’ll think of something the day before and drive myself insane trying to put it together in 24 hours.
And then just scrap the whole idea entirely three hours before showtime and text everyone to meet us at Chuck E. Cheese.
Or the closest available semi-kid-friendly bar.
It always starts off with the same argument.
“Is it even worth it?”
“No. But what’s the alternative? Being stuck in the house for the fifth day in a row?”
“Yeah. But it’s just so much work. So much thankless, unpaid labor. And I’m just so lazy.”
“Exactly. You’re lazy. In the end, this is actually the easier way.”
“Look, you can once again spend the day sitting on the floor playing peek-a-boo for HOURS upon HOURS, making precious memories and junk but slowly going insane in the process. Or you can leave the house and have strangers entertain him with their googly faces while you play Trivia Crack on your phone. It’s your choice.”
“Do you want the weird hermit baby who doesn’t know how to act in public because while his brain was forming vital connections he only had you for company?”
“You’re right. You’re always right. We’ll…(sigh)…we’ll leave the house today.”
Now, one, this above argument is between myself (Gollum ain’t got nothing on me, precious). And two, it has happened pretty much every day since winter started.
It’s the burden of every at-home parent. Once winter hits, you’re stuck between a home and a snow drift. Suddenly, leaving the house turns into a Herculean task. Only worse, because Hercules never had to stuff five chubby, squirming fingers into a tiny mitten (and then spend an additional 20 minutes looking for that other goddamn mitten, which was JUST RIGHT HERE).
But not leaving the house means ten plus hours of trying to entertain your baby so that he forgets that all he really wants to do in life is hurl himself down the stairs right after he pulls your steaming hot cup of coffee off the end table and unto his still somewhat soft skull.
Which means leaving, even if it’s just to go grab a cup of coffee with a firmly gripped lid, is the lesser of two evils.
And so it begins.
First, I have to take off his pajamas. Because he’s always wearing pajamas. Because I’m always wearing pajamas. Because it’s winter and the part of my brain that cares about non-elastic and footless clothing is hibernating.
Then on goes the onesie. Followed by the baby version of yoga pants. Then real pants on top of those (or, in most cases, just slightly bigger baby yoga pants because baby jeans still have buttons and I, in pure white girl form, literally just can’t even right now). Then a long sleeve shirt. Then that sweater with the bunny on it which is too big but I don’t care because it’s cute and it’s the only thing clean that least clashes with the slightly bigger baby yoga pants (I mean, it still clashes but like a purple and red kind of clash as opposed to a neon orange and zebra print kind of clash).
Then on goes one Batman sock. Then the other. And then the first one again because in the time it took me to put on the second one, he has already pulled off the first one.
Next it’s the snow pants, which may seem like overkill but I made the mistake once, ONCE, of not dressing him warm enough on a particularly cold day and his howls of cold-induced pain haunt me to this day.
Then comes the shoes, which is what I imagine stuffing a turducken is like, only worse because one, the turducken is not alive and wiggly, and two, at least with turducken you get to eat it afterwards and there are VERY strict rules in the U.S. about eating your baby’s toosties (I looked it up).
Then comes the five minutes where I just sit there internally debating whether to put on his big, heavy-duty, puffy winter coat or the thinner, more stream-lined yet slightly less warm pea coat. Because while I should put on the big coat, the straps of the stroller don’t fit over it and so then I’d have to adjust the straps. And I hate doing that. Mainly because I don’t know how. And so I just fiddle with them for an exasperating 12 minutes until I’m red-faced and screaming “Screw it!” and go back to what I did every other time, which is to make them stretch within an inch of their life over the big puffy coat. But even though I’m successful I feel bad because they are probably too tight over the baby so I take him out, take off the puffy coat, put another sweater on him and put on the pea coat.
Can’t forget the mittens. Which is like trying to herd five violently independent worms into a space the size of a grape.
And then…the piece de resistance. The piece very resistance. The hat. Which according to my baby’s scream is made of pure fire and not wool, no matter how much it looks and feels like wool.
Yes, in the time it takes to get my baby fully in his winter gear, Frodo has already gone to Mordor, dropped off the ring and is busy saying his slightly homoerotic goodbyes to Sam.*
And that’s not even counting all the time and effort involved in taking everything off once we actually get somewhere, or the struggle to find a place to put the huge pile of tiny human outerwear, or the struggle to repeat the entire process and get it all back on, only this time with a judgmental audience who all have Twitter accounts and camera phones at the ready.
The good news is that spring is only 44 short days away.
I’m crying right now. I know you can’t see it. But I am.
*Please forgive all the “Lord of the Rings” references. It’s on in the background while I’m typing this and I’m too lazy to come up with actual, decent metaphors when Peter Jackson is just lobbing slow groundballs at me.