When I was a kid, my greatest achievement was being the undisputed champion of the game “Don’t Touch The Ground” in my aunt’s pool from 1989 to 1992. If you’ve never played this game, let me assure you that it takes a level of strength and fortitude generally not found in many 8-year-olds and consists of many complicated rules, such as swimming around the pool without ever touching the ground.
A great achievement, to be sure (I mean, the pool was only four feet deep), but eventually I grew up and replaced those childish measures of greatness with more mature ones, such as winning the 2002 King of the Wing buffalo chicken eating contest.
And then this year I gave birth to my beautiful son without running away halfway through, buck naked and screaming “I changed my mind, I don’t want to do this anymore!” And that, naturally, blew everything else I had ever done out of the water.
But all those things were nothing compared to last week, when I accomplished the most epic achievement of my entire lifetime:
Taking my 3-month-old on an airplane by myself and it not ending with:
- My brain exploding from two straight hours of my child screaming directly in my face.
- The other people on the plane murdering us with a crudely constructed shiv made of peanuts and a flight attendant’s scrunchie.
Truth be told, he was actually great on the plane, sleeping almost the entire time. Which would be wonderful news to any parent who wasn’t a humor columnist banking on the experience being so awful she’d get at least three columns out of it.
Which is why I had to pick a new topic to write about and which is why this is most definitely not going to be a run-on sentence while I try desperately to buy some time to think of said new topic even as you are reading this because I’m a professional, dammit, and that is just not my style to ramble on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on just because my dumb baby ruined my potentially Pulitzer Prize winning series on taking a baby on a plane by sleeping the entire time and looking all cute and crap, thus leaving me high and dry in terms of a topic to write about as I sit here and watch my deadline creep up on me like that girl from “The Ring” and me powerless to stop it because nothing can top hilarious anecdotes of traveling with children and so instead I’m forced to write about something stupid like why babies always lose one sock or why I was traveling with my baby in the first place, which I think we can all agree is something no one wants to read about.
So, anyway, the reason I took my baby, who always manages to lose one sock and only one sock, by the way, was to show him off to my extended family. You know, thrusting him up in the air Lion King-style as they all ooh and ahh. Because for some reason, once your uterus creates a face, you want to show off that face to as many people as humanly possible.
And show him off I did. To aunts and uncles. To cousins and second cousins and cousins nine times removed. Not to mention friends and friends of friends and Jerry, the drunk guy at the bar (and never you mind why I had my baby in a bar in the first place…Mr. Nosypants).
And you know what I discovered? My husband and I had been going through the highs and lows of parenthood on a virtual island. With no family members close by and no network of parent friends yet, we were the blind leading the blind leading the tiny, angry human who won’t stop cry daily from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
But after six days surrounded by fellow parents, I discovered, among many other nuggets of wisdom, that:
- We were using the wrong size diaper.
- You cannot survive parenthood without a baby swing.
- Putting your screaming baby in the crib, shutting the nursery doors and walking away is sometimes the best thing you can do.
- No matter how confident they seem, every parent is just guessing most of the time and feels like an idiot occasionally.
- No matter how much you love your child and love your partner, sometimes you just need to vent with another mom over beers.
Simple things, really. But when it’s just you and your spouse trying to figure it all out, these little things can make all the difference in the world. Because it does take a village to raise a child, even if that village is full of fellow idiots.
Because the village isn’t there to ensure the survival of the children. It’s there to ensure the survival of the parents.