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.
And then we did stand on our heads. And then we stood on each other’s head.
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?”
“Can you say ‘Momma’?”
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.