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.