1. If there’s one thing I know (besides how to power my alarm clock with a quickly decaying potato [Thanks scouts!]) it’s that for all intents and purposes, a baby is the equivalent of a tiny, severely astonishingly incomprehensible, intoxicated elderly midget, and you are responsible for it. Fuck us, right?
When you learn you are about to become a parent, what you’re essentially being informed of is that for the next twelve to fifteen years, you are going to be the metaphorical equivalent of a designated driver. Because you have to get the drunks home; The drunks in this analogy being your child, and home being adulthood. Now by designated driver, I don’t mean you can’t drink, fuck no. Far from it. In fact, I’m not entirely sure it’s possible to raise kids without at least occasionally being completely fucking intoxicated. (My father once said “The day I can’t do my job drunk is the day I hang up my school-bus keys”). What I’m saying is you’re the one with the keys.
If you’re not immediately hip to this analogy, allow me to elaborate on the clear similarities between your child and the average Prom queen after her eighth pomegranate appletini. I’ll work from the sober phase to drunk because that’s how I normally do it anyway… stick with me.
Around fourteen or fifteen years of age your kid is basically just a little buzzed and a little stupid, but you can mostly leave them to their own devices without them killing themselves or someone else. I’ll not elaborate because this stage is the most boring. I mean, they’re not funny or cool, and they don’t think you’re funny or cool. You’re basically both just waiting for the kid to graduate and leave the fucking house.
At about twelve years old your little one is basically like your buddy who’s had a few too many during a dinner party but think’s they’re fine to drive. They may walk fairly straight and they’re not exactly slurring their words but you don’t want them getting a hold of the keys anytime soon and you’re certainly not going to give in to their constant insistence that they are fully capable of giving you a tat with their brothers homemade tattoo gun. You still need to do the driving. Just to be safe.
It’s really the first three or four years that the comparison really matters, because at this point you’re child is a danger to you, themselves and pretty much anyone near them. So let’s talk about that. At about two to three years of age your kiddo is kind of like that dude at the frat party who did a couple Jaeger shots and then lost his ass in beer pong. This guy is totally trashed but able to walk with confidence, speak in a lispy slurred manner and make every decision based on his very first impulse. Rocket down the stairs on a metal Tonka truck that is only slightly larger than a loaf of bread? Let’s rock, guy! Climb on to the roof and descend with a flimsy umbrella like Wile E. Coyote? Fucking Why not?!
Now this guy is your buddy and you want him to feel independent but he’s a fucking danger. You need to keep an eye on him. You have to take a look fairly often when you hear a loud thump from the other room or when you hear him tell one of his friends “Watch this!”. Also, you have to keep a first aid kit handy because this guy smashes his fucking head on everything and is incapable of going outside without removing the skin from his knees and palms. (Peeing of the pants is not uncommon.)
At about a year or so your child is kind of like that ninety pound cheerleader who bumps into you as you walk into a highs school kegger. She’s able to walk (poorly), she can make the occasional intelligible noise and bounces off every side of the hall as she makes her way to the patio to try and crawl over the railing and scream the year of her graduating class, or to proclaim that her parents are assholes. At this point your child has two speeds: stopped and full fucking throttle. They go from a total standstill, to a top heavy bowlegged sprint towards the most dangerous fucking thing in the room. They can only speak in gibberish, and their depth perception is that of a one-eyed pirate. Expect them, like the ninety pound cheerleader, to wake up with a lot of unexplainable bruises and very confused about their surroundings. Your job at this point is to turn them around when they sprint in the direction of eminent death and to take away any glass or ceramic items they decide to examine with their clumsy hands and their propensity to study anything by holding it as high above their head as possible.
But the real humdinger is that first few weeks, when your child is born and they are in the “Borderline dead from alcohol poisoning phase”. At this point they cannot speak, they cannot roll over on their own power, they cannot see and are generally totally unresponsive to outside stimuli. Also, they throw up a lot… (And I mean a lot. I actually think we should have cut our daughter’s formula with lard because she was spitting up so much there was simply no way the tiny bit of vile warm nutrient cocktail in her tiny belly was actually providing any sort of sustenance. My wife vetoed this plan and I will never forgive her for her clear lack of vision and total short-sightedness. I love you, sweetheart.) At this point you have to make sure they don’t choke to death on their own vomit, or suffocate because they’re stuck on their belly, and keep them from falling off the bed to their brittle doom.
But it’s important that you be mindful of your child’s feelings. You’re not an asshole, are you? Just a like a drunk, they are sensitive and emotional. If you block a drunk from entering a kitchen repeating in a firm tone, “No- HOT, no-no- HOT.” They may become agitated and scream and or cry very loudly. Respect their position on the matter.
And for god’s sake, have a heart and understand their reaction if they become upset when you pick them up, pull open the back of their pants in front of the whole world and check to make sure they haven’t shit themselves. Drunk people and babies hate that. Especially drunk people.
2. Kids can be mean.
3. Nobody warned me that I would feel worried or guilty at least once every day for the rest of my life.
4. Newborn baby ears feel soft like rose petals. Rub your cheek against them all the time because one day their ears will be hard like yours.
Babies are intent on killing themselves by falling off furniture, trying to crawl downstairs, eating small objects, etc. You will have to stop them on a regular basis.
Kids are people. Some are good eaters, some aren’t. Some love their sleep, some don’t. Respect their personality–their limitations and their talents–and you’ll have a lot of fun raising them.
5. That this tiny human can make me feel like a terrible human being or like a super hero with one look.
6. That even after millennia of billions of people parenting, nobody can agree on anything about how to go about it. For just about every topic, you can find people saying going with a particular method is the absolute best thing you should do for your kid and then people that say the same method is the worst thing and will cause irreparable harm to your kid.
7. The most terrifying sound you will ever hear is silence on a baby monitor.
8. That when they get sick (which they will do, frequently) they get really sick. A common cold can floor them for a whole week, they’ll hardly eat and run a temperature of 40+. It will scare the shit out of you.
Worse if you have more than one, It will feel like running an infirmary for children with the plague.
9. You will feel judged from every corner about just about any and every decision you make, regardless of how trivial it seems at the time. Friends, family, complete strangers on the street– they will all want to chime in on your choices.
“Oh my god, you’re letting your kid eat yogurt out of a tube?!?!? Don’t you know that phthalates they ingest by coming in contact with the plastic tubes have been associated with a lower rate of Ivy League college admissions?!?!?“
Parenting involves so many decisions you can’t even keep track of, but if you make some that are different from others, get ready for the judgement and unsolicited advice. Most people are just doing this to justify their own decisions, learn to deal with it and don’t take it too seriously.
10. Making rules for your kids is awful. Basically, all children start their lives as lawyers. You make a rule and they spend endless time, often unintentionally, testing every aspect of that rule. They search for exceptional circumstances, they call on past precedents, and they poke and prod at your once ironclad system of encouragement and enforcement until this beautiful idea you had for how to raise them looks like a patchwork quilt. Or swiss cheeese. Or a quilt made of swiss cheese.
My least favorite thing to do as a parent is to have to enforce the consequences of a rule I created in the moment to deal with a problem/behavior in that moment. I try to be pretty transparent with my kids when I make a rule and then realize it was too harsh and reactionary, but a 3 year old can only comprehend so much.
11. First: your sleep schedule will change. For me, sleeping in is being asleep until 7:30, which is what I get to do on the weekends. 7:30 is sleeping in! My friends who have been parents for longer have informed me that my sleep habits will never go back to normal. Ever.
You will become more empathic. I have a lot more compassion for kids who aren’t my own, even as a teacher. I have a greater understanding for single parents, because their job is insanely hard. I can no longer watch videos or even really read stories depicting any kind of child abuse. Books that I’ve read half a dozen times can now bring me to the brink of tears because I am reading them with a different perspective. I consider all of this to be a good thing.
You will be shocked by how much you can love your child. I can’t describe how much I love my son. I am cynical by nature, and I didn’t expect this to happen. I never though I would be excited to sneak into my son’s bedroom at night to move a stuffy, and to briefly put my hand on his sleeping chest in order to feel his stomach rising and falling as he breathes. How lame have I become? I love it, though.
No matter how you used to see yourself, from now on you will see yourself as a parent. I spent 35 years seeing myself as a gamer, a New Yorker, a geek, a friend, a husband, a teacher, and so many other things. I am still all those things, but first I’m a dad. That’s how I’ll see myself for the rest of my life.
12. That they’re ugly as sin right after they’re born. At least no one told me. It took a few days for them to reach that cute, cuddly stage. Right after our first I was like “we screwed this one up, we should not ever do this again” but now I’ve got three, so you know how that worked out!
13. That for some parents, you don’t love the baby right away. When my daughter came home I was shocked at how numb I was – don’t get me wrong, I knew all the motions, and I was a textbook “good dad” for my newborn, but at first, to me, she was a squalling home invader.
Then one day I had to take care of her all day because daycare was closed and my wife had to work. She spent 5 hours SCREECHING at me, and refused to take a bottle. Out of desperation I grabbed a Curious George doll and danced it across her rock and play. She stopped crying, smiled a bit, and popped the bottle in her mouth. For some reason in that tiny, insignificant moment a switch flipped in me. I started loving my daughter. I thought my heart was going to explode.
Now we’re best buds, and I swear she likes me more than her mother.
14. The fucking dishes, man. Every evening, cleaning bottles, breast pump equipment, and setting up the drying rack so the shit can dry overnight and be ready to go again the next morning. And getting it out of the way for bath time in the sink, then moving it all back after bath. NOBODY TALKS ABOUT THIS, and it has seriously been the worst thing about having a kid. Late night coddling, constant attention, melt-downs, that’s all fine because you mentally prepare for having to deal with those things. But nobody tells you about having to do those dishes every night. I got so tired of it. Second one due in May!
15. You immediately become the co-star of your own life.
16. That the first year is actually the easiest. Sure, you don’t get to sleep as much but the baby’s needs are really easy to meet and you don’t have to worry about too much. Once they start walking and talking they get into everything and have opinions about everything….what to wear, eat, watch, stories to read, songs to sing….and potty-training is a nightmare that makes you wonder if it’s really so bad to just keep them in diapers for another year or two….pre-school and elementary years are hard, tween and teen years are even harder…..hurt feelings, broken hearts, struggling with homework and learning new skills, having to wear the right clothes and play the right games…..babyhood is the easiest stage by far, but everyone seems to think that it’s the hardest and it will get easier to raise the person you gave birth to….it never gets easier….
17. That they have their own personality, and it shows from day one. Don’t try to shape your kid’s character, go with it and guide them. Sometimes, that character sucks, and you need to accept that.
My little girls are very different from each other, and it started when they were babies. Being a calm, calculated baby carried over to being a smart, in – control child which doesn’t initiate social interaction but is fiercely loyal to her friends. The second one was an antsy baby that went from crying to giggling and back in seconds, and she grew up to be hyper social, friendly, open, theatrical in both good and bad ways. We didn’t shape them that way, we wouldn’t know were to begin is we wanted to.