Hear ye! Hear ye! The following is a Royal Decree from her Majesty Princess Chubbila Stinkerton III on her first birthday. Should any deviation from this decree occur, her Majesty’s discontent will be made known with a loud wail.
Toys are no longer accepted in the presence of the princess; only trash, or items of formidable danger, preferably those shaped like the windpipe. Do not attempt to remove items from the hands of the princess at any time.
Anyone who attempts to remove excrement from the princess’ nether regions shall have their murder plotted forthwith.
Tasks of any importance that do not revolve around the pleasure of the princess shall not be tolerated.
If the princess desires what you have, you shall relinquish it.
The princess desires what you have.
The princess shall utilize the magic of a forest troll to detect any sense of relaxation. Such senses will be vanquished.
The princess’ pinky nail shall never be trimmed under any circumstances. The caretaker shall receive the shame of others who do not allow their charges to look as if they have a drug habit.
If you succeed in holding up these tenants, you will be rewarded with signs of affection. They will be hug-like and kiss-like in nature, and they will be coated in thick slobber and food remnants. Do not offend the princess by wiping said slobber from your face in her presence.
p.s. Happy birthday Princess Stinkerton. We’re exceedingly blessed by your ridiculous self. Love you to bits.
So you’re having a baby! Huzzah! Soon you will have the minor task of being solely responsible for the health and well-being of an entirely helpless, dependent human. Don’t freak! I’ve got five and a half top-shelf tips to get you on your way. Like so:
Clean That Thing Off
If you’ve grown your baby in your very own uterus, have someone clean it off before they thrust it on you for the first time. Newly minted babies are gross (truth), and your affection for them is what keeps you from abandoning them in the forest like a spooked mama fox. Don’t let your first remark about your little rascal be, “Ick.” Give yourself the upper hand and have someone give that kid a good once-over with a towel.
The Puke Luge™
Babies like to puke up a lot of the food you so carefully funnel into their little gullets. Prime targets for said puke are the third shirt you’ve put on that day, and your newly cleaned couch.
To avoid both scenarios, use my patented 2-step Puke Luge™ solution. First, don’t burp the baby over your shoulder rather, hold the baby upright on your lap, holding a burp cloth beneath her little chinny-chin-chin (fig. A). Then, place the other end of the burp cloth on a pillow next to you (fig. B). This creates the luge track on which your baby’s puke will be safely corralled, shirts and furniture left unsoiled.
The Baby Straightjacket
Babies like to claw the crap out of their faces, making you look like the Freddy Kruger of parents. Not great. Your options for resolving this are: those baby mittens that stay on for roughly the amount of time it takes a mouse to sneeze; cutting your baby’s nails, which will definitely result in lopping off some of your baby’s finger; or the baby straightjacket (also known as swaddling).
Again, if your baby is grown in your very own body, immediately following birth you’ll be like, “Ohmigosh I’m so skinny!” Then you’ll see a mirror and you’ll be like, “Sixth month of pregnancy redux? What the heck?”
Yes, that’s the dill, Pickle. You’re just gonna have to be okay with it.
If It Seems Weird, Maybe it IS Weird
Babies do all kinds of weird crap, but some of it is normal weird, and some is weird weird. As a new parent, you totally won’t know the difference. (Awesome!)
If something seems weird, check it out. Don’t worry about seeming like an ignorant, overprotective wacko of a parent. You probably are, but don’t worry about it. Most doctor’s offices have a nurse that you can talk to on the phone before racing to the emergency room. Also, Google is pretty good at giving you a little pre-info.
Embracing the I-don’t-know-but-it-seems-weird mantra probably saved my kid’s life, so I’m a fan. (All the credit for that goes to my husband. He’s a better person than I am. (Why am I left alone with the kids again?))
Sub-point: Watch out for Internet Weirdos
Google is great for doing a quick WTF check on lots of stuff. The Mayo Clinic and WebMD are pretty solid resources. However, the internet is chock-full of weirdos because there’s no test you have to pass to spew opinions all over our shared info web. So when you search for “gassy baby,” you’ll inevitably find the person that says, “I gave my baby an enema with a straw and a diet coke.” No thanks, moonbeamdaddy43. We’re gonna pass on that.
Have I left something unaddressed? Well ask away! I’m an internet weirdo with an entire website all to myself, so clearly I’m qualified.
If you think having a kid will save your marriage/relationship/sense of worth/etc., it will definitely, absolutely not be worth it. That’s about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Unless, of course, you’ve found that sleep deprivation, round-the-clock crying, piles of feces, and exhaustion have helped you out in the past. In which case…er…no, I think things are still going to turn out poorly. That’s not to say that your kid won’t still be awesome, and you won’t still enjoy good times, it’s just that they can’t (and shouldn’t) perform the function of fixing something or filling a void. Having kids is not about what you get from them. It’s about giving to them. In perpetuity.
If you’re ready for that and you decide to have kids (or have them already), here’s what you can take with you on the dark days:
It’s Worth It Because Loving People Is Worth It
Like any really, really good relationship, the ups and downs are worth it because of the love you share. (I know, I got all hallmark-y, but it’s true). Being a parent—I mean actually doing the required tasks of parenting—kinda sucks. I don’t like changing diapers, or dealing with fits, or cleaning up messes. I don’t like that an endless torrent of need is slowly carving a new and crazy landscape in my psyche. Nope, I don’t like those things. I’m pretty sure that people who say they do are lying. Not 100% sure, but like 97% sure.
But sometimes it’s the darkest moments that help you find your way.
The days in which I wrote these blog posts were particularly difficult. I don’t know if the critter was getting a cold, or teething, or having difficulty with the time change…maybe she was upset about the disappearing upward mobility in the US. It could have been several different things. But she wasn’t napping (a parent’s kryptonite as I mentioned before), and she spent nearly every waking moment whining. She was so inconsolable that I thought I would lose it. I cried. I prayed. I was sad for her. And sad for me. If parenting were just a job, I would have seriously considered quitting. Some days it just feels like too much to bear. Destitute, I asked her if she wanted to dance.
My daughter loves music. She loves to dance. So, I turned on Pandora, and by providence, the very first song that came on was this: Gold In Them Hills by Ron Sexsmith.
I had heard the song before, and liked it, but as I swayed my sad little girl back and forth, the lyrics rang out like a balm to my soul.
I know it doesn’t seem that way
But maybe it’s the perfect day
Even though the bills are piling
And maybe Lady Luck ain’t smiling
But if we’d only open our eyes
We’d see the blessings in disguise
That all the rain clouds are fountains
Though our troubles seem like mountains
There’s gold in them hills
There’s gold in them hills
So don’t lose heart
Give the day a chance to start
The very next song that came on was the Adele cover of Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love. (UGH. Seriously!? How much crying did I need to do that day?) Me and that song—we have history.
When our daughter was only a month and a half old, I was holding her in the living room, exhausted. She had a problem with her heart that had landed her in the NICU during her third week of life, and we had an incredibly rocky time keeping her fed and happy. Every day seemed like another daunting battle and I was just so, so tired. Through my exhaustion, Make You Feel My Love came on, and I heard the words that I hadn’t had time to figure out yet—words I was currently living: “I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue. I’d go crawling down the avenue. No, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do, to make you feel my love.” I, like nearly every parent, had taken a beating. But I heard those words and I knew…I just knew…I’d take more.
On this terrible parenting day, a year and a half later, after my daughter had screamed at me all morning, I held her and cried as our song played on the computer. Her little hand held on tight to the back of my neck. She sighed and laid her head down. She was tired, too. Adele kept singing, my heart broke, and I decided again: it is worth it.
(I’ll leave you with the full song & lyrics, just in case you need to cry for a while.)
When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love
When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love
I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong
I’d go hungry I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling down the avenue
No, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love
The storms are raging on the rolling sea
And on the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothing like me yet
I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love, to make you feel my love
And that’s it. That’s the truth about kids. Be sure to join me next week when we talk about something less sappy. Like flame throwers, or scorpions or the legacy of Thomas Jefferson. Something like that.
I’m continuing my three-part series on kids. If you haven’t already read part 1 you should probably do that, lest you think I’m the having-kids-is-like-riding-a-unicorn-whilst-listening-to-Enya type.
Perf. Moving on.
Having Kids Is Not The Worst Thing Ever
Many parents love to tell non-parents about the ghastly doom that is having children. They especially like to tell pregnant women and their mates things like, “Just you wait,” or, “Enjoy your last days of freedom,” or “Life as you know it is over.” You know, helpful stuff like that.
Now, as I mentioned before, some things do change. And kinda permanently. Or, at least, for a decade or two. And that’s a big deal. But, having kids isn’t like putting fire ants in your pants or wrestling wild boars. No one sticks needles in your eyes when you awake in the morning. It’s not the worst thing ever.
True, being a parent is a continual gauntlet of shame, confusion, guilt and frustration. But just when you think you should just let yourself get disemboweled by a swinging battle-axe, you get hit with an unexpected bundle of sweet, amazing, adorable love and ridiculousness. That’s how they get you. So you get up, dust yourself off, and jump to the next platform.
For your reading pleasure and personal enrichment, here is a list of things that make being a parent not so horrible:
A.You are not immediately forced to become a completely different person just because you have kids. This one’s important. You don’t *have* to go out and join a mommy club or whatever. You don’t *have* to only hang out with other parents. You don’t *have* to alienate all your childless friends by making your life all-kid, all the time. Honest. You don’t have to. You’re not being abducted at night to become part of a cult. You’re just having a kid. Don’t get all weird about it.
B. Voluntary (albeit gross and slobbery) kisses. Come on, even if you think kids are annoying, you have to admit that that’s cute.
C. Hilarious/awesome kid clothes. Again, even if you’re anti-kid, you know that beanie up there is pretty darn great. There’s just something outstanding about seeing humorous clothing thrust upon a defenseless tiny person.
D. Having a squidgy little prop to take funny pictures of. Is this the same as having a yacht or a truckload of beef jerky or a vacation home in Paris? No. But it’ll give you a chuckle. You gotta be thankful for the little things.
E. Getting to watch a teensy human grow, develop and learn cool things from day 1. This is actually really cool. It’s remarkable watching someone learn all the little things that every human has to learn—that YOU had to learn. The whole process is fascinating and a little magical.
The really good things…well, they’re trickier. They sneak up on you a bit.
Recently, Stephen and I took a big trip. Our first really big trip without our daughter since she was born. We did all types of adult-y stuff to prepare (will, life insurance, etc.), and…we decided to write our daughter letters in case we died.
Now, this is a sad freaking thing to do, regardless of who it’s for. Even if you don’t have a wildly overactive imagination like I do, you’re still gonna get super bummed, super fast. I’m guessing that’s just inherent to beyond-the-grave activities. But, I can say, that it is 2.8 (or a billion) times sadder, if you’re doing this activity with your kid in mind. But I wasn’t going to let my orphaned kid go through life without a letter from her mother, so I sat down and did it.
And I felt like I was going to be torn in half. I just kept thinking about how she would never know, not fully, how spectacular she is to me. She’d never know that I think her laugh is the best laugh that’s ever been heard. She’d never know how much I believed in her or how my love for her goes into my bones. The idea of not being able to wipe her tears when life inevitably threatens to break her, or not being able to bear witness to the gift she is to the world…those ideas, they’re almost too much to bear.
I don’t think I truly knew how intensely I loved her until I tried to cram it all in a letter for her to read in the event that I got swept away by a tsunami or murdered by an antelope. I tried my best to communicate the unending strength, depth and vibrancy of my love for her, but I know I failed. Maybe you guys can corroborate for me if Big Foot sneaks into my apartment, carries me off into the forest and feeds me to a bear.
So, I am a little absurdly gooey about my kid. I really do get stupid with love for her. She’s kinda awesome. But is it worth it? Is it really, really worth it to have kids just because they turn your brain to love-mush when you try to write them in-case-I-die letters? Tune in for the last installment when I conveniently provide you with the correct answer.
Our society is also pretty weird when it comes to children, so you end up with exponential weirdness. It’s a shame that parenting is such a lightning rod issue, and that we all take ourselves so seriously. It makes camaraderie and support so much more elusive.
So, I thought I’d share a little of my limited parenting experience, in hopes that you might feel better about your current situation as a parent. Or, if you’re someone who has been crippled by parentanoia, (I just made that up right now. I know.) maybe you’ll feel a little better about the prospect of having kids. Assuming that you want kids. Which you don’t have to want to have kids. I mean, eh…well, we’ll talk about that later.
This is just part one, so don’t get all frazzled if you feel like this is one-sided or wrong or evil or whatever. Read the other parts when they’re published, then get all frazzled. Here we go…
Having Kids Is Not The Best Thing Ever
Some people will tell you all kinds of unbelievably gooey stories about how great kids are, and how they didn’t know the meaning of life until they had kids, and how everything else pales in comparison, et cetera. People say, “I can’t even remember what life was like before we had children!” Oh, really? I do. It was awesome.
Before kids, I could (and did) sleep in until 10:30. Before kids, no one had ever (never!) vomited directly on my person. I did not have to repeat the same, exact request 78 times a day. I never googled “light-colored bowel movements.” I did not have to wedge my personal interests into an hour and a half nap window twice a day. Really, I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. The world was my freaking oyster, and I didn’t even know it. Sigh.
Having kids is crazy hard, and there is no amount of cuteness that will un-exhaust you. Having been on both sides of the fence, I can tell you that being a parent is 2.8 times harder than having a job. Or a billion times harder. Something in there. What do you do at a job? Put on pants and go have adult conversations? Oh, geeze, make sure you take a break from that!* Your co-workers do not use crying as their primary mode of communication. They talk. Nicely, most of the time. Even better, they email. You don’t even have to look at them! Even the most insane customer is insane at a distance. Children are insane in your home. I would easily liken being a parent to working in customer service, that is, if the customer then followed you home, crapped his pants, and cried until you cleaned it up. With your hands, I tell you! Your hands!
*Some jobs are actually super hard and could give parenting a run for its money. Like being a cop. Or a solider. Stuff like that. Stuff that basically involves a very real risk of death. Anything short of a brush with death can’t even hold a candle to parenting.
As a parent, the entirety of your sanity is utterly dependent on whether or not your child takes a nap. (What in God’s name happens when children stop napping!? I don’t even know!) There is a button, deep inside every parent’s brain that, when pressed, makes it seem like all the good things of the world have grown fangs and are coming to bite you in the ass, and all the bad things have taken residence in your very soul. That button is magically pressed when a wee sob creeps its way through the closed door at the end of the hall at 1:30PM (instead of 2 freaking 15, dangit! 2:15!)
And if the naps don’t get you, the constant, incessant second-guessing of every single thing you do, have done, or will do in the future, will. This is not only because parenting is harder than anything short of ninja-ry, but because everyone thinks they can do your job. Everyone has an opinion. For some people, that’s because they have kids—they’ve been there. And because the human brain is wired to justify everything we do, they think what they did was the best choice ever. Some people don’t have kids, but if they did have a kid, he certainly wouldn’t be throwing a fit. Or pouring milk down his pants. Or eating 17 gummy bears off the grass. They would never, in their sweetest voices, tell little Frankie that they’re going to sell him in Mexico if he doesn’t stop putting sand in Mama’s purse. (It was a JOKE, people. A joke. Was it a dark joke? Yes. But still a joke. Calm down.)
And the passing opinion isn’t even the tip of the iceberg in terms of the criticism you face as a parent. Why? Because of the damn internet. Every criticism, small or large, can be justified and magnified through the holy powers of the internet. Vaccinate your kid? Well, the internet will tell you how that’s turning her brain to mush. Didn’t vaccinate? The internet says your kid has 12.6 hours to live. Spanking? The internet says your Hitler’s BFF. Don’t spank? You’re a crazy hippie. Trying to decide if you’re a terrible parent by referencing the internet is like playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon starting with Demi Moore—there’s only one degree of separation, so it’s easy to see the connection. But in this case, you’re Demi Moore, and Kevin Bacon is embarrassing, mortifying, damaging failure. Thank you, oh wondrous internet.
So, you’ve lost your freedom. You’re exhausted, covered in poop and your left eye is twitching a little. You’re begging God (and Superman? President Obama? It doesn’t even matter!) to help your kid sleep through this nap and the internet is telling you that your poop-encrusted insanity is largely your fault. Magical, no? With that description, I’m sure you’re wondering if I did actually try to sell my kid in Mexico. Well, I didn’t, because I love my kid like crazy. Why? Because having kids is not the worst thing ever. So be sure to stay tuned for the next installment, when we see what’s lurking on the other side of the coin.