I used to get annoyed when people told me, "Oh, you have no idea about having kids until you have them." Sure I did. Who doesn't know that although kids are cute, they are also a lot of work? That's why you get a dog to practice before having a kid. Like, duh.
Now that I have three kids, it's my turn to pass on this knowledge to people I know having their first kid. YOU REALLY HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT HAVING KIDS UNTIL YOU HAVE KIDS! Sorry for shouting, but it's true. So so so so so so very true.
Not that anyone asked, but if I were going to give advice to first-time parents, I wouldn't just state the obvious about their life changing forever. That's not helpful. Kids are a lot of work, yadda, yadda, yadda. Instead, I'd sit them down in comfy chairs, hand them a beer or glass of wine, and break it down for them all realistic-style. Ok, let's get to it…
#1: Kids Are Gross. I think most people without kids understand this in theory–kids poop and pee and puke–but in practice . . . when you're the parent, YOU are the one cleaning up all of this (literal) shit. And not just when dealing with diapers and potty training and the occasional tummy bug. Those are a given. But like when your kid decides to take a dump on the floor. At the mall. (Or, unfortunately for a friend of mine, in her hand, at the grocery store.) Or when your kid decides she's big enough to pee alone in the stall at Target but forgets to take off her pants. Or when your kid works himself into such a tantrum that he barfs up everything he has managed to consume from what seems like the past 2 days.
These, my friends, will not be isolated incidents. Especially when your kids are little. These shenanigans will happen often, if not daily. If your kid has a proclivity for such behavior, you may even be dealing with this stuff a few different times a day. That adds up to a shit-ton of shit. And since you're the one cleaning up all of this, you can bet your britches that some of this crap will end up on you too. If you're lucky, you'll get just a little on your hand. Although gross, easily fixed with some good hand hygiene. If you're unlucky, well, let's just say you better hope you realize where the smell that's been following you all day is coming from before someone else does.
And while we're on the topic of kids doing gross things, I'd like to put this fact out there: Kids eat their boogers. I think people like to think only other people's kids do this, but that's not true. Every kid will at some point in time eat boogers. You just want to hope it's only their boogers they're eating. Your kid may try it just once, or it may develop into a habit that lasts for a while. But it will happen. Same goes for ABC gum they find stuck to the underside of a movie theater seat, or a cold half-eaten fry they find on the floor of McDonald's because, you know, they were still hungry. Dear god, I wish I were making this stuff up.
#2: Kids Are Dirty. I only had a vague notion about kids and dirt before having my own. I used to babysit a lot, so I knew about the messy face and hands after eating, and even about the crumbs they left all over the table and floor. What I did not know what that this dirt cannot be confined. It doesn't matter how often you wipe them down after eating or how often you vacuum in the wake of a meal. You will find crumbs in bed (yours, theirs), crumbs in the carpet, crumbs in the cracks of the couch, crumbs in their cracks. You will ask yourself, "How in the world did crumbs get into the freaking tube of toothpaste?!" Like actually into the tube. Kids are just crafty like that.
The crumbs will even multiply and migrate out into your car. Their car seats (who am I kidding, your entire car) will forever be encrusted with ground-up goldfish bits, rogue Cheerios, and broken pretzel sticks. Don't be too quick to clean out your car, though. This may prove useful on a long car trip when you've forgotten snacks. "Oh, sorry kids, just dig around in the cracks of your seat, I'm sure you'll find something to tide you over."
In addition to the crumbs you'll find everywhere, EVERYTHING in your house, including the kids, will be sticky. Toys, books, DVD cases, toilet flusher thingies, faucets, door handles (especially the one on the refrigerator), TV remotes, cabinets, tabletops, countertops, your cell phone, the cat. You'll need to keep plenty of Windex on hand to wipe their fingerprints off the mirrors and the TV screen. You'll also need a lot of towels to clean up all of the drinks they'll spill. At. Every. Single. Meal. Oh, and find a good laundry detergent. Preferably one that can handle the different kinds of stains you'll be trying to remove from your pants every time you sit in something new and find your ass stuck to the couch.
#3: Kids Are Hoarders. You have kids, you're gonna have toys. Everyone knows that. What I wasn't prepared for as a parent was having my entire house practically turn into a toy store. A toy store that exploded. And then had all the toys copulate and give birth to newer and newer generations of toys. Much like the crumbs from the first post, this stuff can't be contained. You'll have toys everywhere. Kids' room, check. Living room, check. Dining room, check. Your room, check. Kitchen, check. Bathroom, check. Stuffed in any drawer your kids can find because they're good hiding places, check.
Even if you don't buy your kids too many toys, you can bet your family and friends will. (And usually the kind that play loud, annoying music or can be used to make a lot of noise. But, that's another topic completely. Love you family!) Not to mention all of the craptastic "toys" they'll get from those kids meals you swore you'd never feed them. The ones that always seem to break 18.25 seconds into playing with them. The ones your kids go ballistic over if, heaven forbid, they find them in the trash.
We used to have a dining table in here. Can you spot our china cabinet?
And the more kids you have, the more bins and baskets and buckets and shelving units to hold said bins and baskets and buckets you'll be buying to shove their toys in to. (Thank you, Ikea!) At first you'll probably have some type of sorting system for the toys. You'll want all of the plastic food to stay with the play kitchen, the gazillion trains and cars to stay together, and all of Barbie's effing little shoes and accessories in one place so that when your kid is looking for things you know where to find them, hopefully avoiding an epic meltdown. ("Mooooooooom-mmy, where is my blue car?! I need my blue car! Not that blue car, the other blue car!" WTF?)
But eventually you'll give up and just start throwing things in whatever container has even a smidge of free space. "You will fit in there!" Don't feel bad about this. Just surrender; your sanity will thank you, and it'll be so much easier in the long run. Plus, once you let go, you'll find you'll have more time to worry about other pressing issues. Like why the hell your one eye keeps twitching like that.
#4: Kids Are Moochers. When it comes to eating, kids typically fall into two categories — 1) those that eat anything and everything, and 2) those that eat hardly anything. If you have more than one kid, you may even get lucky and have both! Or your kid may fall into one category one month, day, or second and fall into the second category another. (Actually, you can pretty much count on this.) This makes for fun meal planning, I can assure you. *eyes rolling*
Regardless of which camp they fall into, all bets are off when they see you with food. They are going to want to cozy up to you and "share" whatever it is that you are eating. "Can I have a bite? Can I have a bite? Can I have a bite? Just one teeny bite?" For the love of Pete! And it won't even matter what it is that you are eating. "Begetables, mmmmm, I lub begetables!" "Fish, I lub fish!" "Spicy, mmmmm, I lub spicy."
If you actually want to eat your meal in its entirety, you have two options. Option 1: If you know your kid likes the food you're trying to enjoy, DO NOT GIVE IN. I mean it, do not give him or her even just one tiny bite. As much as they say they understand that they will only get one bite and that's going to be it, they're lying. Always. Option 2:If you know your kid does not like the food you're trying to enjoy, do the opposite of what I recommend in Option 1–give him or her a heaping forkful to nosh on. When your kid realizes what you're eating is just absolutely disgusting, he or she will likely spit it out, right back on your plate, no doubt, and then go find something else to do. Until he or she forgets and comes back begging for more approximately 5 seconds later.
Sadly, this was not staged.
So I guess you're just better off going with Option 1 in all cases. Unless you want to avoid this scenario entirely and you hide out in the kitchen (or bedroom or bathroom even) so that you can scarf down your meal in peace!
And while I've focused on food here, please know that your kids' mooching knows no bounds. You should probably plan to stock up on chapstick and deodorant and pens, too.
#5: Kids Don't Sleep. When you want them to, that is. Everyone knows that new parents usually get very little sleep until their baby is sleeping through the night. (Those bags and dark circles under your eyes never completely go away, by the way.) What I'm talking about here are deviations from your kids "normal" sleep schedule once you think you have found a groove. Like when your kid usually naps in the morning from 10-12, has been for oh, say, the last 6 weeks, and then the day you actually have something planned while your kid is asleep (maybe a conference call for work or, more likely, your own nap) or something planned out of the house after your kid sleeps (say a doctor's appointment or play date), your kid says, "F you, morning nap!"
You wanted to go where? Zzzzzzzzzzz.
This results in you either 1) having to cancel what you had planned to do when your kid was supposed to be asleep but is now awake and probably incredibly whiney and clingy or 2) having to cancel what you had planned for after your kid was supposed to be asleep because 1 minute prior to you having to walk out the door you'll find your kid, coat and shoes on, slumped over on the couch, drooling, and fast asleep. And sorry if you had something planned both before and after the nap was supposed to take place. Your day is screwed.
It's the same for morning wake up time. You can absolutely count on your kids sleeping in on the mornings you have to be somewhere at a certain time and then being up at the crack of dawn the mornings you could have actually slept in. It always happens this way. Until it doesn't. And then you'll have no idea when the hell you're actually going to get any sleep because you have no idea when the hell your kids are going to sleep. They like to keep us on our toes like that.
I will tell you a secret, though: The one thing that absolutely doesn't change with kids, the one constant, the one thing you can always, without a doubt predict . . . your kids will be unpredictable. Predictably unpredictable.
#6: Kids Are Needy. So. Very. Needy. I mean let's be honest. A newborn can't do shit. (Actually, that's one of the things newborns can do quite well, but you know what I mean.) They need to be fed, burped, changed, bathed, rolled over, rolled back, rocked to sleep, picked up, put down, bounced, swaddled, swayed, shushed. Parents with newborns are like zombies for a reason. But we know this. Everyone warns new parents that the first few months will be hell.
But where was the warning that this neediness actually intensifies as your kids get older? You're not just fulfilling basic human needs anymore; you've become a means to an end. "Mommy, can you get me crackers?" "Daddy, I need my pink shirt with the purple polka dots." "Mommy, where is that doll I was playing with the other day?" "Where's my binky?" "Daddy, can you put a show on for us? Yeah that one. Oh no, not this one. The other one. Oh wait, the first one. Actually, where's the one about the kid doing that thing with the other kid?" "Mommy, I'm thirsty, I need a drink!" "Come wipe my butt." "I wanna push the button!" "I need a Band-Aid!" "Mommy, we want a different show." "Daddy, Mommy said to get us a snack." "Where's my blanket?" "Daddy? Daddy? Daddy?" "Mammmmaaaaaaaaa!"
Yup, that about sums up the first 5 minutes the kids are awake each day. But the kicker with all of this neediness is the timing. It is a simple fact that your kids will never need anything while you are already up or even when you ask them point-blank if they need anything. Nope. They'll suddenly need you right when you sit down to eat, or relax, or poop. Or the second you get in the shower or are otherwise in the middle of doing anything else but tending to them. When your kids are little, you can simply forget about being able to poop alone or take a relaxing shower while they are awake.
#7: Kids Are (Too) Honest. How's that? Don't we want to raise honest kids? you ask. Oh absolutely. Yes, we want our kids to fess up when they hit a sibling, or tell a lie, or eat the last of the ever-loving Girl Scout cookies that you won't be able to get again for another year.
But until kids develop that internal filter that (most) adults have and learn that some things shouldn't be said out loud, you're going to be getting a whole lotta honesty you may not want. Some hypothetical (ahem) things you might hear include:
- Your belly is squishy
- Your legs are hairy
- Your breath smells yucky
- Your hair is greasy
- Your legs are jiggly
- You have a boogie in your nose
- You stink
- Your boobies are so big ("Big" is such a relative term, eh?)
Well, if you would leave me the frick alone for 20 effing minutes I might be able to do something about all that! (Oh, who am I kidding, you'll probably need at least half a day to get all that shit under control. But alas, I refer you back to #6, so the likelihood that you'll actually have even 5 minutes alone to do ANYTHING is slim to none.)
And don't think your kids save all of this honesty just for you. You can be sure they will tell you just how hairy or stinky or big your waiter is one day when you are out to lunch. You will pretend you don't hear anything. Your kid will repeat him- or herself louder and louder each time until you are forced to acknowledge the statement. You will start giving your kid "the look." Your kid will not understand this look and think you haven't heard what he or she is saying. Your kid will say it even louder. You will shush your kid. Your kid will get upset and repeat him- or herself again, this time while wailing. The waiter will have heard all of this.
#8: Kids Break Stuff. It's inevitable. Your kids are going to break things. This is why you don't buy kids expensive crap. $1 toys are easier to replace than rare antique collectibles. Even someone who knows nothing about kids will know this.
But kids don't just break their stuff. There is no magic spell that excludes your stuff from being destroyed as well. Cell phones will be dropped in the toilet, eye glasses will be stepped on, couches will get colored on with permanent markers, lights will be left on in the car draining your battery, computer charging cords will get wrapped around the office chair and wound up so tightly from all the spinning that they'll fray and eventually sever. And I don't know any family with a complete set of dishes or glasses. Most of the destruction will be accidental, mind you, but that won't make the replacements–should you decide to actually replace or repair your damaged goods–any cheaper.
#9: Kids Hurt Themselves. A Lot. I knew kids got occasional booboos, but I had no idea just how often my kids would hurt themselves. It begins when they can start moving on their own and doesn't seem to end. They roll into things, fall off things, trip over things, walk into things, choke on things, step on things. Kids are freaking clumsy. Or they often don't know any better. And don't get me started on all of the things they will do, intentionally and not, to hurt each other.
Thankfully, although you can absolutely count on your kids getting hurt, most of these injuries will be ones that can be fixed with kisses and a few (or 63) Band-Aids.
#10: Your Kids Are Worth All of It. You have no idea just how much you can love another person until you have kids. It is the fiercest, most intense love you can ever imagine. You will do everything in your power to protect your kids and see that they never come to harm because you helped to create this fragile life. You are responsible for this fragile life. You will understand what it means to be selfless. You will sacrifice for your child. You will do the best you can for your child. You would give your life for your child. You will understand that even though all of the other things are true, having someone to love and be loved unconditionally makes it all worth it.