1. You are now categorically insane.
You will wake up at 3 AM and go down stairs to make sure you turned off the coffee pot. This is after you woke up at 2 AM and went downstairs to make sure you turned off the coffee pot.
You will obsess over the kid the first 1000 times you leave him with your parents, convinced they will inadvertently kill him, even though they managed to keep you alive long before the term “baby-proof” was ever coined.
You will sing nursery rhymes softly to yourself while you sit alone in the rocking chair, adopting the position you will fall back into when dementia, strikes years later.
You will wander the aisles of the local grocery at midnight in a robe, your winter coat and rubber gardening boots, muttering “zwieback, zwieback.”
And at some point, without thinking, you will attempt to pay for something with a granola bar.
2. Everyone can raise your kid better than you can.
Your mother. His mother. Your best friend. The cashier at the Circle K. All of them know better how to raise your child than you do. Many of these people don’t even have children, yet they know better than you when it’s nap time, when he’s hungry and what will make him stop crying.
You will get accosted by random strangers in parking lots who will tell you that you are a bad influence on your child.
On good days, you will take this gracefully. On other days, you won’t.
3. There is no such thing as clean.
This is progressive. First comes it’s not clean enough. Carpets are washed, corners swept thoroughly and the nursery walls are painted a laughingly delusional pristine white before the little bundle even escapes the womb.
Then comes the bottle sanitizers, special laundry soap, and Purell. When you later find the little bundle chewing on the strap of your purse, you consider dunking it in a tub of sanitizer. Clean is good. But for years and years, babies survived without bleach and running water.
Later, once the bundle can ambulate, it’s a different disorder. It almost turns into a game – Find That Smell. Empty yogurt container under the couch cushion. Half eaten apple behind the piano. Even if you spend your whole Saturday bleaching the trash can and stripping furniture away from walls, flipping it over and cutting away the bottom fabric panel to peer inside, it still isn’t clean.
Later still, when the kid is in bed, the windows are closed again and the fresh orange scent of the organic cleaning agent has faded, it’s there. What. Is. That. Smell?
Two weeks later, when you go down to the basement to check the fuel, you’ll finally discover the source — the banana peels he was throwing through the cat door to land in a collective, slimy heap on the third step. And if you are lucky, you’ll be barefoot when you find it.
4. The end all, be all Toy of the Year sucks.
Tickle Me Elmo. Zhu Zhu Pets. Bigfoot. Every year there is a must have toy that compels otherwise sane people to pay triple the sticker price for a toy, or to assault people in Wal-Mart to get to the last one in the store.
I bought that toy, once. I won’t be suckered again.
Because they suck. Every last one of them. Because they are defined. You can play with them on their terms. Kids don’t like terms. They are usually much happier with an empty box and a wad of crumpled up toilet paper.
I once had a boss who wrapped up an empty refrigerator box for his 3 kids, ages 5, 7 and 9. We all thought this was a terrible thing to do, expecting his kids to be somewhat traumatized on Christmas morning after opening a giant, beautifully wrapped box of nothing.
Turns out he was right – his kids loved it and for the next four years, they got their new refrigerator box. This box is also known as The Bat Cave, The Clubhouse, The Art Room, The Temple of Doom and The Space station, among other things.
5. There is no such thing as too many books.
This one is relatively simple. Bedtime equals story time. This progresses into stories time. And when you get to the point where you can unerringly recite Fox In Sox without screwing up the tongue twisters, you know you have read it far, far too many times.
You will begin answering normal conversational questions in rhyme.
Would I like pizza for dinner tonight?
No, sir, No, sir! That’s not right!
Pizza, when my pants are tight?
Pizza makes me far too fat!
I’ll have salad, only that.
Get more books.
Lots of them.
6. Kids can turn your own reason against you.
You’ll need rules. But make sure that you can abide by them. Because the whole do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do thing? Not going to fly. And the first time you break the rules, whatever your justification may be, it will be an example to them that there can be justification for breaking the rules. And while in real life, that may be true – of course I was speeding officer, I’m in labor – the finer shades of gray just don’t compute for a four-year old.
And at some point, your rules will come back to you and you are left with a choice – be a hypocrite and help them learn the justification technique; whine, and by extension, teach them to whine; bully them into submission and introduce that bad habit, or abide by your own rules and be hungry all the way home while your kid happily munches away on the pizza he’s going to let you have a slice of – when you get home.
But that’s okay, because when he tells you to be patient, you’ll grind your teeth down to stubs and won’t want to chew it, anyway.
7. Kids are actually small psychopaths.
Seriously. There are only a handful of traits associated with being a psychopath and kids meet a lot of them. See for yourself.
- parasitic lifestyle – Feed me. Change my diaper. I want, I want, I want!
- pathological lying – They’ll tell you they finished their dinner while the dog is hacking up a spoon in the corner.
- cunning and manipulative – If I pretend to cry she’ll pick me up. Score!
- lack of remorse or guilt – They won’t care that the ring they flushed down the toilet belonged to your dead grandmother. Bye-bye, pretty!
- need for stimulation – Tummy time! Toys! Mobiles! Music!
- poor behavioral controls – Why did you do that? Cause I wanted to.
- disregard for the rights of others – everything is theirs, even you. They’ll pick their nose and wipe it on your bare arm just as casually as they wipe it down the side of their own shirt. Some days you are merely a stand in for a missing tissue.
- failure to accept responsibility for actions No, Mama, I didn’t put ketchup all over the dog.
8. You now have the emotional resistance of a wet paper bag. You used to watch movies, and read books or the news and be entertained or informed. Now you’ll have to be careful. You’ll read The Road and be unable to sleep for the hopelessness of the choice. Hearing about a child dying on the news will give you compulsive need to go check on your own. And just yesterday a rock version of this made me cry:
Poor Puff. Poor Jackie.
That reminds me of my next thing –
9. Children’s songs will eat your brain. Sure the tunes are catchy, and the repetition sticks them fast in your brain. But then you start thinking about them. Where did they come from? What do they mean?
To market, to market to buy a fat pig/Home again home again jiggity jig. The origins of this one seem to be self-evident. Some guy, somewhere in time, sang that little ditty on his way to market. But why did it endure? My Dad used to sing To the to the dump, to the dump /to the dump dump dump, yet that never became part of our collective ditty set.
10. They are secretly brilliant. You’ll be so proud when your little makes his first foray into clicking keyboard letters in alphabetical order at age 2.
But when, at age three, they can type in their favorite character’s name, filter the search engine results for images, select one and send it to a print preview for resizing before sending it off to the printer? You will realize that by the time they are twelve, you do not have a prayer of keeping ahead of them.