Or, How I Learned to Occasionally Dislike Parenting—Like, Really, Really Intensely
When Alex was a baby and Kris and I both worked part-time and got plenty of quality time with her, I remember reading a parenting post about how it’s okay to not enjoy some parts of parenting. I don’t remember the specific examples the blogger used, but they definitely involved trying to parent multiple small children capable of speaking, running, hitting, and kicking, but not of dealing with their own borderline psychotic toddler emotions.
Alex hadn’t learned to walk or talk yet at that point, and Kris’s RA was still responding to treatment. Life seemed so sweet for our family of three that I shook my head in pity for that poor mom who either lacked time management skills or perhaps had had children before she was really ready. Four years and two additional children later, I finally understand what that other mother was talking about. Thus I would like to publicly apologize for my smug forty-year-old self, and also to confirm as many have done before me that karma is, indeed, a bitch.
What follows is a list of realities about parenting multiple small children that Kris and I have learned since the twins were born. If you’re currently eating, you might want to wait until you’re done to read on. If you’re considering having a baby or a second child, you might want to avoid reading on at all. Just saying.
- There will be poop. Lots of poop. Perhaps literally a ton of poop if you have enough babies. Newborn poop will squirt out of your child’s butt at one in the morning, hit a nearby window, and proceed to drip slowly down the glass as you laugh hysterically. In her toddler years, your child will remove her diaper, look inside, and yell, “Oh no, there’s poop in it!” as she waves said diaper over her head. If you have a baby boy, he will also piss on you every chance he gets. But don’t worry. Urine is sterile!
- You will be sick all the time—all of you!—and not in the ways to which you might be accustomed. One day, your children’s eyes will decide to hock loogies. This is called pink eye. Look it up on the internet and then wish you hadn’t. You will wash your hands until they crack and bleed, but to no avail. One morning you will wake up and find that your eyes, too, are glued shut. You can hear your sick children crying but you can’t see them very well. Which, after all, might be a blessing.
- You will use up all your sick leave taking care of said children. When you inevitably succumb to the sickness of the month, you will use up your vacation leave. This unhealthy cycle ensures that you will be chronically short of vacation time at a point in your life when you need it the most.
- You will spend years of your life kneeling on the floor to help with socks and winter caps, tie shoe laces, zip jackets, and change diapers.
4a. Parenting will destroy your body. In addition to being chronically short on sleep and chronically congested (there might be a cause-effect relationship between these two…), you may find that your knees, ankles, and back creak at odd moments and refuse to bend at all by the time your children are school-aged.
- You will find yourself repeating the same phrases, over and over and over and… Phrases like, “Don’t touch that!” “The tag goes in back.” “No, other foot. I said, other foot!” “Bring my shoes back—now.” “Put my sunglasses down.” “God damn it, [insert child’s name]!” And, “I’m sorry I got impatient with you.” Because when you repeat the same things over and over and the outcome still doesn’t change, you will become impatient. Unless you are a saint. And even then you will lose your patience.
5a. You will buy lots of sunglasses, cell phone screen protectors, and furniture—because living with multiple small beings who lack impulse control will teach you to recognize the importance of not becoming overly attached to inanimate objects.
- Your young children will have no body shame. This is a wonderful thing, except when it extends to your body. Your mother’s helper is going to see you naked. So will your father-in-law. And your neighbors—on both sides. You will learn never to assume that just because you left the baby gate shut AND your bedroom door closed AND the window shades down doesn’t mean that this is still the state of affairs when you wander naked from the master bathroom after your second shower in six days. But don’t worry. Your neighbors are getting used to seeing you naked.
- Your young children will have a worse case of the wandering hands than any high school boyfriend ever. Try not to recoil too visibly, and recognize that these episodes present a perfect opportunity to teach your children about the sanctity of other people’s private body parts. Again and again and again… (See # 5 above on repeating yourself.)
- If a loved one dies, your young children will remind you of it constantly. For weeks. For months. For years. Just when you think you have moved past the pain, your children will ask to see photos of your loved one. You will comply because you understand that kids need help processing the big things in life. But still. You will cry, and it will hurt.
- Your own squeamishness with bodily fluids will fade after years of wiping your children’s butts. This will mostly be an improvement, except on the rare occasion in which you find yourself socializing with other adults. Then your tendency to tell stories regarding projectile poop (see # 1 above) will potentially lose you friends and influence. Not that you’ll care. You’ll be too giddy from your temporary freedom and the glass of wine you unwisely downed on an empty stomach to notice your friends and/or co-workers shying away from you. Fellow parents of small children will stick around, though, clutching their own hastily imbibed booze as they describe the color of the material that came spewing out of their own children’s orifices just the other night.
- The accepted way to end one of these lists is to offer up a sentimental “And yet, parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever love!” But I’m sorry. I was up three times last night with assorted small, whiny beings, and right now I just want to post this and veg out with DVRed episodes of Downton Abbey or possibly the 2015 World Cup finals.
I mean, yes, of course I adore my children. Did you read the list? The only thing that would allow someone with an overly sensitive olfactory sense AND a tendency toward vomiting to withstand the rigors of parenting three children under the age of four is, obviously, copious amounts of prescription dru—I mean, copious amounts of unconditional love. While I won’t commence listing their numerous virtues, I will share a recent photo of my three lovelies on a good day.
For now, good night and good luck, as Kris and I used to say to each other every night before turning out the lights. To be honest, we still sometimes do.