By: Jill Hamilton
Plenty of people will give you unsolicited parenting advice (I didn’t ask whether my baby should be wearing a hat, thank you), but rarely will they tell you what you really need to know. That is …
1. Things take way longer
When you take a young child anywhere, you’ll pack as though you were called upon to settle a barren new world, without handy Targets everywhere. The other day, I saw my harried neighbour loading four squirming kids, car seats, bags, etc, into the back of his van while still wearing pyjama bottoms. He looked up at me and said, helplessly, “I’m just going to get milk!”
2. You will say things you never thought you’d have to say
Besides the I-can’t-believe-I-just-said-that remarks such as, “Hey! No shenanigans” there’s a whole other category of things you never dreamed you’d need to say, because who would do such a ridiculous thing as, oh, lick the cat food. Your kid would, that’s who. I actually had to tell my child, “Don’t eat with scissors.” They were safety scissors, but still.
3. You won’t live up to your standards
“Everything you say you won’t is what you will eventually,” Robyn Hitchcock sings in the 1989 song The Devil’s Coachman. Maybe you won’t do “everything” you said you wouldn’t, but you will be a hypocrite at some point – possibly many points. You will feed mac and cheese to your kid for four consecutive days even though one of your purported “core values” is healthy eating. You will say things that you will regret. And that’s going to have to be OK.
4. It’s possible to think terrible thoughts about a child
Sometimes a nasty little kid will do something horrible to your child and it will just break you. Comedian and father Louis CK says in his stand-up act: “There’s one kid in my daughter’s class who I hate so much. And it’s really (messed) up, because I’m 44, and I hate a six-year-old.” Yep.
5. Kids are way grosser than you ever dreamed
Writes blogger Joslyn Gray: “Before I knew it, they were all eating stale fries off the floor of the minivan and I was like, ‘Whatever, thanks for cleaning.'” But you’re never completely broken, and occasionally your kid will do something so vile it will still manage to shock you. For me, this was child B passing the time in the Alice in Wonderland line at Disneyland by running her tongue along the metal handrails touched by countless park visitors throughout time. “Tastes salty!” she reported.
6. You will have to stifle laughter because you are a grown-up
There are certain things you just aren’t willing, able or ready to explain. Thus, you won’t be able to die laughing when, say, your four-year-old, back from lunch with Grandma and full of freshly gleaned knowledge from the restaurant’s Chinese zodiac place mat, starts telling everyone, “I’m the snake and I love the cock!”
7. It’s kinda boring
There’s nothing better than getting on the floor with a child and experiencing her take on the world. It’s just that after you do that, you don’t get to clock out and go back to thinking your thoughts. You just keep doing it. Over and over. This is truer today than ever. According to the Pew Research Center, today’s parents actually spend more time with their children, even more than stay-at-home mums did in the 1950s. That’s a lot of pretending to eat toddler-created plastic food feasts.
8. They won’t always share your passions
When my kids didn’t show what I deemed a suitable enthusiasm for the glories of composting, I forced them to behold the compost bin. “Look at it!” I said, perhaps too forcefully, holding a handful of perfectly crumbly dark earth aloft. Deep lessons on the circle of life or in-home eco-terrorism? Still not sure about that one. When my youngest said, “The jacarandas are almost out,” I gloated, “You do like nature!” However, she noted: “I learned it – doesn’t mean I like it.”
9. But you will develop arcane knowledge in their passions
This is not so great in the beginning. I know way more about the TV show Zack and Cody than I wish I did, and my husband was crowned, more than once, the Pretty Pretty Princess during board game tournaments with the girls. (He is pretty competitive.) It’s all paying off now, though. Through my kids, I’ve learned to appreciate Broadway musicals, discovered John Green’s oeuvre, and been schooled on how to make a proper salsa verde. I bought tomatillos for the first time at age 49! This has to be good.
10. Each kid is actually 100 different kids
“Every time my daughters get noticeably older, I feel like the smaller version has disappeared,” says my friend Bill. “I love the new kid just as much, sometimes more; but I look back at photos of the smaller kid and get very sad that she’s no longer around.” Yes, this will break your heart a little.
For me personally, number 10 is really true. I love the fact that we can have conversations with Little E, how going out is now a lot easier (when he cooperates), how he comes up with the funniest expressions, how his characteristics are really showing through, and the list goes on.