My friends Rachel and Naomi recently welcomed an adorable pair of twins into the world. Cute couple, cute kids, everyone healthy and happy and basically the story you always hope for when the pregnancy journey starts.
When you have a baby you buy a baby book. It's full of all kinds of milestones for you to fill out like baby's first haircut, baby's first day home, etc. It's a chronicle of all those magical moments that we build up as parents. There are, however, moments that are far less magical that no one talks about and no one is ever prepared for.
So Rach? Naomi? This is for you and all the new parents in the world. You're going to be great at this whole shaping-a-young-human's-life thing, and maybe if you see these coming you won't feel so bad when they happen.
10. The First Time a Balloon Makes You Think There's an Intruder in the House: Most people don't think twice about balloons as adults, but to kids they are like freakin' magic so you buy them. The thing is they tend to hover at just about head high with those clips that most places balloons are sold are attached to the end of the string. They're also silent, and the currents from your air conditioning have a habit of dragging them slowly behind you until you whirl around convinced some psychopath in a Spongebob mask is here to decorate the walls with your innards. Bonus fact, they can make a sinister scratching noise in the dark when they brush against the wall!
9. The First Time Something Ridiculous Became a Ritual: I never understood religion until I had a kid. There she is, crying non-stop with you clinically insane from sleep-deprivation when suddenly you get the idea to put an octopus on your head and do a funny little dance while singing "Hava Nagila." She starts laughing and agrees to settle down for a nap. The next night, you figure it might work twice and for months afterwards you are bound to the Octo-Nagial Dance of Laughter every evening at exactly 7:15 p.m. To me this explains every ridiculous superstition and bizarre piece of religious orthodoxy in the world. Scared, tired people will do anything to appease either God or an angry toddler.
8. The First Time Something Cute Becomes Really Annoying: The ability of kids to learn and respond is what makes watching them grow so amazing. That said, you may clap and cheer the first time they chase you pretending to be a monster, but it gets real old real fast the moment you're trying to get them into a car seat so you can get to daycare and work on time. Speaking of a car seat...
7. The First Time You Realize Restraining Them is No Longer Possible: Say what you will about the first couple of years of your child's life, but the odds are that if you at least put them in their crib they'll stay there. Then one day you wake up and they're standing over you like Michael Myers in the first part of Halloween. Suddenly, they could be literally anywhere, watching, waiting to find a clever way to turn something you thought was safe into a lifelong injury.
6. The First Time THE Toy Cannot Be Found: Children rotate several stuffed animals, blankets, and other objects as the most important one to their security. You'd think that something so crucial would be easily held onto by a kid, but they will find the first opportunity they can to stash it someplace beyond all kinds of sense and you will start to wonder when exactly spending two hours searching for the yellow bunny (not the pink or white one, cretin) seemed like a perfectly good use of your time.Flashback Creationists Ruined My Ability to Enjoy Watching My Daughter Ride a Dinosaur
5. The First Time You Get a Drink Immediately After Putting Them to Bed: As a person that likes to unwind at night with a glass of wine and a book, it never seemed strange to me that I would have a drink once her nibs was tucked in. Still, there will come a day that starts at 6 a.m., involving several meltdowns in public, no nap, probably that search I just mentioned, and they'll resist every attempt you make to feed or clean them. That's the day you can't pretend a drink is a pleasant ritual, as you swig straight from the bottle staring at the electric clock until whining noise in your head drowns.
4. The First Time they Make You Hate Something You Love: Do you have a beloved television show, movie or book from your own childhood you've been waiting all your life to share with your own offspring? Great, but here's what's going to happen. You're going to watch The Wiz at every single possible opportunity to the exclusion of all other choices until you can time the blinks each character makes. Now this piece of art you held so dear makes your skin crawl whenever you even think of it.
3. The First Time You Steal Their Treats: No matter how much of a die hard capitalist you are, you are going to redistribute the wealth after Halloween. At least until they're old enough to take inventory and know you did it. Usually by then they're past the point of being so aggravating that you need the sugar high to survive the night.
2. The First Time You Scare Them With God: I don't believe in God myself (Well, I believe in all gods equally and worship none... it's complicated). I do know why he's so effective, though. At one point you will simply snap and tell your child that if they don't straighten up and stop acting like the world's shortest meth head that you will tell Jesus/God/Santa Claus on them. It works, and you immediately feel horrible about it.
In my case I threatened to tell Doctor Who that my daughter wouldn't take a nap... I'm not proud of that. It's OK, though, because there's also...
1. The First Time They Forgive You For Doing Something Thoughtless and Cruel: We have a genetic predisposition to respond to a baby's cry with comfort and sustenance. That wears off, and the noise from your child's mouth hole defying every single request you make in order to establish their separate identity by opposing you will wear out your sanity faster than a Saved By The Bell: The New Class marathon.
And that's when you go a little schizo and start taking away toys, or sending them to bed without supper, or screaming at them, or blackmailing them with the love of a fictional character they happen to look up to very much. No rhyme or reason to it, no calculated punishment meant to correct behavior. I'm talking about a reaction as willful and childish as the one that prompted it.
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Then, a little while later, after you've calmed down you'll call for a hug. Your baby will give you that hug with complete abandon and without reserve. You're not a bad parent, but this stuff is really hard and every once in a while it gets a little too much. As long as you work every day on loving your children with that same abandon you'll get past these little pitfalls.