I have four children. I have been a parent for over eleven years. That’s why I know that, like death and taxes, some things are certain in a parent’s life.
Here are just five slightly harrowing but ultimately inevitable truths of parenting, from my experience — and if you have managed to escape these thus far, please don’t tell me. I want to believe that everyone is in the same body-fluid filled, Sharpie-markered boat that I am in, so don’t burst my bubble…
1. You will be barfed, pooped, and peed on by your child. Maybe in the same day. Possibly in the same hour. Rarely, but sometimes, in the same minute — that is known as the Hat Trick of the baby and toddler world. Though you will never get used to it, at some point, you will be less fazed by it. That is the moment when you will wonder how you got to this point in life and whether or not you might need to go buy yourself something completely impractical — like a white leather purse or a red Lamborghini — to make up for the fact that other people’s body fluids are not at all a cause for pause. But then you will remember you are covered in someone else’s pee, and you will settle for a shower.
2. Your child will get jumped/bitten/mauled by another kid. When toddler meets toddler, it happens. Recently, at an otherwise uneventful My Gym play class, my 18-month-old girl had a run-in with another 18-month-old girl. It did not end well for my little girl. The other girl pulled out approximately four fistfuls of her hair and clawed her face up a bit when they ran into each other’s way in a maze formed by gym mats and covered with a parachute. The other mother was justifiably mortified as I de-shedded my daughter’s dress of approximately a third of the hairs that had been on her head — she even teared up. But although it was unsettling and I felt really sorry for my little girl, I also felt sorry for the other mom and didn’t blame her toddler. That’s because…
3. Your child will jump/bite/maul another kid. When my firstborn was 2, he was bitten by another toddler at playgroup. That set off a week-long frenzy of his own explorations into the display of power that is biting. In his week of terror, he managed to bite a chunk out of a classmate’s arm at preschool and, even more horrifyingly, the face of one of my friend’s 3-year-olds when said child did not immediately hand over a Thomas train. We could actually count each of my child’s teeth in the impressions left on the poor boy’s cheek. My husband and I were both horrified and paralyzed. What kind of animal were we raising?! We just had to hope that our friends, also veteran parents, would understand and forgive him. And us. Someday. He hasn’t bitten anyone since, so apparently that was not a sign of a life-long issue with cannibalism.
4. You will have to take your child to the ER. As the mother of three boys and one toddler girl, I have now been to the hospital ER for the following: high fevers, falling off playground equipment, split chins, stomach virus-induced dehydration (x 3), an arm torn open by running it through a kitchen window and then dragging it back out through broken glass, a split lip/busted front teeth combo, an infected toe, head injuries (x 3), and probably many other maladies I am not prepared to remember right now. I never get used to the split-second difference between Everything Is Fine and Here We Go to the ER. I do not do well with blood. But I have come to accept that this is part of my life. Also, I am very blessed to have health insurance.
5. Something you love will be ruined by your child. Pro Tip: Having a baby? Throw out every Sharpie in the house right now. Consider it like a vaccination for your home. Take it from me, small children have Sharpie homing devices built in to their tiny brains. At this moment, there is Sharpie on the walls of my backyard patio and doors, neon green marker covering my children’s train table, “BEN WAZ HERE” written in pencil on my family room wall (and not by Ben), a random letter (not the initial of any of my children) carved into my kitchen chair, and green crayon on my bedroom dresser drawer. Picture frames have been broken, paint jobs destroyed, and walls dented. There are toy sticky hands stuck to the (very high) ceilings of my bedroom. This is why I cannot own nice things. But I tell myself that I love my children most, and a house like mine — a “working farm,” as I call it — should look like children live here too. And oh, it does. IT DOES.
6. You will have to deal with an impossible potty emergency. There’s a very long bridge in Florida that connects Tampa to St. Petersburg. Once on a road trip to visit my brother and sister-in-law, my then very young firstborn decided that the very moment we were in the middle of that bridge in rush hour traffic was the one in which he could no longer hold his pee inside his body any longer — pee I had heard nothing about for hours before that. In my desperation, I introduced him to the empty water bottle method of pottying, which is a dangerous, intricate endeavor for a 3-year-old boy, but sometimes your only hope. Another time, we were trying to get home from batting practice at 7:30 on a school night with three kids in my car when my son decided, again, that the situation was dire. That time, I had no water bottles to speak of, and I was completely exhausted and strung out from entertaining two overtired younger brothers while he practiced for hours. We were stuck between cars trying to exit the ball field, and there was nowhere to pull over. “Just pee in your booster seat,” I finally ordered, resigned. “Um, really?” he asked, incredulous. What other choice was there? Moral of the story: Parents are in such a hurry to potty train their kids, but in my opinion, the diaper and/or pull-up is highly underrated. Without them, the chances of Parenting Truth #1 happening are exponentially greater. Trust me.