I used to be the best parent. I was an expert. I knew all the things.
Before I had children.
Then I had kids and found out I didn’t know jack shit. Things I had done several times before for younger siblings or kids I babysat, like changing diapers and giving baths, I found myself watching YouTube videos on because now that I had a baby of my own, my brain was on hiatus. And my thoughts on the actual parenting stuff, like rules and consequences, really anything I could be shitty and judgmental about regarding people who actually had kids, went out the window when it was time to roll up my sleeves and do that crap myself.
1. TV/Screen Time
Before Kids (BK): All the pediatricians or someone else that knows shit better than I do says to hold off on screen time until your child is two. Roger that! No brain mush for my snowflake! Enriching activities, lots of books, play dates, arts and crafts, trips to the park and the library and museums. Culture out the ass. My kids will play with wooden toys like the pilgrims did and be geniuses for it. Steve Jobs didn’t let his kids have screen time! Never mind that he was a raging asshole; gimme all the parental advice, sir!
A select few of the many things I thought I would never do as a parent …
After Kids (AK): “Do you want live TV or Netflix, Sweetie?” I was screwed from the start with this one. No TV for baby apparently meant no TV for me? I would put my stories on while I was confined to my breastfeeding chair in my son’s early months, with his back to the screen, of course. Then the little weirdo started unlatching and leaning backwards to watch Sons of Anarchy upside-down. I should have called it then. But as a SAHM, TV is sometimes my favorite and I’m not apologizing for that shit. I can turn on Sesame Street and use the bathroom or get some chores done or watch something inappropriate on my laptop from the couch and know with the utmost certainly that my son will be sitting in his seat, eyes glazed over and drooling, with not a hair out of place. Safety first.
2. Fast Food
BK: No McDonald’s for my baby! Grass-feed all the things and shape them into a cute little cartoon character’s face on a bed of kale. How’s THAT for a happy meal?
AK: I never said no Chick-fil-A! The Lord dines here or something. Seems legit. Enjoy your waffle fries, Pumpkin! I’m sure as hell gonna enjoy mine. Om nom nom.
BK: Never. Awful. Yuck. No. Nope.
AK: Still not gonna do it. But can CPS arrest me for thought crimes? If so, never mind. After my son drew on the kitchen table, kicked up hell at my doctor’s appointment, and took 5,000 years to swallow a carrot at dinner that he spent 8,000 years chewing, I definitely did not indulge in fantasies of drop kicking him the length of a football field.
4. Tantrums In Public
BK: I can’t believe that parent is just letting their rugrat go HAM all over the grocery store. No one disciplines their kids anymore! Consequences, people! If your kid is screaming and crying in public, you threaten their existence (quietly) or you LEAVE and stop making all these people suffer the wrath of your brat-turd offspring. Jesus, for a childless person, I am so good at knowing how to parent other people’s children. I should get an award. This bag of Funyuns will do!
AK: A small child is like a T-Rex. If I stay quiet and don’t make any sudden movements, he won’t see me and I can get through half my grocery list before heading to the checkout line, waving my white flag. And maybe, MAYBE get some Funyuns to emotionally eat on the drive home while I’m forced to listen to goddamn Kidz Bop on a non-stop loop. Tomorrow we can come for the second half of the list. And more Funyuns.
5. Formula Feed
BK: My breastfeeding class was a joke. Who even needs a class on this crap? Boob, meet baby. Done. Free food for my sparkle-pants angel. He will never know the IQ-shrinking swill that is formula. Breast is best!
AK: Why didn’t anyone tell me this was so HARD?! My boobs are making bupkis. My baby won’t stop crying or sleep anywhere that keeps him from being in direct contact with some part of my boob at all times. The Eighth Wonder of the World is the fact that my nipples have somehow not yet turned to sawdust. Give. Me. A bottle.
BK: No way am I gonna just let myself go after this baby comes. Having your abdomen sliced open or your vagina turned into the wardrobe doors to Narnia is no excuse to stop wearing mascara and to assume a life of yoga pants and dirty t-shirts.
AK: If it is X days since Mommy has showered and Y days since Mommy has had at least 6 hours of sleep, how much wine does she have to spill on her shirt before it is no longer a shirt, but a bar rag? Solve for I Don’t Give a Shit.
7. Not Tonight, Honey
BK: Oooh, Dita Von Teese came out with a line of super sexy nursing bras? That’s gonna keep the spark alive! Lace? A demi-cup? Buy all the colors!
AK: If I keep walking around topless with the My Breast Friend strapped to my waist like an inner tube, he will stay on his side.
8. Food As A Reward
BK: Giving food as a reward for good behavior or personal achievements creates an unhealthy association with food and happiness. Got it. I will stick to stickers and self esteem-building affirmations.
AK: If you go seven minutes without peeing in your pants or on me, I will give you this entire cake and the remaining balance on my Starbucks gift card.
BK: Kids in our marital bed? We are not the Waltons. I bought that stinking crib, and this baby is gonna sleep in it.
AK: Technically, we have not let baby into our bed. That is because I have not been in our bed since the minute my water broke. I’ve been in this godforsaken rocking chair, “sleeping” with a baby in my arms, because he won’t sleep anywhere else. I will gladly sign over the deed to my bed if he lets me sublet 1/4 of it some nights a week.
If I had a time machine, I would go visit childless me and pat her on her stupid head. Maybe tell her to let that mom with the angry baby bump go in front of her at the grocery store checkout. It’s not her fault she doesn’t know any better, because you never really can know until you have kids of your own. But I would probably also encourage her to redirect some of that judgement towards actual horrible things, like adults that wear Crocs.