Parenting is nothing if not a learning experience, and each new stage brings a reason to wonder what the hell you’re doing. Even now, after more than a decade and four kids, I question myself constantly. But throughout the years of trial and error, I do feel confident about a few things. Here are my parenting tips and observations:
1. Baby wipes are a must-have, even after your babies are no longer babies. Keep a pack in your closet. Keep a pack in your bag. Keep a pack in your car. Then keep an extra pack in case any of the aforementioned packs run out suddenly.
2. If you’re running late, someone will have a poop-related emergency. It’s some sort of unwritten law.
3. Sometimes you have to admit to your child that you were wrong, and it sucks.
4. The books you find annoying are the ones your kid will want to read over, and over, and OVER.
5. Hell hath no fury like a napless toddler. I guess my kids didn’t get the memo.
6. There are times when you will envy your childless friends—bitterly.
7. Potty training is a breeze compared to teaching successful butt-wiping.
8. Every tragic news story about children will hit you right in the gut, in a way it never would’ve before.
9. You can’t have anything nice.
10. You have to issue constant reminders to say “please” and “thank you,” but say “shit” one time in their presence and they’ll repeat it like a parrot. Children especially enjoy creating awkward social situations.
11. You will find yourself finishing off totally unappealing things, like cold chicken nuggets and grilled cheese crusts.
12. You will sound like your mother more often than you care to admit.
13. They might be quiet as church mice, but if you’re on the phone, it’s the perfect time for them to bang on things or watch a loud video or have a screaming sibling squabble.
14. You’re not alone. Read the Scary Mommy Confessional sometime—you’ll see.
15. Your kids will eat a certain food like it’s going out of style, but the minute you buy it in bulk, it loses its appeal and you end up with a case of something they are never going to finish.
16. Saying “mm-hmm” without paying attention to what you’re agreeing to is always a bad idea.
17. You never thought you’d be so excited about someone else’s toilet habits, yet here you are.
18. Kids are gross.
19. You’ve never felt anger like the kind you feel when your kid gets picked on or treated unfairly.
20. Just because they get old enough to bathe themselves doesn’t mean they’ll actually be clean.
21. Letting them grow up and be independent is sometimes agonizing.
22. They will never be as concerned as you are about the house being neat and tidy.
23. Kids have a knack for announcing “inside” things in an outside voice.
24. Car seats are a bitch to clean.
25. You will marvel at how much they complicate your everyday life and how much you love them despite it.
26. When your child is sick, the Internet is not your friend. Just call the pediatrician and ask questions; they’re used to it.
27. The more effort you put into preparing dinner, the less of it will get eaten.
28. All the things you said you’d never let your kid do? You’ll let them do at least 75 percent of them.
29. If you think babies are expensive, just wait until they become kids who can ask for things.
30. Keep a plunger handy at all times. Also, the number of a plumber.
31. No matter how well-prepared you feel, you will still be caught completely off-guard by questions about sex, genitalia and/or feminine hygiene products. Just try to play it cool.
32. Monitoring your kid’s Internet browsing is a necessary evil.
33. More often than not, the answer to, “What did you do at school today?” will be “Nothing.” You have to be more specific in your line of questioning.
34. Want your kids to talk to you? Try going to sleep, reading a book, closing yourself in the bathroom, or watching a critical moment of your favorite TV show.
35. Mom Guilt is a thing.
36. You know you should cherish every moment while they’re small. (Every old lady in the grocery store tells you so.) Even though it’s sooo hard…
37. …because it really, truly does go by so fast, despite the fact that the days seem to drag on sometimes.
38. Silence is suspicious, especially during the toddler years.
39. Parenting is a hard gig, and mistakes are inevitable. Fix them the best you can, consider it a learning experience, and move on.
40. Sometimes the Tooth Fairy needs to put a reminder in her phone.
41. Kids stash stuff everywhere. Always check pockets, and drawers, and couch cushions.
42. Most baby gear “must-haves” are just crap that takes up space. But those vibrating bouncy seats, now those are necessary.
43. Say no when you know you should, even if it’s hard.
44. There’s a lot to be said for parental intuition. Always listen to it when in doubt.
45. You’ll be amazed (okay, appalled) at the amount of laundry you do, considering kids prefer to run around naked every chance they get.
46. Don’t throw out your old towels. They come in handy, especially during stomach viruses.
47. The one time you leave the house without a clean diaper or fresh outfit is the one time they will actually need it on your outing.
48. Always carry snacks.
49. There’s no shame in handing over your phone or iPad for a few precious minutes of silence. Download educational apps if it makes you feel better.
50. Everybody will have an opinion about your parenting, but they don’t know your kids like you do. As long as they’re happy and safe, you’re doing exactly the right thing.
While being a parent is the most awesome thing you’ll ever do, it’s also the most trying. Poor choices will be made. Awkward moments will be had. But the good news is that you’ll learn from each experience, and if nothing else, you’ll have some great stories to tell your children’s future spouses.