Lots of things in life get easier the more you do them, like procrastination and drinking. Raising kids, though, does not. The first year with a baby is tough. But then the second year comes barreling in and suddenly the previous year starts to look like a cakewalk. (A cakewalk is either a task that is easily accomplished or a strutting dance. I’ll let you decide which definition fits here.)
Each stage of your child’s development brings a new series of challenges designed to push you to the most extreme limits of your sanity. While there is no way to be fully prepared for all that is parenthood, here are a few tips to get you started:
You can sleep when you’re dead.
Starting in pregnancy and continuing probably through early retirement, your sleep will be interrupted. This is true for mothers and fathers. You might be thinking, “Why would a father’s sleep be interrupted in pregnancy?” Because he will be rudely awakened by the not-sleeping pregnant mother who wants to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of bassinets. Right now.
Don’t get attached to anything that can’t be put in the washing machine.
Your kid is going to throw up. On you. On your spouse. On the couch. In the car. On your friend. On the cat. There will be spills, stains, drips, and leaks from all of their orifices onto all of your stuff. Nothing is sacred.
Don’t let Santa steal your thunder.
If you give your children the impression that Santa Claus is magical and all-knowing, your 5-year-old won’t tell you what she wants because “Santa already knows what I want for Christmas this year, silly. He knows everything!” Then, when you do finally pry out of her what she wants, it will be something that doesn’t exist because “Santa can make anything in his workshop.” And then when you gently guide her toward requesting a gift that can be purchased from an actual store, the one she chooses will cost more than most car payments because neither 5-year-olds nor Santa have any appreciation for the value of a dollar.
You will never be on time to work again.
Most people don’t know this, but crying over a wedgie is a thing. Processes that used to take you 45 minutes to an hour will now take a minimum of two and a half hours. Things you didn’t know were problems will become very big problems. Getting out the door in the morning will be the most dreaded part of your day. You’ll lay everything out the night before, wake up early to get a head-start, and remain optimistic because things will move along efficiently at first. But then your child will declare that her pants are “too crunchy” and all holy hell will break loose in your living room. By the time you actually make it to work, you’ll have already cried twice.
Road-tripping with kids is as fun as a bikini wax.
Vacations are fun, as long as you ride in a different car than your children. Buy a portable DVD player and pack a stack of movies. Bring some books, toys, coloring books, crayons, snacks, pillows, more toys, and extra barf bags. Think up a bunch of cutesy little games to play in the car. Most importantly, bring earplugs. Do all of those things, but mark my word, you will still feel the urge to tuck and roll at least three times in the first 150 miles. Rest stops pose another kind of problem: If you accidentally drop a baby bottle on the floor of a gas station bathroom, leave it there. Just leave it there.
You can’t have nice things anymore.
Kids break stuff. Your nose, your bank account, your things, your heart, and your spirit — all of these things will be broken by your children over and over again. Don’t worry though. That’s why they make duct tape, to fix all the broken things. Well, duct tape and credit cards.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it pee in the potty.
There is nothing quite like a child to bring out your inner control freak. Sometime just before toddlers are ready to be potty-trained, they begin to develop their own really strong opinions on things. The once sweet and mostly compliant little cute-nuggets start to exert control over their environment, generally at the most inconvenient times. Kids have sensors built in that tell them when you are sleep-deprived, not feeling well, or are facing an important deadline at work. If one of these sensors is triggered, you might as well take a seat because it’s on. Repeat after me: I have a child; therefore I control nothing. Well, except for my blood alcohol level and who can see what I post on Facebook. Wait. Never mind.
You can do this.
You’re going to experience a lot of tough moments with your kids. You’re also going to doubt yourself once in a while. But you were designed to face and overcome challenges every day. All you have to do is believe in yourself. And buy lots of duct tape. It’s just like the old saying goes, “What doesn’t kill us raises our blood pressure and stains the carpet.”