Nothing Can Prepare You For A Feral Child

by Sara Farrell Baker
Originally Published: 
Sergey Novikov / Shutterstock

I wasn’t ready to be a mom. I mean, I was ready in the sense that we tried, planned, and prepared for our child. But the transition from being childless to cradling a baby that you’re now entirely responsible for rocked my world in ways I never even imagined. It’s such a radical shift that I don’t think anything can truly prepare you for it.

You’re never ready, planned or not, to become a parent. Until it happens. Then you figure it out as you go.

So when I became pregnant with my second child, I at least felt ready. Sure, two is more than one. But I had a clue this time around about what to expect, and there was no lying to myself about how poorly I would handle the long-term sleep deprivation. I was ready to handle whatever my uterus threw at me.

Then my daughter was born. And as she grew, I found out that, once again, I was not ready.

The realization did not come right away. We laughed at her expressive eyebrows when she was a newborn and all the shitty looks she would give us. The growling and monster noises she would make just cracked us up. She had so much personality, we liked to say.

But once she was mobile, it all became clear.

My daughter is a wild child. Feral. The embodiment of the honey badger. If my son were a candy, he would be a marshmallow — soft and sweet and cuddly. My daughter? She is Pop Rocks that have been recalled for dangerous bits of metal.

I had almost three years with my son before I made him a big brother. And those three years were fairly free of hiccups. He’s a sweet, kind, sensitive little dude who loves to draw and build and make noises 3 inches from my face. He gets an occasional bump or bruise because he isn’t looking where he is walking or he is too excited to remember how feet are supposed to work.

But in the short two years my daughter has been on this planet, she has been literally sawed out of her crib, escaped our home in complete silence and been found in someone else’s yard or in the middle of the street, climbed to the highest point of any playground structure within a 20-mile radius, licked a plumber’s Crocs, and gotten her hands on a number of sharp things ranging from nail clippers to electric drills.

And every bit of her feels like comeuppance for what, looking back, was an easy-breezy existence with my firstborn.

Days alone with my son were about as leisurely as one could hope for while wrangling a small child. If I needed a break, I could at least turn on the TV and know that all the flashing lights and loud noises would render him a cute little zombie. He would glaze over long enough for me to take a quick shower and maybe eat some lunch.

With my daughter, if I am desperate enough for a shower to leave her unattended, I have to leave the bathroom door wide open so I can listen for thuds or screams. Every couple minutes, I yell for my son. When he comes into the bathroom, I ask him to go find his sister and come back to tell me what she’s doing. Sometimes, she is just watching TV or coloring. Other times, she is coloring the TV.

You could have a child who isn’t exactly easy, with relatively normal levels of rambunctiousness who loves repeating swear words at the grocery store. But the universe may still see your first baby and raise you one that severs the lawn mower starter with wire cutters while you’re checking the mail.

And this is why the wild ones are second. The world’s population depends on this. If they came first, there would be no second child.

There is no taming a feral child. I have tried time-outs. I have tried taking away toys. I have tried so much talking — all the talking. Two-year-olds are not much for talking, I’ve discovered. Everything I try is either met with a furrowed brow and prolonged stink eye, or maniacal laughter with a quick “Sorry, Mommy” before she hauls ass in the opposite direction in search of lord knows what. Probably a box cutter and old batteries.

While I wouldn’t change my daughter for anything in the world, her fierce independence and fearlessness have made me genuinely worried for anyone who gets in her way later in life. I wouldn’t mind it if she maybe got tired once in a while. Having children can be exhausting, but the mental fatigue that comes from attempting to anticipate the moves of a criminal mastermind (oh yes, she’s advanced) is making my naps need naps. Napping would play right into her plan though. She’d find that box cutter before my head hit the pillow.

So, yeah. Nothing prepares you for a wild child like this. You’ll never be ready. You’ll love the shit out of them, but you’ll be sleeping with one eye open for a long time.

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