The early years are special. All years of parenthood are special, but there’s something about getting your legs under you as a brand new mom or dad. [sws_pullquote_right]Ladies and gentlemen, if raising a child is a video game, then the vomiting illnesses are the boss rounds. [/sws_pullquote_right]
I once heard a wise person compare parenthood to driving a car. Before you can drive, you watch someone steer, accelerate, brake, check his/her mirrors, and so forth. It looks like a composite of easy tasks — yet there’s something larger there that’s intangible, isn’t there?
Parenting is the same way. The genuinely hard jobs are rare early on. There are many rote tasks. Yet there are things that are tougher to understand than they appear.
Here are three. I’m not even sure if these are things I wish I’d known, because that implies I’d have taken a different path. So let’s call them things you can’t fully appreciate until you experience them.
Kids Are Expensive
See, though, when you think about such in the abstract, you probably tend to think of big things like college funds.
You don’t think about diapers being a quarter apiece. Sometimes your bundle of joy will wipe out two in rapid succession. Once in a while the tape is defective when you pull the diaper out of the package. Welcome to the $1 diaper change. See you in a couple of hours, Dad! And how many times has it happened this week?
You don’t consider the fact that you grab a can of powdered formula at the grocery store that looks and feels about like a Stove Top stuffing container, and then the cashier tells you with a straight face that it’s $30. You ever wonder about that nice new car that appears a couple of years into new parenthood? Their kid just got off formula. It’s like getting a raise.
Kids Hear, and Remember, All
Moreover, children remember the most absolute version of every single thing you say. It’s because they don’t have anything else to keep up with.
There is no gray area. You may not idly muse. You may not wonder what if. You are permitted no speculation of any kind. A young child’s world view is binary. “Well, maybe we need to try that sometime” is immediately and irrevocably stored in your child’s brain as “we’re definitely going to do that and probably pretty soon.”
So don’t say it might be fun to go to Disney World sometime, or maybe we’ll grill out hamburgers this weekend. “Might” and “maybe” don’t parse. You’re in. Just assert the unambiguous positive or don’t say anything at all.
Kids Are Gross
The best for last. And duh again.
You get this one superficially too. Babies soil themselves. It’s one of their defining characteristics. It’s a huge industry, as I mentioned earlier. Also, babies frequently apply food to their environment in creative ways, only incidentally getting some into their mouths.
But oh, the things you don’t know.
Kids lay their heads down in the urinal. It’s nice and cool, and it’s just the right height! Kids crawl into the litterbox. What a neat little place to nestle! Kids lick the wall when you’re out to dinner. Then, they get sick and throw up.
They. Throw. Up.
Ladies and gentlemen, if raising a child is a video game, then the vomiting illnesses are the boss rounds.
There is no describing the smell, made all the more magical by the fact that it’s warm. You forget the human body is nearly 100 degrees, and frequently in this context even higher, until you’re sopping up a quart and a half of disgusting that just came out of it. Ever try to clean something up effectively while trying desperately to spare yourself a really good look at it? Also holding your breath?
Whatever kindness and consideration Lea and I find for each other dies mercilessly on the altar of a child throwing up. We take strict turns dealing with it, and if it’s your turn, then it’s your turn. Sorry. (Fortunately, our kids are old enough now that they usually don’t make unpleasantly placed messes of this nature anymore.)
Thinking about a family? I’m not trying to scare you off it. Children are tremendous blessings and more than worth it.
Just be ready for some day-to-day things to be more than they appear.