Books and friends touched on them, but until I faced them myself, I really had no idea.
As an expectant, first-time parent, I had no idea what it would be like. To prepare, I read all the books, talked to friends with kids, and looked up anything and everything online. I went through a serious “nesting” phase. We cleaned every inch of our home, cleaned our cars, washed and rewashed the baby’s clothes, made dinners to freeze for later. We were ready! We knew what to expect and how to handle any problem that was thrown our way!
But you know that moment in the movies, the one where reality hits and the music comes to a screeching halt? That’s what happened the second our beautiful child was born. Even though we had done everything to prepare, we really had no idea what to expect. That baby is now 6 years old with two little brothers, and reality still finds a way to slap us across the face in the most hilarious ways.
Here are some of the things I never expected about parenthood:
1Expect projectiles from your child.
To be honest,this is something the books do tell you about. However, until you are staring into the eyes of a baby, pleading for them to wait until the diaper change is over before loading it up again, you just can’t understand the fear. The firepower that a newborn possesses is unreal. My daughter once got so much range that it went clear across the room. I just barely escaped. The rug did not.
2Sleep will run your life.
Everyone touts the merit of a sleep schedule. But it’s the lengths you will go to protect that fragile sleep schedule that may surprise you. It doesn’t matter how tired your child is, if they close their eyes for a second in the car, all bets are off. Your hopes for naptime or bedtime are instantly dashed. I have pointed out landmarks in silly voices, screamed out songs, given the kids my phone so they can track the car’s progress on GPS. When all else fails, I keep a bag of lollipops in my glove box to sugar them up for the 10 minutes it takes to get home.
3Children can amaze and terrify you at the same time.
They are so sweet and offer little reminders that there is good in the world. That being said, kids have an uncanny ability to turn something from sweet to creepy with little to no effort. One evening I heard a noise after my children had gone to bed. I went to check on them only to see my oldest checking on her brother. Sweet, right? No. She was sleep walking and, after a minute or two, began climbing back into her bunk, giggling to herself. On another occasion, I was about to go grocery shopping when one of my young children came running up to me for a hug goodbye. He looked up at me sweetly and whispered, “You need to hurry to get home before dark, that’s when the monsters come out.” To date, that was the fastest I have ever gone through the grocery store.
4You will become extremely creative.
Although you may wish that the world was childproof and understanding, it simply isn’t always the case. Certain places and events present unique challenges and your creativity will be put to the test. When I was pregnant, my kids wanted to know if everyone else was pregnant too. They would walk up to anyone, man or woman, and ask if there was a baby in their belly. I got really good at recognizing when they were about to mortify someone and could cut in after the first word or two.
Another difficult situation arises when a child needs to use the bathroom while we are away from home. Public bathrooms are basically big boxes of disease, so I created a game. The kids stand on a floor tile with their hands in the air and stay still like a statue. That’s it. If the bathroom doesn’t have tile floors, we find another one.
Parenthood is made up of moments. These moments change in the blink of an eye, from hilarious to gross to surprising to anything you can (or can’t) imagine. There is no way to prepare for it or fully understand it. You just do it. You commit yourself wholeheartedly to whatever these tiny, messy humans throw at you and live the adventure.