since i had fritz i’ve learned a lot about being a mother, and my perspective on parenting has changed drastically. it’s not surprising when you think about it, i mean, how can you really know something until you’ve done it yourself? people gave me a lot of advice before he was born, and honestly, i ignored most of it. to be fair it was often unsolicited, and no one likes that advice. but also, i really thought i knew better than them. that it would be different for me. that i knew what i was getting myself into.
i was wrong.
so here is my list of 10 things that i didn’t realize before i had a child. unsolicited though it is, i hope you will indulge me.
1. no matter how pure and well-intentioned your plans for your child are, they will likely have their own opinions. i knew i was going to nurse fritz for one year. i knew it because i had planned it that way. it is what is best—everyone agrees—logical, right? i paid no mind to the not-so-subtle signs of my perfect angel aggressively weaning himself off the breast. when he refused the breast i told myself that his teeth hurt. when nursing him became like an alligator wrestling match, i was sure that it was because he was tired. in short, i was in denial. he didn’t give two hoot(er)s about my plan, he was done.
2. kids cry at the most inopportune times. they will patiently sit in the front of the cart, smiling at strangers and taking in the sights while you traverse the urban grocery store. you will smugly think, “my child is perfect, just look at him compared to those other squalling kids…”. then you will wheel your cart into the checkout line and with an intensity that is astounding, they will go from cool-and-calm-uber-baby to snot-nosed-squalling-brat in 3 seconds flat. take it in stride. the people around you with children will understand, they’ve been there. and you will learn a valuable lesson in humility.
3. it’s hard to break them. when we first brought fritz home from the hospital i was obsessively gentle with him. i was convinced that i would snap his little arms like twigs if i wasn’t careful. infants are scary. however, fear not, it’s pretty hard to break them. they are quite resilient and will spend the better part of their toddler years throwing themselves all over the place. they will get bruises (fritz has three on his forehead right now from bashing his face with toys) and scratches, and they will be just fine.
4. their fingernails grow really fast. seriously, i wish that i could bottle the magic fingernail growing dust that babies have. you will trim their nails and think “whew, ok, that’s done…i’m a good mom because he won’t scratch his face tonight while he’s sleeping, i deserve some wine.” (smug again, i warned you about that) and then the next night you will notice that his nails need to be trimmed again. i swear, it is some form of dark magic. prepare to trim. a lot.
5. there will be rivers of drool. before i had fritz i used to joke that having an english bulldog was good “practice” for having a baby. i mean, bulldogs are pretty high maintenance, and then there is—of course—a lot of drool. i had no idea what drool was until fritz got here. the kid leaves puddles of drool around the house. i used to step in them and think someone spilled something until i watched him do it one day. the drool gets everywhere, accept it.
6. you don’t really need everything they say you do. find someone you trust (preferably someone with children) and ask them what you need. start with the bare minimum and add things on as you go. the baby industry knows that you are hormonal and compulsive and therefore market needless crap to you day in and day out. they make things in shiny colors, with trendy packaging, and then magazines/bloggers/famous people endorse them and you think “i can’t live without this!”, but you can. ignore these snake oil salesmen and ask a friend.
7. trust your gut. when i was 6 months along, we interviewed our pediatrician (yeah, i was a little neurotic) and he said something in that interview that really resounded with me, “i usually follow the mother’s instinct”. meaning that if you think something is wrong with your kid, you are probably right. it doesn’t matter that the top search on the internet says you are wrong, or that 9 out of 10 times other people were wrong, or even that it’s too early to tell if you are right. you probably will be right. no one knows a baby like it’s mother. besides raising a child is mostly common sense, if you have it, you will be ok.
8. babies hate when you mess with them. a mothers natural inclination is to pick their children like a wild gorilla. we can’t help it, it’s biological, ok?! anyway, kids hate this. brushing their hair to the side to “fix it”? they turn away in disgust. helping them to rid their ears of gunk? prepare to have your hand batted away. boogers? their tiny faces screw up as if in pain and they wiggle away masterfully. face wiping after a meal? whoa nelly, meltdown city. you have to learn to let some of it go, i’m still working on this one.
9. don’t react. babies are funny, you are going to love having your own personal comedian. we don’t watch television when fritz is around because he’s like the best show we’ve ever seen. however, if they are doing something that you don’t approve of (even if you think there is a 1% chance you won’t approve of it in the future), don’t react. last night we were treated to a 15 minute raspberry session during dinner. why? because we laughed. i mean, it is funny, but laughing just encourages the behavior. on the flip side, if they beeline for an electrical outlet (and they will), don’t react. let them touch it, calmly say “hot” or “no” (or whatever word you are using to denote live electricity that could kill them) and distract them with something shiny. might i suggest a stuffed leek?
10. you will eventually start to feel like “you” again. just be patient. it takes a while to not feel like “mom” (or “dad”, but i’m just guessing on that one) all the time. balance will start to appear at about 10 months. you will find yourself interested in things that you cared about pre-baby. in my case that includes knitting, cooking, and blogging (lucky you). i don’t know if it is that the demands of a baby begin to lift a bit at this point or that you realize that you have a better handle on it than you did before. regardless, it seems a little easier. though i hear it gets harder once they start walking. perhaps i should do another one of these when he’s almost two…