Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What They Don't Tell You

Expectant parents are the target for conflicting (and sometimes bizarre) advice.  Put the baby to sleep on its back/stomach, don't give babies cows milk/soda, never leave children unattended in pet stores. With all the labor and delivery classes, well meaning friends/family, and the plethora of books it's hard to know who to listen to.  While I am no parenting expert, there are a few topics that I have noticed woefully neglected amid all this.

Most pregnancy books tell you about the different stages of pregnancy and what is going on inside your body.  What they don't tell you is your body is no longer your own--it has been taken over by a cute little parasite who doesn't care if you have no clothes that fit you anymore or if you can see your feet to tie your shoes. Your midsection grows to the size of a basketball and it feels like your skin is stretched so tight it's going to explode.  Your boobs, formally for decorative purposes only, begin to dispense beverages.  Intellectually I knew these were natural occurrences--I'd read the books-- but I would not have been surprised to have the creature from Alien to pop out of me. 

They tell you the pain of delivery will be forgotten as soon as you hold your baby in your arms.  Ha!  They were still stitching up the tear in my private lady area as I held my newborn, so there was little chance of that.  Labor for me felt like having a Mac truck drive through my body...slowly.  Then it'd go in reverse... inch forward for a while. Next it parked on my tailbone.  That is a pain I will never forget.  Which is not to say it wasn't well worth it, but it hurt like a son of a b***h.

They tell you that you'll learn to decipher your baby's cries and know what your newborn needs.  This is an old wives' tale, in my opinion, and old wives are not to be trusted.  My babies' cries went from a whimper (Bored? Can't find my thumb?) to a wail (Hungry?  You're the worst mother in the world?) to a shriek (You just stuck me with a diaper pin!  Someone call CPS!).  Mostly you just start at the easiest things to fix, food and diaper, and work your way up to the bouncing and walking.  Endlessly.  While said baby screams in your ear for no intelligible reason.  Endlessly.  Until your hearing is so damaged that you couldn't tell a "Please burp me" cry from a "Why can't I control my arms" cry.

They tell you that toddlers will assert their independence by saying no.  What they don't tell you is any practical way of getting them to do what you want, short of sitting on them.  And that brings on the "someone call CPS cry" and I tell you, toddlers are masters of the persecuted and abused routine.  What they should tell you is that how you handle toddler tantrums will come back and bite you in the butt when they're teenagers.  Bad behavior is cyclical.

They tell you that things will get easier when your kids get into grade school.  Sure they're potty trained now and speak in complete sentences when they demand things of you, but there's another aspect to consider.  Grade-schoolers have social lives.  They have friends (who inconveniently don't live nearby), and sports (little league practices are normally two hours long), and school field trips, and important projects they forgot at home and need you to bring to school, and school supplies they need for tomorrow...If they have siblings, you multiply this running around time by 6,789 (more or less).  You will be living in your car until they're sixteen.  And then they'll be living in your car and you'll be stuck at home without a ride.

They tell you that teenagers will assert their independence by saying no.  You can't make them do what you want by sitting on them anymore, however, because now they're bigger than you.  So now you just argue with them endlessly and hope to wear them down.  But you are too tired from driving everyone to practices and games and roller skating to outlast them.  Lucky for you they don't have their own car or their own job or their own house.  My most effective bargaining tool to date is to take away my teen's phone and threaten to text all the numbers in his speed dial, explaining to all his friends why he won't BRB. (LOL).  I think I actually heard him whimper.  (Translation: "You are the worst mother in the world and I will spend many years in therapy because of this.")

This is as far as I've gotten in the stages of parenting advice.  I'm looking forward to sharing how to deal with the kids moving out of the house and supporting themselves.  Of course, there may be a few things that may surprise me about that stage.  The house will be too quiet?  I'll start dressing the dogs up like babies?  I'll bug my kids about giving me grandchildren so much that they'll stop calling?  Perhaps I'll be just as clueless about this part as any other.  But I won't have anyone crying in my ear.


  1. Another funny, smart essay (Roy would love this-esp "This is an old wives' tale, in my opinion, and old wives are not to be trusted." A sentence worthy of Nancy Mitford.) I saw Beth yesterday and raved about your writing--am sending this on to her now.