Before I got pregnant with Parker, I spent a lot of time thinking about what it would be like to have children. For me, contemplating having kids was a lot like deciding whether to ride the biggest, baddest roller coaster in the amusement park. Standing in line for the ride, I was nervous and scared and second guessing my decision to stay in line, but the people coming off of the ride looked like they had so much fun that the feeling was infectious. So I went for it and boy, it’s certainly been one wild ride.
While there are moments every day where my heart is elated beyond measure at the joy my children bring me, I now know that what my roller coaster analogy missed was the part where all of those happy people were just minutes before swearing on the top of their lungs, hanging on for dear life and questioning their sanity for making such a crazy decision in the first place. So last night, between the hours of 1:42am and 3:15am (when I was awake with my sweet, darling teething daughter), I thought up a battery of
sadistic tests that people considering parenting should take before embarking on this lovely thing called parenting. Consider the following exercises a crash course called “Parenting 101: S$%! Just Got Real.”
Test #1: Preparing for an Infant
The only thing I recall learning from the childbirth and parenting class that I took before my first pregnancy was how to change a diaper and how to bathe a newborn. Was that important information? Sure. What I was grossly unprepared for, however, was the massive sleep deprivation that comes with the territory, which in our case, lasted until shortly before Parker’s 4th birthday. Seriously, the child would not sleep. The following exercise would have been a helpful preparatory exercise to give me a more realistic idea of what I’d be up against.
All you need for the sleep deprivation test is a partner in crime to assist you in the experiment. This is how the experiment works: get comfortable and ready for bed. As soon as it looks like you’ve fallen asleep, instruct your helper to nudge you awake. Repeat this pattern for the next 45 minutes. After the 45 minutes are up, your helper is to allow you a two hour block of sleep, after which point you are to be woken up with an air horn. Repeat this process from beginning to end until you need to wake up in the morning. I suggest at least two weeks of this exercise in order to make the experiment seem real because that, my friends, is a solid beginning to sleep deprivation, which is every new mother’s constant companion.
Test #2: Preparing for a “High Needs” Baby
I would like to first say that I am not a fan of the term “high needs” as a categorization for infants. I mean, all babies are high needs to some degree, some just need a bit more touch time to feel secure. By calling some of them high needs, the world is implying that some parents are going to get off easy. I think this is a very bad idea because even if you have a lower needs baby, all babies teethe, get sick or go through different phases where they just need more of your time. Lexi, for example, has just entered a serious mommy phase. If she can not see me, she screams. If she wants to be held by me and I put her down, she screams. If I’m holding her, however, she is sunshine and roses and cuter than a 2 day old fuzzy bunny.
To help prepare future parents for such a scenario, I created the following drill based on that example. Okay, go out and buy a 20 lb. sack of rice. From sun up to sun down, do all of your work and chores while holding that sack of rice on your hip. In the event that you need to put the rice down to pee (for example), rig your house so that the smoke detector goes off at full volume the entire time the sack of flour is on the floor. Ah, what fun.
Test #2: Preparing for a Toddler
I must admit that my toddler skills are a bit rusty since Parker graduated from that phase years ago, but from what I remember, the following should give you a small peek into toddlerhood.
First, go and buy (or borrow) a parrot. The next step is to train the parrot to say the following words: “No!” “Mine!” and my personal favorite, “Why?” The parrot is to respond to any question you ask it with one of the aforementioned words. The only deviation from this exercise is that the parrot should be instructed to recognize any curse words that you might say and to repeat those at the most inopportune times like in church, at the pediatrician’s office or at the dinner table when your in-laws are visiting.
Test #3: Preparing for a Pre-Schooler/Kindergartner
Pre-schoolers are smart, funny and have the attention span of a squirrel. This makes giving basic instructions and having them followed quite challenging. The following exercise is a two-parter and also involves an animal, but the type depends on what kind you can get your hands on. I should also mention in advance that this test is a timed exercise.
You have 20 minutes to complete the following drill. First, stand in front of a brick wall for 10 minutes and give it basic directions like, “Please finish your breakfast,” “Please put on your shoes,” and “Please brush your teeth.” Yes, I think future parents should speak to brick walls. It’s great practice. Now, for the next phase of this exercise you need a large animal of some sort. If you have access to a greased pig, I think it would be best, but a rambunctious 50 lb. puppy would also work. Now, to complete the following exercise, simple release either the greased pig or the puppy into your living room and with a 10 minute time limit, clothe said pig or puppy in pants, a shirt, socks, shoes, a hat and mittens.
While the above tests won’t give someone the full idea of what everyday life is like with a small child, it is a lot closer than someone handing you a baby doll and a disposable diaper and telling you that you are acquiring parenting skills. Now that I’m thinking about it, what they should do instead is hand you a screaming eel to diaper if they want you to have a more realistic experience, but I digress. In all seriousness, having children has been the greatest joy of my life. It’s also the hardest and craziest thing I’ve ever done. I’m sure that when the children are grown, I will look back on these years wistfully and with great nostalgia, but for now, I’m holding on for dear life, praying for more sleep, more patience and more wine. Amen.