I didn’t know how much being a parent would affect my life in weird unforeseen ways nine years ago. I had the fear, but no clue. Here’s what I know for now, with hopefully more insights as I go along:
1. You’ll need 20 extra hard drives to store the obsessive pictures you take of them – from newborn to the age of 31.
2. You’ll need an honest un-BS-y answer for everything – Easter Bunny, Santa, Jesus, tooth fairy, death, ISIS, clouds, private parts, etc.
3. There will be sand E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E. When they go to play school or aftercare they’ll come home with sand in their pockets, shoes, undies and other body parts. Sorry for you, but you have a child who likes to swim in the stuff. Before they come into the house, hold them upside down and let the sand fall into an empty sandpit – by the time 12 months have gone by, that sandpit will be full. Problem halved.
4. Start practising what you preach – or there’s no way in hell that child’s going to listen to you.
5. The child WILL NOT listen to you. YOU might have been a people-pleaser growing up but this one has an obedience deficit. And while you’re five seconds away from myocardial infarction, they’ll be Buddha-calm. Learn from them. Put it in a bubble and blow it away with a bazooka. You’ll need your full strength for worse shite they’re about to do.
6. No matter how many times you (show and) tell them how to wash their hands PROPERLY – they’ll probably be 31 and still washing their hands crappily. It’s not in their nature to be fastidious like you. Just dodge the face-caressing for as long as you can.
7. Secret smugness at having such an awesome, original, bright and beautiful child. And your awesmosis* by default because you made them. Crappy characteristics? They got those from The Dad.
8. You’ve always overestimated your intelligence and patience. Just try to insert information into a primary school child and you’ll soon realise you’re not that smart. Or zen. PS: When the child’s still the size of a bean in the womb, start saving for its education. Don’t be a dumbo. Just do it.
9. Teachers are special, magical beings – unless they’re abysmal. Then remove the child from that school immediately and find a better one.
10. You’ll make up a ‘hunt the mess’ game – writing down where they’ve left their droppings (including yourself and the other house dwellers to be fair) with each room listed, the number of ‘offences’ and a column for each person. Add clues if you’re feeling generous and send them around the house to tick off and tidy up their mess. Reward them with something small. Boom.
11. Unless the baby’s walking for Victoria’s Secret or found a cure for cancer, keep the baby pictures and poop discussions on social media to a minimum. The sooner you realise that, the better for your social media community. Excludes family/grandparents, dear friends and other humans with kids – learn how to use the custom privacy setting.
12. You WILL want to punch small children in the face when they bully your child. That’s frowned upon. Be patient. Your child will grow into a long-legged, bright Amazon who won’t give them a second thought.
13. You WILL want to punch childless grownups in the face when they complain about ‘I’m SOOO tired, I binge-watched xxxxx last night’. Or when they brag about reading a WHOLE book with small words and no pictures.
14. You WILL want to punch people in the face who think getting a pet is ‘just like having a child’. Be safe in the knowledge that you know they don’t know jack.
15. You WILL have unreasonably violent thoughts when faced with yet ANOTHER coma-inducing pink Barbie outfit or plaything, and will want your girl child to experience the joy of Batman PJs with built-in 6-pack and cape. And Ben10 shoes that glow. And you WILL purchase these despite the ‘Boys’ label and become a one-woman protagonist against sexism in toys, clothing and reading matter for kids.
16. You won’t know what to do about their painful penchant for Justin Bieber and will turn into a judge-y nun when they sing along to songs about drug addiction and sex, like ‘Can’t feel my face’ or ‘Cake by the ocean’.
17. Your ‘inside’ voice will escalate into your ‘outside’ voice faster than a jet.
18. You’ll never get used to the food under the kitchen table, smudge marks on the mirrors, discarded toys, toothpaste on the tap, and the sugary carpet of sand underfoot.
19. When the child reads YOU a bedtime story, you’ll feel immense pride. And v-e-r-y s-l-e-e-p-y.
20. Kids are time vampires – nothing will prepare you for the slothfulness of a child, ESPECIALLY when you need to get somewhere urgently (church, school, bed, etc).
21. You WILL develop a grudge-gift for rating poo: “HEY MOM, come and see what I made. It’s as big as my face!”
22. You WILL underestimate your ‘nappy guilt’ and recycle everything like a demon until your bin is down to one measly bag of dirt so unreachable that the homeless have to do capoeira in order to reach it.
23. Despite yourself, you may tell the child “It’s ok to eat snot. But only your own. Just make sure no-one sees you. And DON’T touch me until you’ve washed your hands, ok?”.
24. You may have to be super-creative about sneaking fruit and vegetables into meals so that your full-of-crap eater doesn’t develop scurvy or rickets.
25. What you’re dealing with is nothing compared to what your parents went through with four of you. Word.
26. A hands-on spouse is more than worth their weight in gold. The love you had for them before will multiply 100-fold.
27. Children can smell BS. And fear. Remain steadfast. You’re older and (maybe) bigger. And there are (usually) two of you. But kids are wily rats. So be careful.
28. It really will hurt your heart to punish them when they’re rude, but it’s necessary. You don’t want to be responsible for bringing another jerk into the world. Teach them basic manners and consideration for other living things. And not to litter.
29. You’ll need a few journals. Kids are comedians. They say and do the funniest things. Film them or jot stuff down and give them the journal(s) when they turn 21 so that they can bask in the awesomeness of their outrageous younger selves one day.
30. They will break your heart every day. Sometimes you can’t even help crying. It could be joy or anger. That’s just the way it is.
31. Try to keep some of their artwork. They’ll make a scheisse-load. Especially if you have a quirky monkey who likes drawing crocodiles, dinosaurs, zombies and God on the beach. You need to have something to cry over when they leave the nest one day.
32. You’ll basically be teaching them how to leave you. They need to know how to pay their own bills, keep themselves and their living space clean, have street smarts, willpower against peer pressure, and the discipline to study and cook a few healthy meals without being constantly nagged. Hopefully they’ll always come back for your love and cooking. Not laundry. Stuff that.
33. When they say “I HATE YOU” you’re apparently doing something right.
34. They’re not your buddies. They’ll have lots of friends but only one set of parents. It’s up to you to teach them well even if it means they don’t like you much. Why do you think they’re called ‘home truths’?
35. Nothing will prepare you for the fear that they’re in constant danger – child-trafficking, paedos, bullies, rubbish friends, crossing the road, seesaws, flashers, etc. Teach them to trust their gut and memorise your telephone number and address from a young age, but without making them as paranoid as you are.
36. You’ll be helping them cultivate a healthy sense of fearlessness (different to dumbassness).
37. Your capacity for forgiveness will grow – you’ll love them even if they consistently break or ruin your favourite antique-something. Unless they do it maliciously, then that’s another story.
38. Try not to think about your baby ‘getting it on’ with some jerk one day. All you can do is teach them the value of their bodies and minds and that their worth is not tied up in another person’s viewpoint. And hopefully that will prevent shite love choices.
39. It’s best not to cultivate a mini version of yourself – you’ve already had your chance. They must be allowed to be themselves. This won’t stop you from silently sniggering when they sit on the loo with a magazine, just like you, or pull your EXACT bitch-face to the poor dad.
40. The shame you feel when your child embarrasses you in public will be tiny compared to the creativity you show in dealing with the situation in a non-violent, covert, and classy manner.
41. Forget the baby books and well-meant advice. That’s theory. Your child’s unique and you have the chance to make hands-on, practical decisions with that specific child in mind. Just try not to stuff it up.
42. You’ll never marginalise your body again after giving natural, drug-free childbirth.
43. You WILL cry over every stranger’s bullied, missing, abused or dead child.
44. The latent psychologist in you will originate phrases such as “WOW, you run like a rocket”, “Your smile makes my heart happy”, “SJOE, you’re SO strong”, “What a beautiful brain!” and “Can we keep you?”
45. Everything you say and do affects the child – while you’re teaching them how to behave nicely, they’re busy taking in your dark side too – racism, sexism, and your attitude towards religion/others/food/your body/their other parent.
46. You CAN teach a small child to care about others needs besides their own.
47. You’ll marvel that the child of two diligent, neat, sarcastic introverts would turn out to be an olympic gold medallist in unmotivated scruffianism, eye-rolling and zombie-loving disobedience. But you don’t know whether to marvel at her balls or punish her indefinitely.
48. If you needed to, you would die for this person.
49. Other enhanced abilities include:
High grossness threshold – after experiencing another’s faecal matter on your hands, every other bodily emittance should be a breeze, but snot is my kryptonite
Professorship in home languages – you’ll correct every bit of slang and bad pronunciation emitted from their mouths until they no longer embarrass you in public
Secret code developer – you and your partner will perfect the spelling of swear words and when you want to relate other grownup stuff in front of them. Ts & Cs: this might also beget a child who perfects the spelling of swear words at a tender age
Psychology degree – you’ll discover that consistently rewarding and praising them for every little fart will only bring on a misguided sense of entitlement, not the quiet enjoyment of a job well done
6th sense – you’ll know EXACTLY when they are doing/have done/are thinking of doing something untoward
Enhanced hearing – your ability to hear the smallest sigh or intake of breath will be directly proportionate to the child’s deafness when you’re calling them to supper or to tidy up a mess they’ve made
Accents – “MOM, talk like Merida’s mommy again”
Leopard-crawling – “Woman, it’s your turn to put the tooth fairy money in the slipper”
Budget party planner – cake, decorations, party packets, food for grownups AND kids for under 1 grand
Upper body strength – carrying a heavy child, your handbag, groceries AND unlocking the door with one hand without dropping anything
Costume designer/milliner – whoop! – first prize for her dragon fairy costume and easter bonnet
Archiving skills – arranging new artwork on the fridge in an un-shite manner and artful display, curation and practical use of clay creations around the house
Stealth-wrapping – managing to wrap gifts like a nocturnal ninja without waking up the whole house
Craftiness – sewing patches on the raggedy knees of every pair of pants ever owned by the child because she’s a bit of a kneeling, shredding apparel-killer. Oh and “mom, I can’t wear THAT. It doesn’t have POCKETS!” then making some bespoke pockets.
Bullet-dodging – child:“Mom, what exactly is a penis?” mom:“I don’t have one, go ask your dad”
50. When you grow up, you’ll want to be just like them.
*Awesomeness by osmosis