Parenthood. It’s kind of like a secret society. Only the initiation is much less The Skulls and a lot more like Shark Week. There’s blood and you are just trying to get out of this thing alive. In the age of Let it All Hang Out there’s been much written and exposed about what really goes on in this parenthood. Much of it directed toward the embarrassing things that happen to laboring or post partum bodies and the like. (All of which I’m pretending didn’t happen so that perhaps I’ll be willing to do this pregnancy thing a second time at some point.) Then you reach toddlerhood and things get kind of quiet in the world of overexposed facts. I attribute this to an absolute lack of time and the necessary use of two hands (and a stun gun) at all times to keep up with kids this age.
So, here are a few things I know now that perhaps only parents know.
1 - Toddlers are terrorists. Terrorism: noun. The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.
So maybe these kids don’t have political aims. But, they got aims. Goals. An agenda. And like terrorists they aim to use force and manipulation and even violence to shape your lifestyle and choices. (Or maybe this is just my kid. In which case, don’t tell me I’m alone!) Never negotiate with a terrorist. If you do it once they’ve got you.
2 – Sugar combined with no nap will make your angel act like they’re on bath salts. See above to ensuing behavior before you agree to let that nice bank teller give your kid a sucker and then skip naptime to hit a killer sale at Hobby Lobby.
3 – Car cheese. Imagine pimento cheese and Hog’s head cheese and fruit cake in a trash compactor. That’s what happens when you go on a road trip and forget to clean out the bottom of your kid’s car seat. We had a nice aged loaf of car cheese after the holidays made mostly of goldfish, yogurt raisins, almond milk and what I can assume were pretzel chunks.
4 – Watching someone pee is an emotional thing. The first (and only) time Wilder went potty on the potty I felt this weird little twinge in my chest and my eyes started to mist. It wasn’t voluntary. It just happened. I am so screwed when he does something major like tie his own shoe or graduate from Harvard (no pressure, sweetie #williamwilder2052).
5 – Achieving basic personal hygiene is more victorious than an Olympic medal. There are days I didn’t have to time to brush my teeth in the early days. Dry shampoo is your best friend. Day Four hair rocks. Hats rock even more.
6 – You may always smell a little like peanut butter and Desitin. And you may always feel like you’ve forgotten something. The latter of which the answer is always ‘yes, you totally forgot something important’ … like that you’re out of peanut butter or Desitin.
7 – Stickers are gold. Nay, platinum. In Toddler World a sticker has a value unparalleled. It’s like those people who knock each other out for a strand of .25 Mardi Gras beads. My kid will walk through fire for a sticker. And if that sticker has a train on it? There are no words.
8 – The value of sleep. And privacy. And preservation of individual self. Parents tend to all kind of “complain” about the same things. Before Baby it sounds a lot like whining. After Baby it becomes one of those things that kind of binds us parents together. Like ‘you’re not alone on this road … I’m here, too and you can do it! You can do it!’ It’s a road that’s more difficult than anything you’ve ever done. A road that changes. And then changes again. And then changes some more. And then changes you most likely.
It’s a road that is far more beautiful than anything you’ve ever experienced. And more worth it. More worth it than anything. I am by nature selfish. I love sleep. (I don’t mean like ‘it’s nice and I like it.’ I mean I love sleep in a way most humans only feel affection for other humans.) And yet, even loss of sleep and damaged body (I am trying to forget, really) and the ebb and flow of your very own soul that this creature takes pieces of is but a bargain for what you’ve been given. If every hard or ugly or trying thing that has happened as a result of parenthood had a hashtag it would be #worthit.
9 - There is no difficulty, no trial, no pain or complaint that compares with the child. No joy like that you feel in connection to this human. That’s something that only parents know. When parents moan and complain only other parents know they would cut you without a second thought if you had anything but their child’s best interest in mind. Only parents know that no matter how cracked your nipples or frayed your nerves or exhausted your soul or deprived you are of adult interaction, there is nothing like the bliss of a child’s breath against your neck, a chubby hand in your own or a sweet kiss and a soul crackingly perfect little smile directed at you.
These are the things that only we know.