There have been several occasions over the past five and a half years that Caleb and I have started a conversation about some aspect of parenting beginning with, “They never tell you that…” Exactly who the nebulous “they” are is unclear, but assumedly there is a gaggle of experienced parents out there whose job it should be to prepare the newer parents for every surprising eventuality. Having been a parent for five and half years now, I can only surmise that by the time these parents have recovered from the rigors of parenting, they are approximately 98 years old, and have trouble using communication devices, like computers, to share their wisdom.
They never tell you, for example, that you will develop an entirely new vocabulary dedicated solely to the description of poop. Real life examples in our family include, but are not limited to, “nugget”, “squidgy”, and the horrifying, “code orange”. They also never tell you that you will spend an unholy amount of time researching and baking your kid’s second birthday cake from scratch, in the shape of an American school bus, and using an entire bottle of yellow food dye, only to have it turn out looking like one of those really odd, flat one-person fertilising trucks. But, you allow yourself a secret smile and a self-deprecating Facebook post, because you just know this little guy is going to think it’s the coolest bus in the world…except all you get is, “What is it?” followed by a refusal to even eat the damn bus.
They never tell you that you’ll get to the end of your rope, then discover that you have to hang there by the skin of your teeth while trying to remain coherent and patient and nice. But they also never tell you that the desperation for the kiddos to go to sleep at the end of the day, is surpassed only by the swell of your heart when you hear your two year old stumbling into the lounge like a tiny drunken sailor in the morning.
They never tell you that while you feel pretty chuffed that you let the five year old stir the pancake batter once, and there was also that one time in a moment of parenting awesome-sauce that you set up a giant piece of paper with some crayons, that there are actually parents who do finger painting (AT HOME!!) and woollen pom-pom making, and who love school holidays because they get to do all the fun activities, and their kids only watch an hour of TV a month, and they make muffins comprised of 8 different kinds of antioxidant ancient superfoods that kids somehow magically love.
They never tell you that your kids are gonna have strange and unusual quirks that you most definitely did not teach them…like putting their brother’s stinky gross socks on their hands and wiping their face with them, or having a Chernobyl size meltdown because you won’t let them leave the house with undies on their head.
They never tell you that the moment your kids enter the world, the range on the volume knob on life gets immediately expanded; the lows are so much lower, the highs so much higher. Or of the horror you will experience losing your kid at the museum, or of the uncanny ability you now possess to pick your progeny out of a large crowd simply by the shape of his head.
And they never tell you that somehow, as you feel yourself being stretched beyond recognition, somewhere between the new wrinkles, and peptic ulcers, and sudden disconcerting penchant for repeating old-timey phrases that your mum used to say, somewhere in all of that, there is a sense of rightness. A sense that, even though you would never willingly sign-up for half of what you experience on a regular basis, a life lived in the servitude of others (even tiny belligerent dictators) is really good for your soul.
Love you friends (and may the force be with you).