“Oh, the untested virtue
of things I swore I’d never do…”
“Mess” — Ben Folds Five
I would venture to say, in my supreme knowledge as a parent for almost nine weeks, that most people without children have a list of things they’re not gonna do when they have kids. And I would also bet that the longer the list, the more items that person will actually eventually do. Karma, she is so bitchy.
I would also offer the opinion, and I will right now, that these listy people grow exponentially more annoying the longer you have kids and the more items you start crossing off your own list. I would probably rank the level of annoyance up there with “Well, we did it that way with you/your sister/your brother/your cousin/random child you don’t know, and you/your sister/your brother/your cousin/said random child turned out fine.”
This is usually proclaimed by well-meaning folks WHO YOU LOVE VERY MUCH and who maybe feel a tad bit defensive about something they did or were told to do thirty or more years ago which is now considered dangerous, ineffective or just weird.
But back to the list. I had a list. Not a freakishly long list, but I had definite ideas about what I wouldn’t do once I spawned a spawn. I’m slowly but methodically working my way through that list and doing every single one of them, y’all. Every single one. The shame and humiliation, they are abundant.
THINGS I WILL NEVER DO WHEN I HAVE KIDS
1. I will never use the television to babysit my child.
I arrived home one day this week with approximately 1,100 bags of groceries, a diaper bag, a pump bag, my purse and a baby in a car seat, which all needed to be brought into the house. I also had to feed two cats, turn on the AC upstairs, and pee. I REALLY had to pee. What did I do? No, what did I plan to do as I pulled into the driveway? Yep.
Evie was plopped down in front of Lifetime to watch Reba as I unloaded groceries and mercifully emptied my bladder. She stared in rapt wonder as Reba and her live studio audience came into our den. Evie now loves Reba. So do I. We are just alike!
2. I will never give my child formula.
I will admit this to you and only to you: I used to have a snobbishly superior attitude about breastfeeding and fully believed infant formula was the devil. Hate me if you must. Oh, come on! Like life has never taken your haughty self down a notch!
One night, kind of early on in this adventure, I could not get Eve to go to sleep. Okay, we were having that problem every night, but this night I was particularly tired, particularly drained. She’d nurse for a few minutes and then drift off. I’d put her in the bassinet and then get back into bed, pull myself into a ball and wait. Two minutes later, an indignant Evie would let me know being in the bassinet was unacceptable. Repeat ad infinitum. By 1am, I was exhausted and so was Eve. I was crying and so was Eve. Another night yawned (hah!) before us. Faced with six more bleary-eyed hours of Evie sleeping sweatily on my chest and me hovering just slightly above sleep while gazing slack-jawed at the TV, I broke down. I couldn’t do it again.
We came, weeping and wailing like banshees, into the kitchen, and I gave the snot-filled proclamation that “I can’t do this anymore!” Evie’s whimpering and crying in the background really added to the woe and despair. Gill took the baby carefully from my arms and backed away slowly. I made a bottle of the free formula we’d gotten from the hospital, felt sorry for myself and my future nutritionally-deprived, ricket-plagued daughter, and cried some more. I handed the bottle to Gill and went back to bed and cried. And eventually slept. Evie drank the bottle of formula and slept. We slept for four hours. In Baby World this is a miracle, those of you clutching your lists.
I now know that poor little Evie needed to be swaddled, which she is now, every night. She sleeps like a baby (hah!). But that night opened, as I had feared it would, the formula gate. And it’s not so bad. I look at formula now as a convenience, something I give her when I don’t have enough breastmilk pumped or when we’re leaving her with someone else. Like we did last weekend.
I love breastfeeding my daughter. It’s my favorite thing in the world, ever. But the joy on her Mimi’s face when she got to feed Eve for the first time was pretty great, too. And it’s not like Eve’s never gonna eat a Happy Meal, right? Bottom line: I got over myself and got on with it.
Still not happy about formula constipation, though. More on that later.
3. I will never let my child scream in a public place.
This is my favorite one, because I get to say this: PARENTS EVERYWHERE! I TAKE BACK AND FEEL SORELY ASHAMED ABOUT EVERY TIME I GAVE YOU AND YOUR SCREAMING RUGRAT A DIRTY LOOK AT TARGET! I’M PAYING FOR IT NOW!
Seriously, kidless people. Stop it. Stop giving parents dirty looks. These little beings propped up in the front of shopping carts? Are freakin’ ticking time bombs. They could be sleeping peacefully in their car seats, looking like so many little angels when you enter a store, only to turn into red-faced, screaming children of Satan by the time you leave. Or they could keep sleeping. Or they could be mildly irritated when you enter and get distracted by the track lighting. You don’t know! And you’re sorry they’re screaming and annoying everyone, but you need milk and bread! You need diapers! You need to get out of the damn house for five minutes!
There are caveats to this rule, however. I still don’t think it’s appropriate to bring your baby (or a child under, say, five) to a nice restaurant or a movie theater or maybe even church. And to that couple at the Melting Pot who brought their kids on Valentine’s Day, I throw many more dirty looks your way. And to anyone who brings their chatty toddler to an R rated movie — well, you should already know how I feel about that.
And to that lady in Kroger who said to me while Evie was having a meltdown, “That’s why you young people have babies, because that screaming tears my nerves up” — May your milk be always spoilt and may you ingest a questionable tomato.
And to my husband who grumbled in Babies R Us, “I feel like we’re pushing around Michael Jackson’s child,” when I tried to employ a receiving blanket as a shield over Eve to keep her from waking up and crying — So it didn’t work. I tried. You must now march determinedly through this store with me, making eye contact with NO ONE.
4. I will never argue with my husband in front of my child.
You’re tired. He’s tired. Your boobs are sore. He’s mourning the loss of your boobs. And you’re both scared crapless because OH MY LORD, THEY LET US JUST LEAVE THE HOSPITAL WITH THIS TINY BABY! THEY LET US JUST LEAVE! So you snap at each other. You say bitchy little things when you would normally hold your tongue. The bitchy little things add up and the conversation escalates until, before you know it, you’re arguing about the TV volume or why THE TRASHCAN LID NEEDS TO STAY UP WHILE I’M COOKING SO I DON’T HAVE TO KEEP LIFTING IT WITH BACTERIA-LADEN HANDS, DAMNIT!
And there sits your precious angel-baby, listening to Mommy and Daddy bicker. Poor angel-baby. Poor angel-baby with redneck parents who don’t care about her. Why can’t she dial DSS? Why?
Well, really. Arguments between a married couple happen. These are not screaming matches we’re talking about. For the most part, anyway. And what about that time we were on I-40 and had a, um, slight disagreement about which exit to take? I should have stuck Evie in the trunk or hung her out the window? I’m not proud of arguing with Gill in front of our baby, but I’m not proud of the tattoo on my back either, and I live with that. We try our best to be nice, but we tick each other off sometimes, and we can’t leave Evie alone to argue quietly behind closed doors. Bottom line: I’m giving us a pass on this one and betting Evie won’t remember.
For the record, our lives are beginning to decompress and we’re becoming more comfortable in our new roles as Mommy and Daddy. We haven’t broken Eve yet, and we’re actually getting pretty good at this. So there’s a lot more a-kissin’ and a-snugglin’ and much less a-fightin’ and a-squawblin’. I’m still putting away a little each month for Evie’s therapy, though, just in case.
5. I will never breastfeed in public.
Well, I did, and I’ll probably do it again. Apologies to the male members of my family. On the day I gave birth to Eve, everyone saw everything I had. Including y’all. But tough you-know-whatees. As far as I was concerned, the only person in that hospital room was Eve. But bless your hearts. I never knew the light fixtures, the sink in the corner and the floor could be so interesting. I wanted to tell you that you could look, that you might have thought it neat that a little bitty baby could just know how to do that.
Now, I have to say that I have not whipped out my boob in, say, the mall. Yet. One day I will. I’m still a little chicken, to be honest. I shouldn’t be, though. I really shouldn’t. They’re just breasts, after all, and I’m not a porn star, so they’re mine. And they feed my child. People’s issues with them are their own. I got other issues to deal with, yo. Like feeding my daughter so she doesn’t start screaming in aisle three while you shoot me dirty looks. Besides, North Carolina says it’s legal for me to do it, and I know women who carry around a copy of that statute in their diaper bags. We are not playin’ around, y’all.
Gill is cringing now at the prospect of his wife exposing herself in public. Don’t worry, sweetie. They’re called receiving blankets, and they cover things quite nicely. Until Eve discovers how hilarious it is to pull the blanket off mid-feed, that is. Fun times!
My list is a few items longer, but I haven’t done those things yet. Opportunities like putting rice cereal in her bottle to make her sleep through the night and dropping her on her head have not yet presented themselves to me for endless Internet research, pearl-clutching and wringing of hands. Oh, but they’re coming. I pass by those shrink-wrapped Gerber boxes every week at the supermarket, and the other day I propped Evie up on some pillows on our bed, only to look back after I stood up to see that she had rolled off the pillows and was lying facedown, too close to the edge of the bed for comfort. I don’t want to tell you the scenario that keeps running through my head of what could have happened.
Yeesh. I need a beer. Which reminds me of another item on my list involving alcohol and breastfeeding. Oh, screw it. Being a parent’s hard, y’all. Pass the Sam Adams.