Steve Wiley is Jackalope Ranch's Parent Hood. He's a slightly unorthodox father of five who will weigh in weekly with his mildly-rebellious views and observations. If you'd like to see how he came to write this column, watch the intro video. This week he enlightens would-be parents about what to actually expect.
What to Expect When You're Expecting... For Real
I wasn't really ready to have kids. Hell, I wasn't even ready to have a dog. The shortened version of each scenario, in successive calendar years (dog first), went like this: I said, "Let's wait. I don't think I'm ready"; She said, "You're never going to be ready... so let's do it."
So we did it.
Thanks for the Visit. Enjoy Your New Human Being.
I still wasn't ready. I remember the terrifying moment when I pulled up the car to load up my wife and my son from the hospital. The thought went something like "You can't be serious, I have no idea how to do this." The nurses had given us a few instructions, but I felt like I needed more practice. A little knowledge beyond listening to my wife read the unnerving physiological details of What to Expect When You're Expecting.
Nope. Not a manual... nothing. They just sent us on our way.
Luckily, over the years, I've learned a little bit. Admittedly, I didn't have much of a choice. You could say I've been bludgeoned with some hard lessons. Like a reality steamroller, kids have a way of putting down a new set of rules. You learn it the hard way.
In order to save you currently young-and-hipster, soon-to-be parental units some of that learning, I thought I'd share a few of these "lessons":
5. Kids Don't Care About Hangovers. That's right, kids get up really early... no matter how you feel. And guess what? You have to get up with 'em. This fact, combined with the wicked hangovers that kicked in when I was about twenty-eight, pretty much reeled in my alcohol consumption.
Sub-lesson: Your wife doesn't care about hangovers either. If she got up with Junior on Saturday, you'll be doing it Sunday morning... regardless of what you did on Saturday night.
So make sure you sew your wild oats before you come to the parenting party.
I try to live by the ideal of telling the truth whenever possible (I could say "always", but that wouldn't be truthful). Back in my younger days, that honesty got me into trouble lots of times (I was damn entertaining in corporate meetings though), but overall my "truth average" stayed very high. Until I had kids.
For a variety of reasons, usually safety and morals and that sort of shit, you simply cannot tell the truth to your kids a good amount of the time. "Do as I say, not as I do" becomes a way of life.
I still try to keep that average as high as I can to this day... but you can't avoid the paradoxes of parenthood, and one of them is this: In order to teach your kids some morals, you gotta lie to 'em.
3. Your Attention Will Be Under Attack Constantly This becomes a hard reality once you've had that second kid (one of many, but that's another post by itself).
You see, those pesky children need you. They need food. Juice. Diaper-changes. And they can't get do it themselves. Most of all, they need your attention - so bad they are ready to compete for it - all the time.
And they need it right now. During the fourth quarter of the game. Five seconds after you doze off. When you and your wife are talking. And most of all - parents are you ready to relate - when you are on the phone.
As far as I can tell, this never ends. Diaper-changes become rides to practice, but the barrage continues. Today I was listening to some great radio commentary in the van, and my daughter demanded my attention to discuss her Justin Beiber book. "Uh, what did he just say?" Hello pop idol, goodbye interesting commentary.
2. Your Ability to Handle Grossness Will Grow Exponentially Puke. Poop. Spit. It's all part of a day's work when you become a conehead (that's Nodak slang for parent, based on the idea that when we were teens our parents seemed like they were from another planet).
When you are young, someone else is cleaning all that stuff up for you (plus you don't know enough to care). When you are a pup adult, you only have to deal with your own grossness (and the occasional roommate if you don't chose wisely).
But as a parent, you're gonna get dirty, cause that little rugrat ain't gonna clean itself. The good news is that you (mostly) get used to it. Your gut wrenches a little less with each year. You accept the fact that you are living in a Petri dish, you rationalize that at least your immunity is growing, and you carry on.
1. Privacy Will Cease To Exist. You think I'm talking about sex, don't you? I am, but it's so much more.
Whatever you are doing, you can expect to be invaded at some point: Bathroom breaks. Conversations. Sporting events. Movies. Phone Calls. Work. And most of all, sleep. Sweet, precious sleep.
This is partially due to the "attack on attention" that I mentioned above, but kids have a way of invading your privacy even when they aren't trying. Why? Well, the kids are living in the same space as you are, and they really have no grasp of the concept of privacy. They want immediate gratification, and whatever you are doing is of secondary importance, so let the invasion begin.
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It's Worth Every Second My daughter and I have a little sequence. I say, "What would I trade you for?", and she says, "Nothing." Then I give her a hug.
And that's the most important lesson. No matter how much privacy or sleep you lose, or how much sacrifice you have to make, being a parent is beyond worth it. Nothing I could write could properly express the rewards.
So jump right in. Like Teacher Beth says, "You're never gonna be ready, so why not?"