There are concessions every parent must make when they decide to have a child:
You may begin the day with a clean shirt, but you won’t end it with one. Your child views your shirt as a tissue, a napkin, a burp-cloth, or (on a really bad day) a roll of toilet paper. I’d like to think that kids under the age of three are just trying to be eco-friendly and save some trees. But I think the real reason is more a matter of convenience – mom is usually within wiping distance.
A full night’s sleep becomes a rare luxury. During your child’s first couple years of life, you get into your bed every night with the knowledge that you won’t be staying there for long. And in your bleary-eyed state of perpetual exhaustion, you begin to doubt that you will ever sleep through the night again. Your days of previously uninterrupted sleep will take on an almost mythical quality when you look back on them – surely you must have hallucinated the whole thing.
You will pack bags for an afternoon outing the way you used to pack for a two-week vacation. As a parent, you feel compelled to be prepared for every need or possible scenario that may crop up in the span of a couple of hours. Should a natural disaster occur while you’re at the grocery store, you’ll be ready. Your diaper bag becomes your child’s bathroom, bedroom, playroom, and kitchen all rolled into one. A new mother may not remember to shower or brush her hair in the morning, but she will have twelve changes of clothes for her baby on hand at any given moment.
Barring furniture, nothing in your house will ever be where it’s supposed to be. “How did that get there?” will become your new mantra. Cleaning your house is redefined – it used to mean dusting and vacuuming, now it just means that you managed to successfully return all of the items in your house back to their original locations before the kids had the chance to mess it up again. The victory will usually be short lived – only a few precious hours of détente before you’re once again tripping over couch cushions and coats. It’s like living with a pack of mischievous leprechauns and everyday is St. Patrick’s Day.
Now to be fair, and to ensure that I don’t strike fear into the heart of future procreators everywhere, I will say that having a baby may change everything, but it doesn’t change everything forever. I don’t care what the Johnson & Johnson commercials try to tell you. You will gain back several pre-parenthood perks….
By the time your youngest child enters pre-school, your clothes will no longer be treated as though they were made by the Kleenex Corporation. Your child will realize there is something even more convenient for wiping than your shirt – their shirt. Hey, it’s a step in the right direction. Every booger stain on their sleeve is one less on yours.
You will once again enjoy the immense pleasure of an uninterrupted night’s sleep. The first time it happens, you wake with a start because something doesn’t feel right – actually, something feels too right. You’re well rested!! Fear grips your heart because you know there is no way the scream machine that has kept you up for the past three months has allowed you to sleep for eight solid hours without needing to ingest or excrete anything. Assuming the worst, you run to the crib to make sure the kid is still breathing. And as you watch them peacefully slumber, you’re torn between feelings of overwhelming relief and wanting to kill them for scaring the crap out of you.
When you’re child no longer needs bottles or diapers, you will be able to leave the luggage home during short afternoon excursions. The first few trips you make without a fully stocked diaper bag may feel a bit unnerving. You were the Inspector Gadget of the parent world, and without your go-go-gadget-diaper-bag, how will you cope? I promise you’ll be just fine. And there are bonuses: you no longer have to shoulder the fifty-pound bag responsible for many a trip to the chiropractor’s office, and you will feel as weightless as an astronaut on the moon. Unfortunately, once your body adjusts to its new unencumbered existence, this feeling will subside. But for a few days you will be able to walk around shouting, “Screw you, Jenny Craig! I just lost fifty pounds in thirty seconds!!!”
But be warned neat-freaks, unless you plan on following behind your children with a shovel the way they do elephants at a circus, your house will always have shit on the floor. And you will also find normal household items in totally abnormal locations. The other day, I found a pair of dice wedged in the door handle of my refrigerator – I can’t even begin to surmise how they got there. Was one of my kids in the middle of a yahtzee roll when they suddenly decided to get a drink of milk? I’d also love to know why my TV remote has to make a weekly pilgrimage to the bathroom. Or why my daughter has to store all of her personal items and electronics inside the couch cushions instead of using the $50 purse I bought her. These are all questions only the leprechauns can answer.
I try to be a responsible parent and make my children clean up after themselves. I want to show them that the magical house cleaning fairies of their babyhood no longer exist, and if they make a mess before they go to sleep at night, it will still be there in the morning when they wake up. Maybe if I keep demonstrating how much cleaning sucks, they will eventually learn to put stuff back where it belongs when they’re done with it – I can dream, cant I? But after the 4,000th time through my “if you would just pick up after yourself, you would never have to clean again!” speech, I must admit that I’m starting to lose hope.
The way I see it, there are only two ways to get the clutter under control: I strip them of all their worldly possessions and make them live like Buddhist monks. Or I kick them out of the house and change all the locks. Given their options, I think they would both rather risk life on the streets than surrender their cellphone or iPod. But their ability to speed text and play angry birds is hardly a defense against all the druggies and child molesters out there waiting to prey on them. And I love them too much to leave them totally helpless on the mean streets of New York. So I discovered there’s an app for that – iFightBack! I will sleep much better at night knowing that they will know how to defend themselves in case of an elevator jacking or trouble with crack heads….