Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A New Addition to the "What to Expect" Genre

(Now that I’m an “experienced” mom, I feel qualified to fill in a few gaping holes in the “What to Expect” genre. Call it “What to Expect When The Glow Wears Off”. This is part of an essay in progress and I thought it would be fun to share. Feel free to add your own experiences in the comments section.)

1. You will have to cook. A lot.

Oh, how I loved breastfeeding my babies. The problem came when they started to demand actual food. See, I’m not much of a cook. I had my first child at 34; prior to that, I’d spent my adult life in a completely narcissistic world where I ate out or ordered in all the time. The fact that I worked in restaurants for years only reinforced my opinion that cooking was something somebody else did.

Today I find myself feeding three small kids three times a day, and I can honestly say that I just hate it. They are picky eaters, which is weird, since I have a really limited menu available to them anyway. I do all the kid standards: mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, spaghetti and meatballs, etc. My kids will eat exactly five vegetables: green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, peas and corn. I should really just write everything I can cook on a list and number it and rotate the meals. “Okay kids, we’re having number 12 tonight.” “Oh man, we just had number 12! Can’t we have 8 instead?” “Sorry guys, I don’t have any 8 left. Maybe tomorrow.”

2. You have to clean stuff. A lot.

Re previous comment: You cook, you also have to clean up the dishes. And the spills. And the crumbs. And the shit they throw on the floor when they’re little and the shit they throw at each other when they’re older. My advice: get a dog. That will at least take care of the floor.

You will have to clean truly gross stuff. It starts with the diapers, and goes downhill from there. Just wait until your 5-year-old eats a big ol' slice of NASCAR-themed birthday cake (black icing on the wheels) and washes it down with lemonade. You will be amazed at the color of the projectile vomit that hits your walls later that day. Oh yeah: don’t let the dog clean that one up, or you'll hurl too.

You will do laundry. Your second child will triple your laundry. Your third child will increase your laundry tenfold. If you have more than three, it will no longer matter, because just the word “laundry” will send you into a catatonic state until you wake up and find yourself folding the last little t-shirt and placing it atop a teetering pile of children’s clothes.

If you ask your husband to help you fold the children’s clothes he will look at you as if his ears just fell off.

You will endlessly wash your children. The first nervous sponge baths, gingerly cleaning around the umbilical cord with an alcohol-soaked q-tip, will become a distant memory in 5 or 6 years, when you are wrestling your rainbow-hued kindergartner into the tub after she learns the word “tattoo” and decides to go all Kat Von D on herself with her (washable? I think not) Crayola markers. I have, as of this Mother’s Day, been bathing children for 12 years, and I can tell you it’s getting old. I have been known to smell their heads to determine whether or not an actual bath is called for, or if we can just grab a couple of diaper-wipes and call it even.

3. Your children will hurt you.

And I don’t mean your feelings. You will be injured by the little darlings. The aches and pains of pregnancy, the agony of labor, even the first chomp on your nipple by your angelic teething nursing baby are just a warmup.

You will be poked sharply in the eye by the deadly index finger of a toddler having a meltdown. Your six-year-old’s enormous forehead will connect violently with your orbital bone during a tickling match gone horribly wrong, resulting in the kind of shiner that will make folks wonder if they should have the cops come by your house. Your son will swing his plastic sword (“I said, no weapons in the house! Ever!”) at his sister, but will instead connect with your shinbone as you walk by, resulting in a bright purple egg that takes weeks to fade. The little one will tip over while standing on a dining room chair (“I said, sit in your chair! Now!”) but luckily you will be standing there to break the fall; the impact of said chair against quadricep muscle will then result in a deep thick painful bruise.

They will be very sorry, of course. Their little faces will scrunch up in sorrow and then terror when they hear you scream some very adult expressions of pain. And that’s when you have to suck it up and apologize and tell them, “it’s okay honey, mommy’s just got an owie” when what you really want to do is cry. (Special note: it scares your kids when you cry.)

4. You will wonder what the hell you were thinking.

One day, before you know it, your sweet baby boy will be twelve years old and smell like teen spirit. He will go to a friend’s house for a sleepover and the next day the other kid’s mom will call to let you know that the two of them were caught looking at inappropriate videos on YouTube. When you ask him about it he will give you the eye roll and say “geez, mom. Are you gonna give me ‘the talk’ now?” and slam his door in your face.

And you will wonder what the hell you were thinking.

And your friends will be no help at all, saying things like, “oh just wait till it’s your girls”.

5. And finally: You will be blown away, pretty much daily, by how much you love them.

Okay, so maybe this one’s been covered in the other books. Really, everyone knows that’s why you do it in the first place: because (ideally, anyway) you and your spouse have so much love, you want to share it with kids of your own. But the utter ferociousness of that love will, every now and then, just clock you upside your head.

It will happen when you least expect it. When you tiptoe in to watch your little girl sleeping like an angel, a mere hour after she threw herself screaming on the floor because she didn’t want to go to bed. When you have read Green Eggs and Ham for the 73rd time and you realize that he knows the words by heart and is “reading” along with you. When you are up to your elbows in dirty dishes and she brings you a dandelion, offering it with the biggest grin ever, saying “it’s as pretty as you are”! When you watch your preschooler “graduate”, and your heart swells up as he walks by in his cardboard cap with the yarn tassel, and to your amazement you burst into tears.

And yes, when you hold your crying 5-year-old after he has spewed black icing and lemonade on the wall, because he is scared and sick and only mommy – no one else – can help him feel better.

My sweet baby boy, about 12 years ago. You can't see the dog in this picture, but he's there.

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