Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How to be a Parent

Two things occurred to me this morning at 3:15 A.M., while I sat on the floor in my boys’ bedroom, wiping pee off my three-year-old’s legs. The first thing was that parenting, despite some of the odd hours and strange tasks, is still the greatest thing I’ve ever done with my life. The second was that people who don’t have kids yet might not realize that sometimes people with kids are sitting on the floor at 3:15 A.M. cleaning up pee. So I thought I would try to use some of my experiences to help prospective parents prepare for life with children.

If you happen to be someone who has their first child on the way, or someone who is just thinking about starting a family, and you find yourself wondering what it will be like to live with, and be responsible for, small children, I can help. I have developed a series of real-life do-it-yourself examples that will help prepare you for parenthood.

Since we already touched on the subject of odd-hour odd tasks, let’s start there.

You never know what you’ll need to be doing when you’re woken up in the middle of the night by a child, so here’s how to prepare:
Get yourself three new alarm clocks. Have someone you know and trust set each one for a random time between the hours of midnight and 6:00 A.M. Start yourself off easy and only activate one at a time for a while. On the first night, when the alarm goes off, get out of bed and do laundry. On the next night, get out of bed and pour yogurt on your shoulders and the carpet, then do some more laundry and clean the carpet. On night number three, get out of bed and go to the store and buy cough syrup, milk, yogurt, oatmeal, diapers, children’s suppositories, and a humidifier. Then come home and change all the sheets on all the beds in the house. Then pour the yogurt in your lap, pour some of the milk on the couch, do laundry, clean the shower, and go back to bed. You can work up to having all three alarm clocks activated at once.

That should cover you for the standard issues, but it is really only a simulation for having kids ages one through eight. If you really want to prepare for what it’s like when you bring a newborn baby home, just stay up for 19 days in a row.

Once you have kids, you will never sleep in again. That is a hard reality to accept, so here’s how to get ready:
Set your regular old alarm clock for 5:45 A.M. Get up every morning at that time no matter what day it is. Do this forever.

Ages Zero to Four
You carry the young kids a lot. To get ready for this, buy a 30-pound bag of flour or rice. Carry it on your hip everywhere you go. You can only set it down for two minutes at a time, every two hours. If you ever drop it on accident, you have failed.

Random Daytime Shopping Emergencies
Kids are demanding, and their schedule almost never fits yours, so try this. Once or twice a month, leave work at an unexpected time and go to the store and buy cough syrup, milk, yogurt, oatmeal, diapers, children’s suppositories, and a humidifier. Then go back to work.

As the kids get older, they get louder. They are never louder than when you’re on the phone. To simulate what that will be like, go to a garage sale and find an old “boom box” portable stereo. Stock it with new D-cell batteries and have it with you at all times. Keep it tuned to a talk radio station. Whenever your phone rings, before you answer it, turn on your boom box and put it on your left shoulder, on volume level 10. Then answer your phone, put it up to your right ear and carry on your conversation as you would normally, only whenever you hear the words “and” or “the” from the radio, say, “Just a minute, please. Mommy’s on the phone.”

You’re a great driver. You’ve been driving for a long time. Driving with kids in the car won’t be an issue, right? Think again. The best way to simulate driving with children in the car is to get your hands on three cats and a rhesus monkey. Put all three cats in a medium-sized burlap bag, and place the bag in the back seat. Place the rhesus monkey on top of the bag. Drive as you would normally.

Ridiculous Emotions and Fake Problems
Kids have great imaginations and also lots of emotions they cannot fully control. Lots of times, those two forces collide and you are faced with cleaning up the teary-eyed mess. To prepare for this, search out and befriend someone who is notoriously neurotic and irrational. Follow them around and attempt to solve every one of their most inane daily problems. It is critical that you develop the ability to seem very concerned and forlorn about their most trivial issue. When you can say, “I’m really sorry that happened. What can I do to help?” with a serious look of concern on your face when they tell you that their imaginary friend lost her imaginary cat, you’re ready.

The Questions
Parenthood, when really boiled down to its essence, is about answering questions. An average child will ask approximately five bazillion questions by age seven. To get ready, buy all 26 versions of Trivial Pursuit. Carry the cards around with you all day, and every two minutes have someone ask you one of the questions. It is not critical that you actually know the correct answer, but you need to be able to come up with a plausible answer without hesitation. Have the person ask you three follow-up questions about your answer. Again, the actual answer is not critical. The ability to answer is what counts. That being said, it wouldn’t hurt to pay close attention to the Trivial Pursuit Ultimate Disney Edition. That will come in very handy. 

Home Improvement
Remove the existing can lights from your kitchen ceiling and install track lighting. Three days later, remove the track lighting, because it “just doesn’t go as well with everything else as she thought it would,” and put the old can lights back in.
(Sorry, this was accidentally transferred from the list of real-life do-it-yourself examples that will help prepare men for getting married. My mistake.)

As the kids grow up, they start getting interested in hitting things with sticks and bats. Often times, when minding your own business, one of those things is you. You’ll want to toughen up a little for this. Get a plastic Wiffle ball bat. Every day, hit yourself in the shins, knees, calves, and occasionally, the groin.

Toys Everywhere
Kids come with toys, and the toys live on the floor. Normally, that’s not a problem, but with older kids, you will need to be prepared for one major hazard: Nighttime Legos in the carpet. Since you don’t have kids yet, chances are you don’t have a lot of Legos available to you. No problem. Broken glass is a perfectly realistic substitute. Just break a few wine bottles and scatter the shards around your living room carpet. Turn off all the lights and walk across the room barefoot. When you can do it without yelping loud enough to wake the dead, you’re ready.

That should just about do it. Now, please don’t get me wrong. This list won’t fully prepare you for parenthood, but it will give you some very real-world practice so you won’t be caught too off guard when that first bundle of joy arrives. Have fun!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. "No problem. Broken glass is a perfectly realistic substitute." Hahahahahahahaha. Ah, yes. True words.

    (One thing I've observed: Legos may hurt, but Hot Wheels on hard wood floors can actually KILL you. Beware.)

  2. OMG this was the funniest thing i've read in awhile. i vividly recall stepping on my little brothers legos constantly. Here's one for you: holding feverish screaming child at 2am in the dark and slipping on a library book left on the floor! i only dislocated my knee, but I didn't drop the kid! Win!

  3. The Hot Wheels caution is a good one. That is a deadly combo!

  4. OakRose Mama - Well played on not dropping the kid! You are obviously an all-star mom, sacrificing your body to make the play. Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for reading!

  5. This is BRILLIANT, and I don't even have kids.

    Some quick notes:

    1. The spilled-yogurt practice will also prepare you for when the kids are in high school.

    2. Under "Ridiculous Emotions," you can also watch a lot of Korean soap operas. Not only are they also overly dramatic and maudlin, but you can't understand a word they're saying.

    3. The sack of flour? Bring that thing to bed every now and then, placing it neatly between you and your spouse. Gotta be ready for "nightmare nights."

  6. Thanks, Mark. I'm not sure I was even aware of the Korean Soap Opera genre, but I will now certainly look into it!!!

  7. This is hysterical! In total stitches reading this... and will share it to all the prospective parents in my life. :)

  8. Thanks, Amy. I appreciate it!