Lifting her voice to near jet engine levels, my five month daughter lets me know with subtle nuance that she is currently unhappy. To my fatigued brain I begin down my checklist. Is it time for my wife to stick a breast in my daughter’s mouth? While that would shut me up, my daughter only cares about when she is hungry, and she ate just an hour ago. Let’s see if we can distract her with a toy. Nope, that jet engine now has nothing on her. Maybe it’s a wet diaper. Off to change her. Nope it’s dry. What is next on the list? My daughter shoves her pacifier in her mouth and the world begins to right itself on its axis. Oops, that was just a temporary reprieve as the aural attack commences. I roll my saving throw and fail, receiving 4d8 mental damage. I walk around the house and share her boisterous malcontent with the neighbors in attempt to earn sympathy points for why my lawn isn’t mowed yet. As she reaches for yet another gear I try to remember the next item on the list? Maybe she has gas. I try to burp her while simultaneously giving her gas drops. While the gas drops are a hit, the sound of my eardrum trying to cleave itself in two emanates from my daughter once again. What can I do? This screaming is turning what little brain I have left into a liquid mass threatening to pour through that split eardrum. Suddenly a sonic boom burp tears through the air and the world is at peace. I breathe a sigh of relief as I look into her angelic face. She is such a perfect little baby. At least until I try to put her down…
I am the father of five daughters, four of which are under the age of eight. I have learned many lessons from each and every one of my children. Now I realize not everyone has been blessed as I am with a multitude of children, so I have decided to record a top five list of lessons learned so those of you looking to have children can be prepared, and those of you that have children can laugh and nod your heads.
Lesson #1: Nothing will strike fear in your heart than when you see your baby concentrate then the fountain erupts. I purposely left this more to imagination, because it can rain and pour out of every orifice, sometimes all at once. It escalates when done in public, especially when you have forgotten the quintessential backup outfit. Or even better, it happens when you have already called in the relief outfit. How do you protect the car seat? What about the stroller? Do you have enough baby wipes to handle it all? I promise you, it can wake you up from a dead sleep dripping in sweat when you have that nightmare. Oh, and you will have that nightmare.
Lesson #2: You will hear that one child is hard, two children even harder, but three is easier, and four is even easier, unless there are multiples. Okay, this is mostly true, but there will be days where this rule is a BIG FAT LIE. There are times when all four explode at once, and with only two adults possible in the mix there is no way to deal with all the fires at once. You might have to put one in a room and let them scream while dealing with another, while allowing the third to just go outside, and have the fourth getting a snack to keep them quiet. And if that works, you are a ROCK STAR. Most of the time you will be found in a fetal position waiting for the crying/yelling/craziness to stop. Like I said, this will not happen often, but be prepared for when it does and try to have a plan in case, like a favorite video or ice cream. It will not make you less a parent, and it will help with your coping skills.
Lesson #3: Each child is a wonderful, complex, maddening puzzle. The best part of all of this, they will know how to game you, get away with things, before you figure out how to game them, get them to do what you want them to do. In the beginning you are the master of your domain. They cannot lie well. They are eager to please you. They listen to what you say. Then on day two they unlearn all of that. Oh and now they have figured out your buttons, all of them. I try to get my six year old not to hit her sister. I have tried showing her proper ways to handle her anger. I have talked about her triggers. I have gotten her to self-identify what is causing her to get angry. I have tried swatting. Now I have a girl how when she hurts her sister has a story to tell, most of the time the truth, and tells me what triggers it and what she should have done to stop it. Notice I did not once say she didn’t hurt her sister. She is just better at knowing the why, the how, and what should be done next time. Like I said, she knows all my buttons.
Lesson #4: Adding a baby to the fix is giving permission to your other children to treat her as 1) a puppy, 2) a doll, and 3) a mostly deaf and mostly blind person moving into your house. The amount of time patting her on the head, moving her arms every which way, and singing which sounds like screaming at her while pushing toys and any other object within arm’s reach into her face amazes me. I feel sorry for the little one as she must be overstimulated by the cacophony. The good thing is the baby has a great self-defense mechanism, the shriek. This will cause the other children to run off looking for a bomb shelter since the London blitz must have been resurrected in my house. This gets the added bonus of a parent flying in for a rescue of the infant, much to the detriment of getting things like laundry or food preparation done.
Lesson #5: This one is specific to my circumstance of having girls. I didn’t think of the notion that ‘unless you see it yourself it cannot really exist’ was so important in my girls’ lives. I have to accept things sight unseen with respect to my job as a physicist, but that does not come naturally to my girls. I could talk about the why question, but I have a different concern here. I always tell my daughters that they can do whatever they want, except easily peeing standing up and probably playing linebacker in the NFL. They always agreed with me and seemed to accept this at face value. Then one night, while watching TV we saw a woman in a profession. I wish I had written this down sooner to remember exactly what it was. It really isn’t too important, but what my oldest said next saddened me a bit and made me understand a bit more being a privileged white male in society. She turned to me and said, “Daddy, girls can be X?” I told her yes, of course and I reiterated my quote about peeing and linebackers. She nodded, but I could see that seeing it on TV allowed that one possibility to be more real than just dad’s platitudes. It made me more aware of what having role models in the world’s workplaces really means.
Do you have more wisdom to share? Leave me a blurb in the comments. Together we can help the next generation of parents, or at least maybe curb population growth.