Janice (my wife) is pregnant and in April, Lord willing, we’ll be twice the parents we are now! We already have one child and soon we’ll double that amount. I thought I should take some time, as a courtesy to society in general, to give soon-to-be-parents some tips on how to prepare for their little bundle of joy.
Since you’ve never had children before, you’re assuming that somehow your child will be different and their crying won’t be as annoying as that baby in church. You’re right; it’ll be worse! Up until parenthood, there was always an escape hatch. If the baby wasn’t smiling or giggling enough, you would get bored and you could just hand the baby off to its caretaker and then go enjoy some frivolity of youth without any distractions. Once you’re a parent, there’s no escaping it. Here’s how to sharpen your parenting skills so you survive.
1. Build your immunity to annoying noises.
The best way to simulate one aspect of parenthood is to hire someone who hates you to follow you around with a small chalkboard that has a bullhorn mounted to it. Their job is to scrape their fingernails down the chalkboard while amplifying the sound with the bullhorn at random intervals throughout the day. Your job is to instantly drop whatever activity you’re doing and somehow convince the them that they should stop the screeching. If thirteen seconds go by and you do not respond to the screeching (maybe you are in the shower or sitting on the toilet in the other room) they should turn the volume up on the bullhorn by 25%. If another thirteen seconds pass, they should repeat this pattern until 100% volume is achieved. For a realistic simulation, they should not stop until the batteries in the bullhorn are dead. It’s a bonus if the person screeching their fingernails on the chalkboard is nocturnal and doesn’t sleep for more than two hour intervals because of their addiction to caffeine. If you do not physically harm them after a week or two, you may be prepared for parenthood.
Bonus tip: If you find someone who hates you enough, they may actually volunteer to follow you around scraping a chalkboard and so you can save money.
2. Get used to clutter.
Now, since you have someone that hates you hanging out in your house for a week or two, you can also equip them with a leaf blower so that they can simulate the mess you’ll experience once the baby arrives. You may assume that newborn babies don’t make that much mess and you’d be somewhat correct. Just remember that, as soon as your wife finds out she’s pregnant, she goes on a buying spree on Amazon and your living room will be overrun with cardboard boxes and the latest and greatest educational toys she saw on Instagram. Once your wife has the baby, she’ll have no time to clean the house. Sure, you can clean but every time you clean, you put things away in the wrong places and your wife will dig everything out again while looking for a specific toy. “Where’s the pacifier that sings lullabies?” She’ll ask. You’ll point to several five gallon buckets full of random toys and onesies and then your wife will mention something like, “Honey, you shouldn’t use gardening buckets to store baby toys in.”
Then the baby grows into a toddler and the baby toys are no longer useful. This means, of course, you must buy more toys which adds to the clutter. “Just get rid of the baby toys,” you say. Well, chances are you’ll have another baby in the future and you’re still very much aware of how much those plastic monstrosities cost. Of course, you could buy a dumpster full of toys but your toddler will end up playing with a box of macaronis, which brings me to my next point…
3. Don’t bother buying toys.
It never fails. A hapless couple who is expecting a child wonders into the baby aisle at their local Walmart. They read the labels on the shiny, expensive toys and are led to assume that the odd shaped educational toys will help their young one grow to be an overachieving toddler who aces preschool and then skips elementary, middle, and high school and goes straight to college. The toys usually feature some recordings of screeching toddlers singing or counting, or going through the alphabet.
Let me assure you, after three months you’ll be taking all the batteries out of those toys and hiding them; despite the lofty promises of college preparedness. Besides, your baby will be perfectly content chewing on dirty table legs, slobbering on shriveled up peas found under the couch cushions, and playing with the stuffed bunny that may have all it’s stuffing squeezed into it’s head while completely ignoring the fancy educational toys designed by Harvard engineers.
Once they are older, they even learn to play with boogers, which are cheap and plentiful.
Truth be told, my daughter, Adilene, plays with ice cubes more than anything else. Yoder’s Bent and Dent Emporium sells a box of 500 count flavored ice tubes for like fifty cents. They are nothing but sugar and artificial colors so we try to keep Adi from eating too many of them at a time. Of course, after she eats one ice tube, she usually wants one more, then one more, then another one, then just one more. Janice somehow convinced Adi that, instead of another ice pop, she should suck on an ice cube instead. Now Adi loves playing with ice. It’s the perfect toy. It’s free, It doesn’t stain the carpet, and it eventually disappears so you don’t have to clean it up.
4. Be OK with poop.
I’m not saying you have to be enthusiastic about poop – that may be a little overboard – but you’ll have to be able to tolerate it. If my friend Nathaniel, for instance, gets a slight whiff of a stinky diaper he’ll forcibly crash through a second story window to escape the smell. If you can’t overcome this instinct I’m afraid you’ll injure yourself because you’ll be jumping out of windows three of four times a day. I’m not sure how to build tolerance to poop, however. You could volunteer at every possible opportunity to change diapers on any baby that stinks within your vicinity, but parents will likely think that’s strange and may file a restraining order against you. Good parents do not typically have restraining orders against them. The next best bet is raise a flock of free range chickens in your house. In doing that, you’ll likely find feces in all sorts of inconvenient and unsanitary locations and this may help strengthen your gag reflex.
Bonus tip: You could also practice putting a diaper on any one of the chickens. All the clawing, pecking, and squawking will replicate the experience of changing a diaper on a toddler rather realistically.
Extra Bonus Tip: Work on your hand-eye coordination by properly restraining one of the free range chickens in a car seat.
5. Build a tolerance to repetition.
When you’re a parent, you’ll find yourself watching Ice Age again. I don’t mean “again” as in, twice. I mean “again,” as in 12,569 times (it could be higher than that, I kind of lost track). This will lead to strange, sudden, and violent behavior triggered by Sid the sloth, saying “My feet are hot.” Then Diego, the saber tooth tiger, says, “Do we have to get a news flash every time your body does something.” At that point, it occurs to you that you’ve memorized this movie. You can’t remember your wife’s phone number, social security number, or even your anniversary, but you can quote every single quip by a made up, lazy sloth named “Sid.” A primal urge rises up inside you causing you to pull the TV off the wall, ripping cables in half like they were from Dollar General, and then throwing it into the street where you frantically jump up and down on top of it until the TV is spread out evenly across the pavement. You want to make sure the TV is properly broken or else you’ll have no excuse to not watch Ice Age yet again.
“Why not just say no?” You ask, puzzled as to why I don’t see the logical simplicity. “You don’t have to watch Ice Age again. Just say no.”
Ah, well, you would say that since you’re not a parent. If you say no to Ice Age, you have to put up with screaming. Screaming is worse than Ice Age, which is why you watched Ice Age 12,569.5 times.
Avoid this by your numbing your mind to repetition. Simply begin now, before you’re caught unprepared, by playing your favorite animated movie on a continuous loop in the background of your life. Then when you have a child, introduce your child to the movie you’re already preconditioned to. Try convincing your child that no other move exists in the world because if they get exposed to other animated movies, chances are their favorite movie will be even worse than the one you’re preconditioned to. For example: your child may see Happy Feet and decide that’s the movie for them. At this point, the only option is to throw out the TV, shun society, and quickly adopt the Amish lifestyle.
6. Never say never.
When I was a naive married person with intentions of having children, I would frequently point out things that parents were doing around me and declare, “I would never allow my kid to do ____.” Just fill in the blank.
As it turns out, married people keep an official log of single people who criticize their parenting. Then when those single people get married later in life, the official log is referenced to quite often as the newly married folks try their hand at parenting.
“I thought you’d never allow your kids to eat their boogers. Just so you know, Billy is eating his boogers in the other room.”
“I thought you said you’d never allow your kids to watch anything on an iPhone but your kids have been watching Baby Shark for four hours now, what gives?”
“I thought you said you’d discipline your child better but they just got mad and threw the love seat through the picture window in living room. Just thought you’d want to know.”
You can avoid this by just keeping your mouth shut and minding your own business, knowing that you’ll have to eat whatever you say with a heaping serving of humble pie later in your life.
7. Learn to Invest in Your Children
It can be easy to think that your baby will never shut up and you’ll never sleep through the night again but just chill, it’s only a season in life. Before you know it they’ll be learning to drive stick shift or getting married and you’ll wish you could go back in time and enjoy “the good ol’ days.” The days are long but the years are short, or something like that. Learn to find the little things and savor them. Notice them, blog about them, laugh at them, savor them because those moments are never coming back.
Investing in your kids is like putting loose change into a jar. If you find ten minutes several times a day to focus on your children and chase them around the house, that “loose change” will add up to something more than you imagined possible in the long run. In fact, you won’t even remember many of the occasions where you threw some spare change in the jar but at the end of life, that investment in your children will return dividends. You’ll be amazed at how investing those little moments in life ended up making all the difference in the world. When it comes to investing time into your children, you get what you pay for.
Josh & family