I became a parent a little over five years ago. It’s not a long time by any stretch of the imagination, but the amount I’ve learned and changed in that time is astounding. Lately I’ve been thinking over the differences between then and now (some are good, some are bad), and I’ve also been thinking about other parents I’ve come into contact with. All this thinking and observing has led me to the following list of generalizations. Use it as a handy guide to determine what category friends and strangers fall into.
The Not There Yet-er (No Children):
- Has strongly held beliefs about what they will and will not do when they become parents. Makes statements such as, “I would never get an epidural.”, “When I have kids, they’ll only each preservative-free foods.”, “I would never yell at my kids like that woman just did!”, “Look at that kid throwing a tantrum in the middle of WalMart. What a brat! I would never allow my kid to act like that.”
The First Timer (One Child):
- Ultra-cautious about safety. Visitors must wash their hands before touching/holding/coming within 50 feet of baby. Anyone under the age of 18 who wants to hold baby must have their arms propped up with pillows and an able-bodied adult standing at the ready. House is baby-proofed before baby is born.
- Completely shocked and awed by a love they have never before experienced.
- Talks about child incessantly. Anything anyone says reminds them of something about their kid. “How ’bout them Red Sox?” “You should see little Johnny throw a baseball! He’s going to be a Major League pitcher for sure.” “Do you know what the weather is going to be like tomorrow?” “No, but I really hope it’s nice because I just got the cutest sunhat for Sally and I want her to wear it to the playground so everyone can see her in it.” “I have a hankering for a big piece of steak.” “I worry so much about Jane’s eating habits. Every night it’s a struggle to get her to eat more than two bites of her organically grown vegetables and free range chicken.”
- Posts a million and one pictures of child on Facebook. Friends’ news feeds are constantly flooded with albums, videos, and wall photos of their kid. 99% of the photos are of the child just standing/sitting/laying there. Photos are accompanied by captions such as, “Look who just woke up!”, “Pureed peas are our favorite”, “First day with her new toothbrush”, “Six more hours until Daddy gets home from work”. The grandmother is tagged in every photo.
- Reads every parenting book ever written.
- When given the opportunity to go somewhere by themselves, they spend half the time missing their child and half the time calling home to check on their child.
- Plans their life around their child’s schedule. Truly believes the world will end if child does not nap/eat/poop at the same time every day.
- Believes every good trait their child displays is a direct result of their excellent parenting.
- Wonders if they will sleep an entire night/take a shower that lasts more than three minutes/enjoy a leisurely meal ever again as long as they live.
- Can tell you to the day how old their child is. “She’s seventeen weeks and three days.” “So… four months?” “Noooo. Did you hear a word I just said??”
- Knows exactly what age every milestone is supposed to happen and either freaks out if their child doesn’t hit the milestone at the appropriate time or brags about how advanced their child is. “Stuart rolled over at 7 weeks, 5 days!!! #babygenius #boywonder #thiskidisgoingplaces #doogiehowser #collegegradbytwelve
- Is shocked, distraught, and embarrassed beyond belief the first time their kid has a tantrum in WalMart.
The Second Time Around-er (Two Children):
- Wonders why they thought they had no free time when they only had one kid.
- Begins to discover that all the things they thought were a direct result of their awesome parenting the first time around were actually a combination of luck and personality. Had a great sleeper because of that sleep training they did? The second one is sure to be up all night no matter what method they attempt. First kid never whines because they refused to respond to that tone of voice? The second will win medals for his whiny persistence despite their best efforts to rid him of it.
- Feels guilty for the lack of one-on-one time each child now receives. The oldest must feel slighted by the change and the youngest is sure to have a below-average IQ because she doesn’t get read to three hours each day.
- Makes the shocking discovery that doctors don’t know everything. It’s at once frightening and liberating.
The Outnumbered (Three or More Children):
- Offers unsolicited advice because no matter what the situation, they’ve ‘been there’.
- Has chilled out. A lot. First kid wasn’t allowed to have a pacifier, second kid got it taken away cold turkey before her first birthday, third kid is 4 and still uses it at night. First kid did potty training boot camp at 18 months, second kid was forced into underwear at 2 and a half, third kid trained himself when he finally decided he was sick of diapers.
- Realizes no one cares to hear about their kids as much as they do. They still talk about them a lot, but try to keep it at a reasonable level. “Billy did the cutest thing yesterday. He put on his dad’s boots and walked around the house talking in a deep voice. So tell me about that new book you’re reading. Is it as good as the movie?”
- Also realizes no one wants to see 40 pictures of their kids in Halloween costumes when one will suffice. Heck, they don’t even want to see 40 pictures of their kids in Halloween costumes.
- Attempts a schedule for the youngest, but only follows it 30% of the time. The baby becomes very laid back because it has been carted here, there, and everywhere from birth.
- Has to think before telling you how old their children are. Also has to think before telling you all of their children’s names.
- Has a vague idea about what age each milestone should be met. Ignores the fact that their youngest has not met a milestone because experience tells them he is just fine and will do it when he’s ready.
- When given an opportunity to go somewhere by themselves, they spend half their time giggling like a school girl while doing cartwheels and half their time basking in the glow of a silent vehicle.
- Knows ‘this too shall pass’, which makes every stage a little more manageable.
- Dreads trips to WalMart because with three or more kids there is sure to be a tantrum from at least one of them. Can feel the judgmental stares of the Not There Yet-ers. Is simultaneously embarrassed by the circumstances and amused at the thought of them in a few years, dealing with their own screaming kids. Knows that time is the great equalizer.