One of my very favorite, most beloved friends once said to me, “the worst thing about having kids is that it magnifies every single bad personality trait you have.” Back when she said it, I laughed and nodded. Now I think she deserves a MacArthur Grant.
The small boy turned one last month. We threw him one of those disgustingly adorable parties where every detail deserved some kind of slit-your-wrists Pinterest award. The theme was “Holy Duck Aut is One!” and the festivities had approximately zero to do with celebrating his arrival at the ripe old age of one. He didn’t do shit. We were celebrating the achievement that is making it through the first year of raising a human. We celebrated in the park with duck cupcakes and a huge vat of Cheerios filled with toys, finger sandwiches with no crusts, PB+J pinwheels, and the most obnoxious, handmade, hooded towel party favors that I did just so that all the other moms would feel really, really bad about themselves. Eventually he is going to make me throw him a Disney themed party with gross paper products from iParty and and favors that single-handedly keep China from developing a middle class, but for now he is unable to form sentences and therefore every action is considered consent. Duck themed picnic in the park? “Hells yeah, Mups!” he replied, “let’s do that shit!”
Pretty much all of our friends are already biting the proverbial bullet and getting knocked up with their second. I understand their reasons, they want two. Eventually. Like down the line. Like when “it’s all said and done” they want two offspring. So even though going through it all again so soon makes them tear up, they are doing it now. Getting it over with, if you will. Needless to say, the hubs and I are not there yet. More accurately, we’re not entirely sure what we want now, never mind what we are going to want eventually.
If I had to think of some things that I’d rather do than be pregnant again, they would fall somewhere between being Anne Frank’s sister and an overnight guest at Bin Laden’s in May of 2011. I don’t even really remember hating pregnancy that much– like the physical act of carrying a child around– what I hated was being pregnant. I hated being the consideration at every event, the pregnant gal at the office, the one who needed to be offered water and brought ice cream under threat of death. I hated hoisting myself and looking cute “for a pregnant girl.” I hated the weird sounds and smells and cravings, and I really hated thinking that everyone who saw me couldn’t help think of my vagina– even though it was probably just for a second. (There’s just something weird about pregnancy and the thought of vaginas. You see a pregnant woman and there’s always that fleeting thought, the flash of VAGINA!, and then before you can wrap your mind around what the context is, the thought is gone. I walked the streets of New York imagining the hundreds of people I passed by silently screaming, “VAGINA!”)
What I REALLY hated, was being a “new mom.” Good Christ. Every woman, sister, mother, grandmother, nurse, nun, and librarian has some advice for you. Well intentioned though everyone was, I still wanted them dead. “Cherish every moment!” “Never wake a sleeping baby!” “Sleep them facing the rising moon.” “Rub your nipples counter clockwise to stimulate milk flow.” “Eat the heart of a gecko to grow his brain big!” “Sleep train them early!” “Potty train from birth.” Endless streams of advice from random people on the street. It’s like the Sixth Sense, except no one is dead and everyone is loud and won’t shut up. To make matters worse, if I never have a second, we are locked in this unspoken purgatory of indeterminable new momness. See a woman with three kids and you assume she knows what’s up. See a woman with one…
But enough of that. The simple version is that while it’s possible that maybe one day a second Beaulieu baby will grace this Earth, the popular opinion is that we are one and done. We baked our person and now we settle in and see how we did. And he’s how we’ve done so far.
Our child is bald. Not quite Mr. Clean bald, but definitely a Benjamin Button meets Andy Kauffman playing a bookie in Boogie Nights bald. Humidity reveals soft tendrils of baby mullet in the back, while the top makes a slow and pitiful creep towards establishing a hairline.
I only dropped him on the floor once. And there wasn’t so much as a threat of CSS intervention.
He has excelled at growing teeth (10 so far!), as well as chipping them. We don’t know when. We don’t know how. But we’re poised for one of the most awkward kindergarten photos ever. Bald, big, shit-eating grin, chipped front teeth.
He’s either a genius or a sociopath. Only time will tell.
He’s the kind of cute that makes you worried for his future. Like the kid in Jerry Maguire. As a mother, I don’t want to have to tell him he peaked at one and now America thinks he’s awkward, but I’d rather have the tough talk and avoid having him end up on Perez Hilton looking like Haley Joel Osment.
He seems confident in his gender, but firmly unsubstantiated in his sexuality. We remain unbiased and optimistic about his options. (Kids loves him a necklace, though. Like Liza.)
If there is a recall on the lacquer on his crib railing, he’s going to end up with cancer. Because he ate pretty much the whole thing.
He’s built exactly like every woman in the developed world wishes she was: tall and malnourished looking, but completely healthy.
The list of his achievements in the first twelve months is short, but included the usual sitting up, crawling, shitting his pants, going on an airplane, and standing up on surfaces high enough to give him brain damage, but not kill him. As for us, we’ve learned a thing or two about The Art of Parenting. Starting with the unabashed reality that there is zero art to parenting. Parenting, for us, has been 365 days strung together with well-intended meals, insanity inducing bouts of sitting on the floor “playing,” and waking up panicked at least 4 days a week that we fucked up and killed him.
A friend recently asked me what our “must haves” were for a baby registry. We had it all. We had the gidgets and gadgets and heaters and warmers and cuddlers and cradlers– all of it. And yet, we couldn’t come up with anything. You need a car seat, it’s the law. Otherwise, a boob and some diapers. That was pretty much it. We started out strong, firm, right, and noble. In the end, we decided that sterilizing was for bitches, fancy stuff breaks, and nice stuff gets shit on. We learned that what you really need is a blood vow with your spouse that you will constantly remember “this too shall pass” and that snapping isn’t always personal.
We definitely learned how selfish we were. And how much we liked to sleep. We learned that we should have gone to more bars and restaurants when he was tiny and started saving for college before we met. We found at that “looking like a parent” isn’t really a choice so much as a natural progression from caring about how your look reflects you to knowing where the meaning in your life comes from. We learned that there is nothing in the whole world so sad as the sound of a tiny cough and nothing in the world so annoying as a child in a car after 45 minutes. We’ve learned to hate stuffed animals and loathe those who bring them to our home. We’ve learned that we don’t always agree with our friends’ parenting styles but it doesn’t mean we have to stop hanging out. We’ve learned that stress can make you say and do things that will both horrify and delight you. We’ve learned that no matter how much you want to wake them up to kiss them, you shouldn’t. Only idiots do that.
We learned some scary stuff, like how little we know about life. And how little our parents know. We’ve learned to worry about the future, but also realize that there’s nothing we can do about it.
We’ve learned the hard and sad ways that not every baby makes it to being a kid. We’ve learned that we are so fucking lucky that he has a sharp mind and a light heart. We’ve learned that baby toys take over and they hurt like a mother fucker when you step on them. We’ve learned to buy the good humidifier and the good white noise machine. We learned that babies can’t “blow” their noses, so you better be ready to suck snot.
We’ve learned good stuff, bad stuff, sad stuff, surprising stuff. We’ve learned that we have so much more to learn.
But most of all, more than anything, we’ve learned to never, ever bathe a child after dinner if they haven’t pooped that day. They will shit in the tub.