We all know about the usual milestones. The first time your baby smiles, sits up, grasps a Cheerio or whatever. You record these momentous occasions in your baby book and wonder at the miracle that is your child growing day by day. Why, it was only last week that he couldn't count to five, and now he can count to seven! Sunrise, sunset!
But then there are those other milestones. The ones that don’t go in the baby book. That you don't share with the grandparents. The ones that may or may not haunt you for much of your adult life. And here they are.
You’re a few weeks into this mom thing. You’re trying to nurse and toast a damn waffle because it’s 2 p.m. and you haven’t eaten yet when the doorbell rings. It’s the UPS guy there to drop off a box of diapers that’s bigger than your living room. He's acting kind of weird, staring at the ground while insisting that you don’t have to sign. And on your way back inside, you pass a mirror and realize your shirt is wide open. Congratulations: You just showed your boobs to the UPS guy.
Spit-up doesn’t count. I’m talking full-on projectile chunk-tastic horror shooting from your sweet baby’s face, splattering all over your favorite hoodie. And even as you’re trying not to dry heave, your baby will look at you, little lips aquiver, like, what was that and why did that happen? Of course, you’ll comfort him and clean him up and wonder how something so disgusting could emerge from something so lovable. And then you’ll think, “Well, at least I got that milestone over with.”
And then it will happen again. Like, five seconds later. Babies always have more than one puke in them. Science has not yet determined how they can hold so much liquid in their tiny bodies. We think they might have abilities to bend time and space.
You’re several months into this parenting thing. Your baby is trying out solid foods, so while her diapers have become more… interesting... you mostly know what to expect. Until one day. One strange day. What is that? Is it… are those twigs? Did your baby eat a tree? Why is it purple? You’ll call your mom to tell her: “You’re not going to believe what was in her diaper.” You briefly consider saving the diaper, to puzzle over it later with your spouse. And then you wonder what’s happened to you.
And you throw away the diaper. Because you are not that insane.
This could happen at any stage in your child’s life. Maybe you’ve kept it together for the first few years, but then one day, your toddler kicks you in the shin and your inner rage monster comes out. Or maybe you’re a sleep-deprived new mom who can’t believe her baby just woke up for the 36th time that hour. Either way, at some point, you will yell at your kid — stupid, senseless yelling, with no real point to it — and afterward, you will feel awful about it.
It happens. We recommend getting this over with fairly early so you can get accustomed to the guilt.
The first time this phrase comes out of your kid’s mouth, she’ll probably be a preschooler (or maybe a sophisticated toddler!). She’ll clearly be trying the phrase out, testing its power. You’ll be in the middle of issuing some kind of unfair commandment. Maybe she can’t have a third candy, or you’d rather she didn’t bitch-slap the cat. Your kid makes a terrible growling noise at you. “You’re mad,” you say, because you read somewhere that you should name your kid’s emotions. Her eyes narrow. “I hate you,” she says.
And really, coming out of that cute little face, it’s kind of hard not to burst out laughing. You probably shouldn’t laugh. Don’t laugh!
This time, your child is old enough to know exactly what he’s saying. Now you’re arguing over more serious business: say, a video game you won’t let him play because there are just too many decapitations.
The moment comes when he realizes you’re not giving in. That even though he has excellent arguments about how educational the game is, you will not allow it in your home. And so: “I hate you,” he declares. “I really hate you.”
You realize, at that moment, he means it.
You’re still not going to let him play that video game, though.
It’s the first day of school. Maybe it’s kindergarten or first or second grade. Maybe eighth! It doesn’t matter when it happens — it’ll happen. You pull up to the school, lean over to give your kid the traditional farewell kiss or hug or whatever, and he lurches away like he just realized you’re covered in wet garbage.
Remain calm. You will never again be allowed to show affection to your child in public, but that doesn’t mean all displays of affection must cease. You just have to wait until you’re completely alone and no one is present to witness his embarrassing love for you.
This is a glorious milestone that isn’t discussed enough. Parents of newborns, can you fully absorb that this will happen to you? That there will come a day when your child will get out of bed — by herself? And go to the kitchen, by herself? And get a bowl? By herself? And fill said bowl with whatever she deems appropriate for breakfast consumption? Just make sure it’s not chocolate chips. I mean, no judgment. Maybe you’re really enjoying the extra time you get to sleep in. Chocolate chips it is!
Your little girl hugs you goodnight and she smells like old falafel. Your sweet boy points at something in the distance and there are actual stink lines emanating from his armpits. This is a tricky one, because kids seem to be uniformly offended that you’d imply that they smell less than perfect. You’d think they’d be grateful that you’re buying them deodorant and saving them from stinking in public! You’d think they’d appreciate a gentle reminder that showers are a good idea! They are not, and do not.
This is their revenge for you telling them they stink. “You wanted me to smell better,” they’ll say. “And so I am steeped in manufactured fragrance. Behold: I am redolent of a pine forest that's been liberally sprayed by an animal's musk glands. Or perhaps I am a dream of a rose that only grows in the food court of a mall, as dreamed by Dina Lohan.”
You’ll make it through. At some point, a person whose opinion they trust (i.e., a peer) will tell them they’ve gone too far. Meanwhile, open those windows! Fresh air is good for your health! And remember that this, like all things, will pass. Remember, it was only, like, five minutes ago that you were dealing with diapers. Which you now remember with aching fondness. Sunrise, sunset.
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