Or, notes to the "myself" of nine years ago.
10. When a toddler swallows a raisin and it makes its journey through the digestive tract, the raisin "arrives" completely intact, waterlogged, and approximately the size of a kidney bean. Don't be afraid; nobody secretly fed beans to your toddler in his Cheerios.
9. Elementary-aged boys (and girls! But, extremely often, boys) will find it important to caveat their affection for others. I don't care how sexist it is to point this out; it's true of my sons--and my statistical sample size is growing every day--so clearly it is true of yours, your neighbors' and everyone's. Take, for example, the following letter written by my eight-year-old son:
"April 25, 2013
I can't beleav [sic] we thought of the same business journal. Well I want to have a playdate on Saturday, after the Star Test.
Love As A Friend,
8. Coffee or other mood-improving substances (okay, legal ones) are required for functional parenting. See also: Regular Breaks From Your Children. Don't try to be a hero. People who strive for absolute purity in parenting, people who never, ever compromise on anything, people who never, ever separate from their kids for even small intervals, in my experience, tend to be assholes of the tightest order. I used to try to be one of those people, and a wise pediatrician once took a glance at me and offered to write me a 'prescription' for getting the hell away from my children for a few minutes per day. They were infants and toddlers at the time. I finally listened to her and we hired some helpers. Was I significantly happier? No. Happiness has a different definition when you have toddlers and infants. But at least the kids were exposed to someone else, not all whose neuroses coincided with mine. That turns out to be important.
7. On the Other Hand...People who can't be bothered to hang out with their kids for more than a few moments a day, on the account of it being hard and everyone needing to recharge one's batteries after a long, hard day at work, etc, etc, etc, and it happens this way every day, are also assholes. The floppiest, most emotionally bereft ones. Your career, your triathlon, your favorite sports team and text messages and mojo are all important; so are your kids' feelings! Take more than a minute to look them in the eyes and recognize that they have souls to feed, not just mouths or brains.
6. The carpool is the deep end of your parenting resource "pool". If someone is willing to carpool with you, especially to preschool, early elementary, or KinderBasketWeaving Class, glom onto to that fellow parent like a remora to a shark. Swim alongside them! Bask, bask in the commensalism! This person is a better friend to you than most of the ones you made in college.
5. Childbirth kind of sucks. It's supposed to be all 'spiritual' but honestly, in twelve months you probably won't remember it. And that, my friends, is a good thing. If you feel the need to write down your baby's birth story, that's great, but just realize there is probably an evolutionarily favored reason that your brain is burying all recollection of the intense pain and other (*cough*) indignities. A hypothesis for future investigation: If you try to thwart the childbirth memory snatchers, you'll be less likely to do it again.
4. Note to would-be hipster parents, or maybe just hipsters in general: Read Dan Zevin. Specifically, Dan Gets a Minivan. Even more specifically, the chapter entitled, On No Longer Giving a Shit.
3. Speaking of giving a shit, in human infancy, all fluids exiting the body have the potential to be projectiles; plan ahead.
2. No matter how heroic or great your own parents were, you may discover that, upon the closer examination that comes with parenting, your folks were actually astonishingly incompetent. This is especially poignant and disorienting for those who were emotionally abused as kids. Please note, however, that there is hope. There are self-help books and therapists and things you can do to nurture your inner child, and there is also the rare friend who is candid enough to admit that she hates her mother, too. Plus, it will be years before your kids realize the extent of your suckitude.
1. It's worth every bit of the difficulty.