We've all heard of backseat drivers, however, we're all much less likely to fess up to being backseat parents. You know what that means. Most of us are guilty of it whether it was the snide "I'd never do that," said as a snarky teen or an imaginarily worldlier young adult mumbling, "There's a better way to address that," while watching a harried mom in the grocery store. Parenthood, like many other things, is something you really have no idea how you'll react to or cope with until you've been in the trenches. Five years later when you're the overwhelmed parent at the grocery store trying to wrangle a three year old that must touch every fruit and vegetable while loudly making sure everyone around hears that this child knows their colors and a crying baby in the cart, you might just have to stop yourself from throwing broccoli at Ms. or Mr. Worldly for their know it all attitude. Oh, to be young and naïve again. Here are the top five things (almost) every first-time parent quickly learns.
Five things you only learn after having kids
- Your diet changes. Instead of those great meals that were either cooked by your patient, non-butt-wiping hands or ordered in (because money wasn't thrown at things like diapers and gas drops), you eat what the kids eat. This means you try baby food (it's not good). You sample hot dogs to make sure they're not too nuked. You even may find a lot less green in your diet than there once was. Kids, for some reason, even before they learn their colors, are able to detect that green is a flashing sign warning, “Danger Will Robinson!”
- Your Disney game is on point, even if the last movie of theirs you saw was Lion King. Whether it's the amazing music, colorful animation, or cheerful characters that stuff is like catnip for kids. It doesn't discriminate on gender either. Boys have belted out “Let it go.” Girls have done toddler versions of haka moves while humming the tune of “You're welcome.” Don't know what any of that means? You soon will.
- You learn that cabinets and drawers are not cabinets and drawers. They are steps, platforms, and diving boards. They are a place to store milk cups until they’re sour and a dark hole into which favorite, inconveniently small toys go to never return. You learn that children pull them out only to walk into them or pull themselves up on them. You learn you have a desperate need for a sort of magical one size fits all lock (you can find one such lock, the Safety Mag here for $5/piece). Baby proofing and then, later, childproofing aren't myths. They're adventures that lead you often to a place called Why Can't I Just Raise Them In A Bubble?!
- Harkening back to number one on this list and the dietary changes brought about by becoming a parent, you learn that lying about everything being chicken is a thing nearly all parents resort to. That weird jiggling thing your parents fed you when you were younger? Chicken. That veggie substitute log that the doctor says is good for your picky eater? Chicken.
- You learn how gloriously precious sleep is and develop a near super powered capability to do it anywhere. Kids are weird sleepers, that's a well-known fact. Sometimes they sleep in the day and stay up all night, like little human-looking bats. Sometimes they go without pause all day only to fall asleep in the laundry basket an hour before bedtime. Entire montages have been made showing children asleep in crazy positions, places, and times. These are readily available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube. What you see less are the parents who have adapted to mirror this behavior perfectly. Kid falls asleep with their feet in your face? Take it. Baby only stops crying when you're singing that lullaby on repeat? Adjust. Become sleep Beyoncé and belt it out while snoozing. Parents have done even more bizarre things to get that much needed shut-eye.
There's a sixth thing on this list and it's this- every parent and loving caregiver knows that it's worth it. Kissing a baby forehead, watching a busy toddler drift off to sleep, magically curing bruises and scrapes with hugs, makes all the hot dog scented, exercise in sleep deprivation challenges worth the struggles.