October 28, 2016 by Katia
Stuff I can relate to as a parent: anyone in a corset or practicing other forms of holding their breath. The struggle is…
Stuff I cannot relate to as a parent: anything that starts with “keep calm and…” No, thank you. YOU keep calm and carry on, since YOUR four and seven-year-old boys are clearly not trying to inhale food through their noses.
Sorry not sorry for the spoiler alert: parenting is quite literally the scariest thing ever and it starts from day one.
Remember the shocking and sensational stories ran by XO Jane under the title “it happened to me”?
Well, it happened to me.
I was left in charge of a newborn placed in a little aquarium-type box minutes after the most physically tasking and draining event my body’s ever been through. True story. The only comforting thing about this whole set-up was that I could tell the newborn wasn’t judging. He must have sensed that his entire frame of reference was totally off and was trying to figure stuff out, but you could tell he was getting nowhere spreading his arms and legs every few minutes, like a little starfish and looking around cluelessly. Having realized that I was now in charge of making sure his needs were well taken care of (and the underlying assumption that I, or he, knew what those were and exactly HOW to do that) was probably when I took that first deep breath and never quite released.
But the madness doesn’t stop there. After a day and a half to two days of shadowing the hospital staff, when your baby turns two days old, the hospital feels confident in your ability to perform the work that some of their nurses had been doing for thirty years and as a vote of confidence they send you home. You’re about to embark on a path of paranoia – fasten your seatbelt real tight (it’s not like you’re breathing, anyways)! Your home will now feature spy gear such as baby monitors or video monitors, depending how far you want to take your paranoia. These will stay plugged in for the next three years soothing and feeding your fears at the same time. The monitor will finally retire when you give birth to baby number two. At that point, you may decide to take a more hands-on approach to this particular fear (is he breathing?) and move the baby into your own bed, or maybe, your second (also “spirited”) child will end up making that decision for you. Your “is he breathing” paranoia will be replaced by another “is he breathing” paranoia, this one stemming from the fact that he’s in bed with you AND your husband. What if somebody (not you) rolls onto your baby?
Since parenting clearly didn’t hear about “everything in moderation” you will, instead, find yourself simultaneously battling with ALL THE THINGS. Take the most terrifying of all parenting fears “what if someone wakes up the baby?” and before you’ve even begun to fathom the magnitude of such an event and assess the likelihood of this happening during your baby’s next nap, why don’t you also stick some solids in that toothless baby’s mouth like a total barbarian who doesn’t know that choking hazards are a thing?
If all of this isn’t scary enough, then along the way you will also be exposed to a set of outdated and scientifically- proven- wrong fears of previous generations and you’ll feel inclined to borrow other parents’ fears. The fear won’t go away, it’ll just be molded into a different shape with every age group, milestone and developmental stage your child enters. As your baby turns into a toddler you’ll find that big box stores embrace your fears and cultivate them by creating a Panic Room line featuring paraphernalia such as safety gates, outlet covers, doorknob locks and drawer latches. As your child transitions from baby to toddler you will also transition from “baby fears” into “toddler fears” which bear a more shifting and frantic character to keep up with your toddler’s. He’ll be more mobile and will treat every day, no – every moment, like a new chance to re-enact an entire episode of Jackass. You will watch with the same clenched breath, you’ll warn, chase, gasp and release that breath as they fall only to draw it back in and hold. As your child becomes a preschooler and then enters elementary school those fears may be molded into a shape of another child, somebody else’s, who seems to carry a little key to your own child’s emotional well being and so on and so forth.
Parenting, just like any other ride at an amusement park, is a scary thing, but neither one is defined by fear. It’s more of a combination of the most heightened fear and endless thrill you’ll ever experience. I did invite you to fasten your seatbelts, didn’t I?
This is the first installment in a two-post Halloween special. For the next one I’m working on something special with my husband. Stay tuned!