I knew something was up when I got the email at the end of January. “We should talk about the future of your column,” read the note from Sasha Emmons, the editor-in-chief of Today’s Parent.
I’ve been around long enough to know that when a woman says she wants to talk about the future, it’s probably a bad sign. But truth be told, I’d already been wrestling with how to handle my parenting column moving forward.
See, my daughters are getting older, and they’d probably like it if I stopped revealing the details of their lives to millions of readers. It was fine when they were toddlers and I was complaining about choppy sleeping patterns and their addiction to Treehouse programming—those columns were sweet and lighthearted (although they often ended with me fantasizing about knocking out all four members of the Wiggles with a single roundhouse kick).
But now that they’re eight and 12, the themes I have to work with are shifting into dangerous territory. I don’t think my eldest would appreciate, for example, a column about me taking her shopping for a training bra (although the jokes would write themselves, since I still don’t know how to work the clasps on those things). And the last thing she needs is to roll into her new school in the fall and have a grade seven classmate say, “I read your dad’s story, ‘A father’s guide to menstruation,’ in Today’s Parent. Hashtag awkward!”
On top of that, some of my jokes aren’t keeping up with the times anymore, like when I make fun of Dora’s bowl haircut only to find out that she’s now a hip preteen with long, beachy waves.
So before I become one of those old men yelling, “Get off my lawn!” to the neighbourhood teenagers, I think stepping away from this column is a wise move. But as I’m walking out the door, I want to leave some been there, done that advice for parents of babies and young kids.
1. Lower your standards
Before having kids, my wife and I knew exactly how things would be: Our house would be spotless, our kids would rarely watch TV or eat junk food, and we’d still have an active social life. But once we had toddlers, things changed in a hurry. Our house almost always looked like it had been ransacked by thieves, we let our kids watch Max & Ruby while eating Oreos if it meant getting a second to ourselves, and we went many, many months without a date night. This will happen to you, and it’s normal. It’s totally OK to lower your standards for the first few years of parenthood.
2. Keep your opinions to yourself
I once tried to tell a fellow parent that I found a lot of Robert Munsch’s books annoying and repetitive, but I got told off for slagging a Canadian icon. This served as a great reminder that nobody wants to hear your opinions on anything related to parenting—unless they agree with you 100 percent.
3. Get a king-size bed
The biggest regret I have in life (other than not being a ground-floor investor in Lululemon) is never having shelled out for a king-size bed for our master bedroom. After all, you really can’t put a price on not being kicked in the groin by a toddler at 3 a.m.
4. When you’re out in public, always have an extra pair of pants for yourself
When the inevitable happens, you’ll know why this is a good idea.
5. Enjoy when they’re little because it really does go by fast
I thought it was a cliché, but it turns out it’s true. One minute they’re holding your hand while walking down the street; the next they don’t want to be seen with you in public. So enjoy every moment you can when they let you squeeze and cuddle them. And be sure to sign up for a good family share plan for your smartphones when your kids get older—because once they become tweens and teens, you’ll be lucky just to get a text from them.
A version of this article appeared in our Summer 2016 issue with the headline “Lessons for new parents,” p.48.
Ottawa-based Ian Mendes has been writing about parenting for Today’s Parent since 2012. Find all his articles at todaysparent.com/ianmendes