This is an excerpt from Raquel D’Apice’s hilarious new book, “Welcome to the Club: 100 Parenting Milestones You Never Saw Coming.”
I bought a baby book to record my son’s milestones because I thought that was something I was supposed to do. The book had all the milestones I expected it to have. First tooth. First word. First step. Most of these books are the same. Sometimes they have “creative” prompts, tipping you off on what to write to your child.
The first time I saw your face .
My favorite part of the day with you is .
A cute thing you did recently was .
And then there are the dates, which baby book manufacturers seem to feel are very important. What was the date of his first car ride? Her first bath? His first visit to Nana’s house? After about 15 seconds of these I want to scrawl “I CANNOT BRING MYSELF TO CARE ABOUT ANY OF THIS” in block letters across the page. Today he rolled from back to front is not a story I would tell people over coffee unless I was hoping they would fall into a sleep deep enough for me to steal their iPhones or draw penises on their foreheads in Magic Marker.
Still, like everyone, there are days when I feel like completing these prompts with gushes of overwhelming love.
The first time I saw your face, I held you with tears in my eyes, totally overwhelmed by your existence.
My favorite part of the day with you is when you sleep on my chest with your legs askew like a little tree frog.
A cute thing you did recently was blow kisses to the people in the waiting room of the dentist’s office.
But those answers are not the entirety of the parenting experience. There are other answers that are just as valid as the ones above. Many days when confronted with these sentences, my first instinct is to write:
The first time I saw your face, I felt like running away into the woods to avoid the responsibility of raising a child.
My favorite part of the day with you is the part where you are not screaming the words “PANTS OFF! PANTS OFF!” while also having a bowel movement in a restaurant.
A cute thing you did recently was eat a molted cicada skin in the parking lot of a Talbots.
While traditional baby books focus on recording baby mile- stones, this book is an attempt to highlight the parenting milestones all of us go through. Not to record them, per se, since we may not need a book with prompts like:
First time he sneezed into your mouth .
Number of hours spent anxiously second-guessing all your decisions .
Instead of a book of milestones you half-heartedly hope you remember, this is a book of occurrences you will probably never forget. It is a list of things that are happening to all new parents but which people are hesitant to talk about, lest they seem like they are doing a mediocre job.
This is not a book designed to be read all in one sitting, because the phase of your life when you could read things all in one sitting is (I’m sorry!) probably behind you. This book doesn’t claim to have all (or possibly any) of the answers, but rather accepts that a lot of the time the answers will be different for each of us. It is a book to remind you that a lot of what you are going through is real and normal, even when it seems like it was staged by a special-effects department.
This is a book to let you know there will be different levels of hardships—some that you’ll handle with a smile and a good-natured eye roll, and some that will make you sob hysterically into your phone because you want your old life back. It’s okay. This book is a reminder that both of these things will pass and that, anxious as you may be about everything that is happening, you will somehow make it through all of this in one piece.*
Having a child is a new experience for everyone involved. Your child emerged from a quiet, fluid-filled sack into a world filled with angst, reality show spin-offs, and an overwhelming number of gum flavors. You emerged from your cocoon of childlessness into a world in which you spend hours trying to pull dried boogers out of someone’s nose using plastic tweezers.**
Being a parent is a marathon of unpredictable insanity. This book is an attempt to celebrate the chaos.
Welcome to the club.
**If you haven’t done it yet, it’s eerily similar to the Hasbro game Operation.
THE EARLY DAYS
1. First Time You Hold Your Child
Immediately after giving birth a nurse asked me, “Would you like to hold the baby?” and I said, “No,” because I did not feel ready.
For some people, holding a baby is the most natural thing on earth, and for the rest of us it is only slightly less stressful than being asked to hold a grenade. For those of us regularly shattering our iPhone screens, the idea of being responsible for a delicate human life can be overwhelming because we are not sure we are cut out for the job. “Here,” a nurse will say. “You know that tiny, miraculous human with a head like a Fabergé egg who means more to you than anything in the world? We’d like to place him in your arms, despite the fact that every fifteen minutes you trip over your laptop cord.”
2. First Time Packing a Diaper Bag
I used to take pride in the fact that I could leave my house with nothing but my wallet, keys, and phone, and I can’t wait to revisit that lifestyle at some point in my early seventies.
Babies need a lot of things and you’ll never know which things they’ll need at which times. If you’re wondering, “How much stuff do I need to bring if I’m out with a baby for forty minutes?” the answer is “Only slightly less than someone traveling the Oregon Trail.” A good rule of thumb is to bring everything you need to survive for 4 to 6 months in the wilderness for each hour spent outside the house.
3. First Baby Carrier Ride
- Fasten child safely and snugly against your chest, adjusting the straps to be certain child is secure.
- Walk out of house smiling. Congratulations! You are a real parent now, just like the parents pictured on the carrier packaging, only your hair has not been washed as recently.
- Quickly check on baby to make sure baby is still breathing, because her face is buried in the fabric of the carrier and she could suffocate.Child
- Assess that she is breathing and seems fine. Keep walking! People are looking at you and thinking, “How wholesome and tender! If I ever become a parent I would like to look as self-assured as that man/woman with the infectious smile and ineffable look of contentment!”
- Check again on the breathing thing.
- Shrug and go, “Oh, I am being so ridiculous! I need to lighten up. Obviously she is totally fine. People use these things every day!” Remind yourself that other primates, like lemurs and orangutans, carry their young in a similar manner with low suffocation rates.
- Smile! Parenthood is very primal and fulfilling!
- Wonder if lemurs are in fact primates???
- Decide you should be supporting the carrier with both arms since you are not convinced you have secured it correctly. Realize that if you trip and fall you will land on baby.
- Worry about this while simultaneously checking (again) to make sure baby is breathing. Are you still smiling? Keep smiling!
- Ascertain that child is still breathing. (You think? How can you even really tell? Mirror test?)
- Walk with one hand supporting baby and the other awkwardly extended to break your fall if you trip on something, looking not unlike a football player who is both cradling the ball and trying to avoid being tackled.
- Walk one block before deciding that maybe this is not worth it and you should turn around and go back.
- Arrive back home and frantically scan carrier instructions for any mention of babies suffocating in or falling out of or being crushed in carriers. Wonder if anxiety over this issue negates any joy derived from carrier use. Stare in dis- may at the detailed diagram showing you how to put it on.
- Google the Wikipedia entry for lemurs to ascertain that yes, they are, in fact, primates.
4. First Time You Try to Install a Car Seat and Curse Yourself for Not Getting That PhD in Theoretical Physics
Little-known fact: After his work on relativity was well received, Einstein presented the scientific community with instructions on how to correctly install a child’s car seat, to which the scientific community responded by rubbing their heads and saying, “Stop! Stop! Too confusing!”
Excerpted from WELCOME TO THE CLUB: 100 PARENTING MILESTONES YOU NEVER SAW COMING. Copyright © 2016 by Raquel D’Apice. Reprinted with the permission of Chronicle Books, San Francisco. www.chroniclebooks.com
You can purchase it on amazon.ca