Perplexing, Annoying and Exhausting: A Guide

There is currently a small baby boom going on in my personal universe. There are friends (both in real life and on-line) that are expecting, women I work with, acquaintances of all degrees planning for the arrival of little people in the next few months.

While all these pregnancies sometimes cause me a bit of angst (do I want another baby? Should we have one? Yes? No? When? Argh!) I mostly enjoy the prospect of sniffing baby heads in the future and the chance to talk pregnancy/baby stuff for the perspective of one who has gone before. I don’t know what it is about those of us with kids, but it is damn near impossible to not want to share advice, suggestions, speculations, and in some cases graphic details with pregnant friends. I try very hard to be mindful of this and not offer advice that wasn’t request and to make sure I share the joyful things about having a child and not just the trying things (although, of course, the trying things often make the better stories). I think those of us with smallish kids sometimes feel so overwhelmed with the experience of parenting an infant/baby/toddler that it is hard to restrain ourselves when we have the chance to talk about it.

In light of this, there was an interesting moment on Twitter a while back when a woman who is pregnant for the first time found out about the post birth hospital issue stretchy underwear (if you don’t know what those are, you may want to click here. Or, you know, not) and demanded to know what else she hadn’t been told about the birth experience. This prompted a flood of graphic answers (skin tags! sagging boobs! Poop!) from women (including me, naturally) practically cackling with glee about sharing their horror stories. It was both totally entertaining and, I think, educational and encouraging. There is something deeply reassuring to not be alone with your skin tags and inability to do jumping jacks without peeing a bit.

With that in mind I have created a follow-up of sorts. The top 10 list of perplexing, annoying and exhausting phases a child will go through before they are three (keep in mind I have a 2.5 year old, so the list might be subject to change).

10. The third trimester in utero soccer match. There are few things more magical than feeling your child move for the first time. It is a flutter and is delicate and delightful. And then comes the third trimester and you begin to wonder if your child is composed entirely of right angles, elbows and knees. When my son was born and was 8 pounds, 13 ounces of soft floppy squishyness all I could do was marvel at how this little helpless person was none the less able to use my spleen as soccer ball for three months.

Category: Perplexing (and maybe a bit Exhausting if you have a night kicker)

9. The new born sleeping schedule Now this is obviously a predictable exhaustion, we all know babies are brutal sleep wise at first but it is still worthy of mention. My memories of the first six weeks of my son’s life are grim. I was madly in love with him, of course, but was so tired. The worst of it was the uncertainty. I’d go to bed cringing because I wanted desperately to sleep but I knew he’d wake up at some point but I didn’t know when. Would I get an hour of sleep? Two? Four? Dare to dream: Five? It is the sleep version of Russian Roulette.

Category: Exhausting

8. The every diaper is an explosion phase. I don’t, thankfully, remember exactly when or exactly how long this phase lasted but there was a time when it felt like every single diaper was an instant explosion. The worst was when my son pooped while he was nursing and covered us both with poop. There was poop in my pants, on the floor, on his back, in his hair. It defied physics. It made me flinch every time he so much as farted. It ruined mustard for me for months.

Category: Annoying

7. The joker phase It is so much fun when your child learns to talk. Hearing their perspective on the world is regularly hilarious. Kids are non-sequitur machines and natural comedians. Until they try to tell jokes for the first times. Have you ever had a toddler tell you a joke? They are usually 10x as long as the are funny and the punch lines are often a mystery. My son is very into knock knock jokes right now and woe to you if you don’t answer your part right:

Him: Knock knock

Me: Who’s there?

Him: bowling!

Me: ball?

Him: NOOO!

Other not acceptable answers include “alley” “shoes” “guy” “shirt”

Actual answer he wanted: “Ooooh!” said like a television announcer when a pro bowler gets a strike. It took a long time to figure this out.

Category: Perplexing.

6. The learning to walk phase Learning to walk is one of the big deal milestones and it is pretty cool but it is also the time when you begin to develop a genuine fear of losing your bruised and bloody child to social services. There are head bumps, split lips, goose eggs on the forehead after unfortunate head-meets-coffee table incidents. It is stressful watching the little person toddle around like a drunk.

Category: Exhausting

5. The good eating phase When the baby monkey first started eating solids he would eat anything. Anything. Bring on the peas, the greens, the fruits and vegetables of all kinds. From about six months until about two years old he was open-minded and agreeable about trying almost anything. He once ate so much spinach lasagna that he made himself sick. He’d beg for bites of red bell pepper. He ate so much sweet potato I thought he’d turn orange.

So why is this phase on this list? Because it doesn’t last, but it last long enough for you to begin feeling a bit smug. You have a good eater. You won’t have one of those picky kids. It makes the next, inevitable phase all the more annoying.

Category: Annoying, but only after the fact.

4. The carb and air diet phase Arrgh. There is something about turning two that makes the most adventurous eater (with few exceptions) turn into a creature content to live on Goldfish crackers, air and Popsicles. Good luck getting a vegetable in there. My son will still eat most fruit so at least he won’t get scurvy but he eats a fraction of what he used to. What is most frustrating is that he won’t eat foods that I know he’d like if he tried (he turned down cinnamon rolls this morning, for crying out loud) and he is still a marginally better eater than his buddies his age. Just nothing like he used to be.

Category: Annoying (and a bit Perplexing and sometimes Exhausting, depending on how much you care about your kid living on carbs and air)

3. The defiant phase Hee. I’m calling this a phase even though I know good and well this is just a preview of the teenage years. My son is pretty easy-going but he is also still two, so we end up having conversations like this:

Me: clean up yours letters, buddy

Him: no (shakes head with big solemn eyes)

Me: I need you to pick up your letters before your bath

Him: Too bad mama.

Me: Pick up your letters or time out.

Him: Too bad. It is just too bad Mama.

He eventually picks them up (because I am the Mama and I will win) but it takes five times as long as it should.

Category: Annoying.

2. The exploring the contents of the diaper phase. I am living in this phase right now and I can’t wait for it to be over. The kid has this new habit of pooping at night after he’s been put to bed and smearing the poop on the walls or fishing the contents of his diaper out with his hand and dropping it on the floor. There is nothing that is not gross and horrifying about this. We think we’ve found a solution (snapping a onesie OVER his pants at night time, we call this the onesie of shame) that is working for the moment but man I’m sick of this already.

Category: Annoying.

1.The biting phase. Nothing, NOTHING!, has caused me as much parental frustration as when my sweet boy was in his biting phase. The baby monkey started biting at about a year old and probably bit for the last time at maybe 16 or 18 months. He mostly bit me and sometimes Mr. Monkey but he also bit at daycare a couple of times, which is horrifying.  Biters are, as my older brother put it, the “drug dealers of the daycare world”. We tried every reasonable approach to dealing with it. We were consistent with discipline, we tried to prevent it, we read him “Teeth Are Not For Biting” about 1,000 times and he still bit. He didn’t usually bite out of anger or frustration and there seemed to be little rhyme or reason behind it, which made it even more frustrating. He bit me on the back of the leg once when I was standing in the kitchen making dinner and I didn’t even know he was in the room. He just toddled over and bit me hard enough to leave a bruise. I screamed (it hurt like a mofo) and jumped, which knocked him over and led to his crying too. Mr. Monkey and I don’t believe in physical punishment for kids, but the I’ll be honest, the closest I’ve ever come to spanking was during this phase. I am so glad it is over.

Category: Annoying and Exhausting


4 thoughts on “Perplexing, Annoying and Exhausting: A Guide

  1. Johanna I. says:

    Oh, Wendy. I just read some of this out loud to Jon and could barely get through it because I was laughing so hard I had tears. It also instilled a good bit of fear in us, thanks so much for that. 🙂

  2. Gayle says:

    I love how you write. So honest and so funny. I hate to tell you but that stage of defiance really didn’t hit its peak for us until 4…or at least I hope this is the peak. Defiance along with the child screaming as you remove him from the car “Mommy if you don’t give me my snack back I will call the police.” Thank goodness our neighbors know that really I don’t hurt my child. The good definitely outweighs the bad though, everyday.

  3. Mads says:

    This list horrifies me. I thought having children might be easier than having a puppy because they don’t bite. Turns out, they do! My uterus is going to close up shop.

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