Why I’m Terrified of the Next Stage

At least once a day I find myself thinking: “Nope! I didn’t sign up for this. Parenthood, screw you.”

Because this stuff is not easy. Like, realllllly not easy. Like set the difficulty level on maximum, tie a blindfold around your head, and then try to beat the game kind of not easy.

And it’s somehow just getting worse every day.

But how is that even possible? I’ve spent 20 whole months of my life walking around with another human inside my body. I literally had a watermelon-sized PERSON squirming away in my uterus, smashed up against my internal organs, stealing my vital nutrients and playing trampoline with my bladder. And that was the EASY PART!

After that came the sleepless nights and unforgettable days of being nothing more than a caffeine-fueled zombie with leaking tits. I’ll never forget the miserable nights when my colicky baby would scream at maximum lung capacity for four hours at a time and it was all I could do not to rip my own ears off and feed them to the dog. And the new parent anxiety? The trepidation associated with realizing there is a tiny little person whose life lies entirely in your hands and there is no reset button to press when you screw up? The fear of this realization is paralyzing, especially to those of us riddled with anxiety to begin with.

And what’s next? The toddler shit show. You know, when your sweet little chubby-cheeked angel somehow evolves into this shit-talking baby/person hybrid that still does all the annoying baby stuff but now thinks it’s a tiny grown up and yells at you every fifteen seconds. If you’re not yet in this phase, someday you will find your two young children huddled in a corner holding “safety” scissors and hacking away at each other’s hair, and you’ll fight back tears of frustration as you think to yourself “I can’t wait until this toddler shit is over, it can’t be worse than this.”

Oh, but I think it can. And it will.

Brace yourselves. Toddlerhood is coming.

Brace yourselves. Toddlerhood is coming.

When my kids were really young and they were glued to my hip 24/7, sympathetic people would occasionally say “don’t worry, it gets better when they get a little bigger and you don’t need to be on top of them all the time.” Although they were probably just saying that to steer the conversation away from the latest object my kid stuck up her nose, they were partially right. There is a certain undeniable freedom that goes along with being able to turn your back for ten seconds without the fear of finding a child swinging from a cabinet or eating raw chicken out of the garbage can.

But once you emerge from the sleep-deprived hell-on-earth of raising toddlers, you’re far from in the clear. When people used to tell me “little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems,” I wanted to punch them in the throat. I admit it wasn’t just their condescending attitude that pissed me off—it was the underlying fear that I would someday learn they were actually telling the truth. And now as I watch my own children each graduate from toddlerhood, I realize they are about to enter a world where they’re old enough to start remembering stuff. There’s no longer a margin for error. One bad screw-up and they’re like scarred for life, you guys. How is that for pressure?

Once toddlerhood is over, it dawns on you that that all you really needed to fix little kid problems was a big stack of baby wipes and a little patience. Or preferably, a good set of ear plugs. But these big kid problems are a doozy. Your kid starts coming home from school with questions that you’d rather fake your own death than answer. Let’s just say they don’t bat their innocent lashes at you and inquire where babies come from anymore. Oh, and the homework assignments? I can answer Final Jeopardy correctly at least once a week, yet I have to Google my son’s second grade homework problems for answers. WTF?

I’m not sure how much worse it gets from here, but I’ve read enough horror stories about texting and driving to know that the crap I’m dealing with now is fucking peanuts compared to what’s coming next. And I’m not ready for any of it.

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