Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Motherhood Skills I Didn't Know I'd Need to Know


When I was expecting my first child, I thought a lot about the various skills I’d need as a parent. I figured I’d need to know how to sing some lullabies. I figured I’d need to know how to mix formula one-handed. I figured I’d need to know how to have a pretend tea party or build a pretend railroad. I figured I’d eventually have to be able to give a passable rendition of a few dozen fairy tales and nursery rhymes. I even figured that I’d have to learn to drive a minivan. But after nearly three years of hands-on parenting, there are a lot of skills I’ve picked up along the way that I never expected to need to know. Let me give you some examples.

I never knew I’d need to be able to dress and undress a recalcitrant, sticky, poop-covered octopus. The first time I had to change an uncooperative 8-month-old baby in July following a poopsplosion, I realized there were skills involved that I had never even imagined. I had to somehow have enough of my own appendages to hold all of his appendages away from the poop and still have a couple left over to peel his clothes and his diaper away from his sweaty, wriggling little body, plus at least one more to grab the clean diaper before any escaped baby appendages beat me to it.

I never knew I’d have to learn how to make everyday food into something entertaining enough that a two-year-old will eat it without question. I had no idea that the expression “plating,” in reference to a toddler, would mean creating everything from a pancake shaped like Mickey Mouse to a peanut butter sandwich shaped like a pinwheel to a pile of scrambled eggs with a face made from pretzel sticks, Cinnamon Life cereal, and M&Ms. Fortunately, I also discovered that in a pinch, I can just cut everything into chunks and stick a few frilled toothpicks in them.

I never knew I’d have to be able to create toys from nothing but the detritus in the passenger seat of my car, while driving. Who knew that an empty plastic water bottle, an oversized Dunkin Donuts straw, the lid of a yogurt tub, and a piece of tinfoil that was once wrapped around a gas station hotdog could occupy a small child for enough time to get to a reasonably hygienic highway rest stop with a child-friendly restaurant and changing table? Not to mention the fact that I also had to develop the power and accuracy in my throwing arm to get said detritus into the hands of the child in the back seat, using only the rearview mirror to aim. If I ever decide to make baseball pitching or dentistry my next career, I’ll be well ahead of the game.

I never knew that I’d have to learn how to make up stories on the spur of the moment based on subjects like, “the camera on my ceiling,” “a bulldozer,” “a smokestack and a silo,” and “my wall.” (All of these are actual story topics requested by my son within the past few months. And yes, I managed to come up with a story that had not only a coherent plot but also some kind of useful message for each one.) This particular skill happens to come in very handy when I’m blogging, as it gives me plenty of practice in having to expand a very simple or even vague idea into an entertaining story with a useful point.  

Wanna hear the one about the bulldozer that pushed over the smokestack and the silo which then knocked over the wall while being recorded by the camera on my ceiling and thus learned how to be gentle when playing with his toys?

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