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Things I wish I'd been told about parenting...

I know a bunch of friends who are currently pregnant or have new babies less than 6 months old. And as Kelly and I, more and more, put our infant days behind us, we've done a lot of private trips down memory lane lately. Each new milestone from one of the kids takes us back to when we first left the hospital with them.

We're currently winding down the Terrible Twos. Which I'm happy to report aren't so terrible. Oh, don't get me wrong, it's bad. But every age is bad. It's not like I'd trade in the head-banging, middle-of-the-walkway-at-the-zoo tantrum for getting up 3 times a night. Not to mention that the worst of the Terrible Twos for our kids has been rougly 18 months to 30 months. Leda is currently in the middle of her throwing, screaming, rolling on the floor phase while Cole is mostly preschooler with extended conversations about interesting things and fun to be around. We consider him a full "little boy" while Leda is still trying to break out of babyhood.

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot lately about...not so much advice...more like information....that I wish somebody had told me. Nobody talks about. Because they're busy giving you advice. Or telling you what stroller to buy. For the record, we love our strollers and would be happy to recommend one. But that's not the point here.

What is the point is that you only get a baby for, maybe, six months. Nobody talks about that. Having kids, you imagine this prolonged period of cute infancy where it's all babbling and crying and dirty diapers. That time in the future where they turn distant. The reality is that cuddly doll you bring home from the hospital ain't staying. Everybody says "they grow up so fast" but the (unsaid) flip side of that is that your baby will be gone before you even get used to the idea of having a baby. By the time you blink they will be sitting and crawling and walking. The early days are a hazy time, but try to enjoy them.

Diapers. Initially you fear them. But you'll change hundreds of them. And then one day you'll wake up and be scooping poop out of the tub and it won't even be that big a deal to mention it. You'll be so good at getting a diaper around a squirming toddler that you can do it, literally, with one hand. Because the other hand...well, I'll let you figure that one out by experience. But you'll also figure out that it's easier to just change the damn diaper than fight about whose turn it is to change the diaper. And you'd rather change the diaper than some worse fates waiting for you. Again, I'll let you figure out the fates worse than diapers on your own.

Mostly, everybody wants to make a big deal out of having a new baby, but the reality is that it's not that much different than having a dog or a goldfish. You feed it, it sleeps, you clean up after it, it will chew on your slippers and be kinda boring. Babies are spectacularly fascinating and completely boring. Don't feel bad if you don't really like yours right away. Also, if you do like yours don't get too attached because it will change on you like that.

You're going to mess up. Ok, that's too strong. You're going to make poor parenting decisions. You'll also agonize over a bunch of small inconsequential stuff like what shampoo to buy and really it doesn't matter. Buy the cheap stuff. However, what you will realize eventually is that the small stuff all adds up to big stuff. All those things you didn't think your kid was paying attention to will come home to roost when one day they look directly at you and speak in your voice back to you. It's frightening when you see what impact you're having on another human being. Oh, some things are most definitely nature...not nurture. Your kid is gonna like stuff you wish they didn't. And innately enjoy some things that you know the apple didn't fall far from the tree. But the stuff they do learn and pick up from their environment is endlessly weird. Try to switch who drives to the grocery one day and your 2 year old WILL call you out for not being in the correct seats in the car. Shoes ALWAYS must be placed by the door...even if you've never spoken that as an actual rule. They notice.

Enjoy that new baby smell. Eventually they'll smell like wet crackers and peanut butter. And enjoy them as they quietly googoo ga ga and cry that little sweet newborn cry. Because eventually you'll want to scream back at them as they whine to you about snack, "yes! I heard you!" and you'll wish they'd stop pointing out to you that the carpet on the stairs is green every, single time you walk up or down them.