IMG_0005-5Ever since the birth of my first son, I’ve been threatening to write a parenting book called, “Shit They Don’t Tell You.”  There are probably a bazillion books on parenting out there.  Most of them seem to be written for some super mom who only exists to make the rest of us feel bad about ourselves.One of my favorites is a book called “New Parent Power!”  A well-meaning family member gave it to me and I’ve never read it.  The reason why it is my “favorite” is the same reason why I’ve never read it.  The damn thing is 572 pages long.  What parent has time to read a book that is 572 pages long? I mean, it is probably a great book that is chock full of sound parenting advice that could change my life on a daily basis, but I’ll never know because I’m trying to raise three boys into men.  If I have time to read a book, it is usually one on how to keep my own shit together and not one about better discipline strategies.  Yes, I see how they are both related but come on! I devote SO much of my waking hours to my kids or my work, and when I read, I want to read for me!But, as usual, I am digressing.  What I started this post to talk about is my own “book,” which I have finally surrendered to – for now – just being a blog, and the shit they don’t tell you about being a parent.I mean, ask any mother about the actual birth of their child and they will go into enough gory detail to give Stephen King a run for his money.  But if you were to ask them what it’s like to raise a child, they seem to lose that thread of vulnerability and honesty.Let’s be honest.  This could partially be because we are all in shellshock and can barely remember what we had for breakfast much less describe what our day to day lives are like.Generally speaking, we humans tend to remember the negative things that happen to us over the positive ones.  This ability to focus on “threats” to our safety is actually a survival instinct.  When we were living in caves, our ability to notice the saber tooth tiger over the butterfly would keep us alive.But in modern times, when most of us don’t live with such physical threats, that same ability has become a liability.  Now, instead of allowing us to notice the saber tooth tiger, we instead focus on the one negative thing that our spouse or our boss or our best friend said to us in a two hour conversation that was otherwise filled with positive things.  Afterwards, our thoughts return only to the one negative one.For mothers, I think there is a similar survival mechanism.  This one, however, doesn’t ensure our own survival as much as that of our children and our willingness to continue to procreate.  In a day full of temper tantrums and cleaning up bodily fluids, if someone asks how our day was, we instinctually focus on the one or two moments when things were good.  We share the moments of joy that we had with our kids that day.Perhaps the survival of our entire species depends upon a mother’s (or father’s) ability or need to focus on what went right that day rather than what went wrong.  But perhaps it is not the survival of our species that is at risk but rather our own shame.It takes a strong woman to admit that she feels like she is flailing everyday as a parent and that every day feels like a crap shoot where she misses the mark more than she hits it.  I think that this fear that we are getting it wrong stems from the gross misconception that we’ve all been fed about what it takes to be a parent.I_0082If anyone could every really convey how fucking hard it is to be a parent, I’m not sure that we’d do it! I mean, of course, we would because of the whole irrational, biological imperative to make minions of ourselves and our spouses.There is so much that nobody tells you about being a parent! There is so much shit that we don’t dare share with one other either out of own sneaking suspicion that we are the worst parents ever or, let’s face it, because it’s so gross and hard and ridiculous, who would believe us anyway?!  Certainly not a woman whose biological clock is ticking so loudly that she can scarcely hear anything above it.Anyway!  The title of this blog and the book I’ve long joked about writing is “The Shit They Don’t Tell You.” So, I want to share with you some of the things that I (along with countless other parents) have had to learn the hard way.1)  If you are currently pregnant and reading lots of books about pregnancy and childbirth, please stop immediately.  Whatever you think you are planning, something else is most likely going to happen.  Trust your OB or your midwife.  Trust your body.  Instead, start reading books on how to actually take care of your baby because you won’t have the time or energy to do so once they are here.shutterstock_828694812) Within in the first 48 hours of bringing your baby home from the hospital, you will be convinced that you have ruined your life. I try to tell this to all women who are about to become moms.  I don’t do it to be mean or to scare but to let them know that when it happens that it is normal.  I also quickly reassure them that they have not, of course, ruined their lives and that it very quickly gets much, much better.  Having that first baby is like hitting a brick wall.  Luckily, Mother Nature makes them so freaking cute and floods our brains with oxytocin so that we soon fall in madly in love with our babies and we are willing to do whatever it takes to keep this tiny creature alive.3) Motherhood doesn’t come naturally and you may not even like – let alone love – your baby at first sight.  This is actually a completely common and normal phenomenon.  Want to know what my first thought was when I saw my first son for the first time?  “Oh my god.  I’ve given birth to a little Mexican.”  His father, my second husband was a beautiful Hispanic man (and still is though we are no longer married) so, trust me, I am not a racist and I apologize if my frankness offends anyone.  However, when the nurses first showed me that furry, red-faced creature with a shock of black hair, my brain could not comprehend that baby had come out of my body.I feel like I would be remiss not to mention something about postpartum depression and/or anxiety at this point.  It is real and I personally believe that all new moms have one or both to some degree.  Your body and your life are turned upside down and, of course, there is going to be some fall out.  If you are struggling with either, know that you are not alone.  I personally had postpartum anxiety after all three of my children were born.  I survived and so did they.  I reached out to my OB and my therapist and my girlfriends and I strongly advise you to do the same.  Again, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.4) Your children will literally beat the crap out of you.  From the time they can climb up your legs and into your lap until around second grade, they will want to be in your lap or in close physical proximity at all times.  And it hurts.  They aren’t gentle.  They are rough.  They will scale your bare legs like Everest leaving a trail of bruises and scrapes in their wake.  They will punch you in the face.  Sometimes this will be an accident and sometimes they will be overtaken by their own excitement and do it on purpose…not realizing that it will actually hurt.You will be snuggling sweetly in bed and before you know it, you will be in a WWE wrestling match and your toddler will throw himself at your face and accidentally shove the entire length of his thumb up your nostril giving you the first and only nosebleed of your life.  If you are lucky.You will be playing joyfully with plastic tubes and pretending they are trumpets when your four year old will suddenly give you a round house kick to the face causing the plastic tube to cut your lip in two places and chip one of your front teeth.shutterstock_755497665) Living with small children is like living in a bio-hazardous zone of filth.  If anyone really knew the amount of vile, bodily fluids that parenting involved, the human race might come to an end.  Your children will sneeze massive gobs of mucous in your face, in your car and in your hair.  Your infants will spit up on you so many times that you will become nose blind to the stench of sour milk emanating from your clothes and you will wear stained clothes out of the house because they are “not that bad.”You will be taking a happy family bath with your newborn and your husband only to see your husband leap out of the tub in horror when you both realize what that green cloud is that is slowly creeping towards the surface.You will have vomit sprayed down your back as you try to comfort your sick child.  You will have poo explode straight into your face as you carefully try to remove what you know is a diarrhea filled diaper.  You will be peed on by your newborn son more times that you can count and your entire kitchen and dining area will be covered in a layer of food that never seems to completely come off.  You will regret all those times you judged your friends who had kids before you for how messy their house was.Parenting is not for the faint of heart and speaking of…6) Your heart will be torn so wide open that it will never be the same.    There is this great quote from Elizabeth Stone that says, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”  You have never felt such vulnerability as you will once you have a child loose in the world.  Every playground insult hurled by another child will cut you like a dagger.  Every fever, every rash, every boo boo experienced by your kids will feel like your own.Having children makes you a better person whether you like it or not.  They drag us – often kicking and screaming – into real adulthood and into being less self-centered because their survival literally depends on us.  But not to get too melodramatic here because humans have been having and raising children for literally centuries.  Relax.  You got this.shutterstock_1505375847) Your children will become the ultimate experts at pushing your buttons.  It’s like it’s their job and one of the reasons that they do so pulls us along our path of personal growth.  The upside of this is that, once they get a little older and able to have conversations, those conversations will be some of the best of your life.  Because, they are your offspring and they get you and know you better than any other person ever will – except maybe for your own mom.  You will laugh at their jokes and be amazed and thrilled as they begin to develop their own opinions about the world.A couple of years ago, my oldest son came home from school one day and, with all seriousness, asked, “Did you know that some people actually believe that unless you were a Christian that you are going to hell?”  I smiled and said, “Yes.  That’s actually what I was raised to believe but don’t anymore.”  To which he responded, “That’s crazy!  There was a kid at my school today who told this other kid that he was going to hell because he didn’t know if he believed in God.  And I defended him because I think that’s crazy.”  My heart was bursting with pride.8)  Finally, I just want to say that it’s a crap shoot every day.  Experts seem to agree that children may need consistency and routine in their lives but, man, it sure doesn’t always feel like that.  Every time you think you’ve got the bedtime routine or the homework routine or the “what the fuck to eat for dinner routine” nailed down, they change.  They grow.  They adapt.  The result is that what worked yesterday or for the last six months stops working.  So, you are forced to grow and to adapt.  That’s what true parenting is all about.  Constant growth.  Perpetual flexibility.  Constantly questioning yourself.I want you to pay close attention now, because this is the most important part:  YOU ARE NOT DOING ANYTHING WRONG.  This parenting is hard as hell.  But the payoffs?  Love to the moon and back.Okay, I’ll add in one more.WY1_45529) Your kids will love you like you have never been loved before.  Unconditionally and wholeheartedly.  They love you on your good days and they love you on your bad days and all that they are really asking for in return is for you to love them back.That and whatever latest version of the XBOX is out.  And pizza.  Trust me.  It’s worth it.