Putting socks on a baby and other surprisingly difficult tasks

I’ve come to realize that the middle of the day is the hardest part when it comes to parenting. And by “day” I mean a full twenty-four hours and by “middle” I mean those hours between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. when he’s awake. Those are the hardest. The other twelve, when he’s unconscious, are a breeze.

I’ve been a father now for almost ten months, and it is tough business, complete with new discoveries every day. I’m not talking about the huge, life-altering realizations, like how much you find you love your child or the new life-management techniques that must be employed with finances and time. I’m talking about those trivial discoveries that I was not prepared for and nearly completely blindsided by, such as:

My garbage. It weighs more than it used to. My son goes through approximately 35-40 diapers a week, and all that “stuff” adds up…and getting heavier the older he gets.

Realizing how little time tasks actually take to complete. Before my son was born, washing dishes was a 45 minute job. It’s now about 10 minutes. Cleaning the house used to take 6-8 hours. Now it takes about 2 (well, it still takes about 6-8 hours to complete but only 2 of those are spent cleaning). And my opinion on what “clean” is has downgraded to the phrase “clean enough.”

For the first few months, it looked like a baby with a very serious drinking problem lived on the premises. Because he ate every 2-3 hours, there were bottles strewn about everywhere.

It was also shocking to me to find that my son got more spit-up down his backside than front side, like he stepped out of The Exorcist. I also learned to check my backside throughout the day, because when my son did spit up down the front, it was usually while his head was on my shoulder. There was a day that I went at least a few hours, during which I ran several errands, with a trail of spit-up down my back that I didn’t know about.

The indirect expenses, too, are shocking. It’s impossible to guess exactly how much money a child is going to cost you for the direct expenses of his or her care (food, clothing, medical, etc…), but what has really taken me by surprise are all the expenses that don’t have anything directly to do with him but are incurred because of his very existence in my life.

My son, only little more than nine months old, will always best me. Just when I think I’ve figured out his pattern or how to dissuade him from something, he changes his tactic. Like when he discovered how to open the bottom dresser drawers. He attempted to pull one open, but I put my foot against it to hold it in place, so he casually slid over to the other and pulled that one open.

This is a good one. My son doesn’t have too many toys yet because we don’t believe in giving a baby too many toys (or kids for that matter), and we’re being proven right to do so because he doesn’t really care about his toys. What he does care about are outlets, electrical cords, vent covers, heavy drawers. If he has an option to play with his Cookie Monster toy or a live wire, he’ll choose the live wire that’s attached to 10-pound, head-cracking lamp.

If you have to put your finger in your baby’s mouth after he has both top and bottom teeth, it’s done at your own risk.

Baby socks are useless clothing items. First, try to put a sock on a wiggling nine month old. It’s like trying to throw darts at a board strapped to a chicken’s back. And in those rare instances you get the sock on (extra points if the heel and toes line up where they should) they’re pulled off within minutes.

I’ve also learned that baby clothes are designed by people who don’t have children. All those buttons and onesies with cinched ankles. Seriously! I could sell tickets to my son’s changing events and call it a wrestling match.

What I’ve learned most, though, is that it’s that these trivial things that I was completely unprepared for that makes, in part at least, being a parent fun. That surprised me the most. I always thought it would be those tender, father-son moments that I remember most, and I’m sure more of those will come (though my son is the most prickly little boy you’ve seen and refuses to cuddle), but it’s turning out that it’s the daily antics of childrearing that are filling my head most with memories.

And so I don’t end on such a sentimental note, I’ll leave you with this: I’m mainly ending this column because my son’s about to rearrange my bottom-most bookshelf.

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