As we start to plan my baby’s first birthday, I think about all the things we have learned over the past year that, despite our being up on the latest research, came as a surprise…
1. There will be drool. Teething morphs your baby into a rabbit who will chew on anything from the coffee table to your finger. So we were ready with teethers in every room. But we were not ready for the torrent of spit that came with teething. We kept having to buy bibs, because otherwise we would run out in two days. My mother-in-law even complained that she has no photos of the baby wearing cute tops—they are all obscured by bibs. Some bibs say, “Spit Happens.” But none speak the truth: “Spit Never Stops Happening.”
2. As much as we talk to friends and family, we talk to doctors and pharmacists. The baby has had colds, off and on, for the whole year. Mostly on. Kids get sick even when kept at home— their undeveloped immune systems just can’t handle the onslaught of germs, viruses, and other invasive species our non-womb world offers up. But we try not to overdo the anti-bacterial soaps and such, either, as we do want his immune system to develop… and we don’t want to help foster the generation of drug-resistant “super-bugs” the anti-bacterial industry is unfortunately encouraging.
3. Statistically, there likely will be something physically wrong with your kid. Bowed legs, a flattened spot on the back of the head, a torticollis-tilted neck. And you will likely freak out when you discover it. The good news is: Your kid is not the only one, it’s more common that you realize, your doctor has seen it before, it’s treatable, and the baby will be fine by the time he’s out of diapers. So do the physical therapy as much as you have to, and enjoy the kid the rest of the time.
4. No home is baby-proof. A home may be burglar-proof and fire-proof, but it is never fully baby-proof. That is because it is not fool-proof, and you are the fool that forgot that babies like to chew on cords. And that they are strong enough to weaken child-proof latches simply by trying them 173 times in one minute. And that he has been practicing standing for awhile now, and today is the day he figured it out, but never thought to send you a memo… unless you count the tablecloth and everything on it accelerating floor-ward.
5. Comparison with others’ children is not helpful. I mean, if everyone else’s kid that age can do something that yours cannot, you might want to look into it. But if the next kid over is crawling and yours is not, and you are worried about it, please know that her mom is looking at your kid’s grasping ability with envy.
6. You will buy a cup specially shaped to keep bathwater out of the baby’s eyes when rinsing his shampoo. And you will get his face wet anyway. And he will laugh like you are Daffy Duck. So then you will use this $15, special-order cup to just splash the kid right in the kisser, which you could have done with an empty sour-cream container. But that night, you will dream of taking your splash-happy kid to the pool, the beach, and the water park.
7. Not something to seal the baby’s nether cheeks together— although sometimes that might seem desirable— “butt paste” is instead a brand of diaper-rash cream. Other terms that are now part of your vocabulary: Boppy, Bumbo, Baby Bjorn, Jolly Jumper, Excersaucer, Pack-n-Play, Snap-n-Go, Angel Care, and Diaper Genie. Just register for them, even if you have no idea what they are.
8. Resistance is futile—you will join Costco. Also “Amazon Moms,” as in amazon.com. This is because diapers cost their weight in plutonium unless you buy them in bulk. And by “bulk” I mean the way the Chicago Bears buy laundry detergent. Oh, and you will buy laundry detergent at that level of “bulk,” too, because you will want the baby in clean clothes and the baby will want to finger paint them with sweet-potato mush. (If you do go with cloth diapers— something I did with my older kids— you will want a diaper service for them. Unless you want to live in the laundry room. Seriously, the condo board president called me “Laundry Man.”)
9. Make friends who have babies three months older than yours, but the same gender. Baby clothes are sized in three-month increments. So if your baby is growing out of her 0-3 month clothes, you need the 3-6 month ones, which your friends’ babies are just outgrowing. If you don’t have friends like this, I suggest doing what I did, which is to have a sister with five children.
10. Some people have the strength and stamina to wrestle crocodiles. Some have the precision hand-eye skills of a neurosurgeon. No one has both. Which is why no one can clip a baby’s fingernails. We use a file.
11. Bonus advice for those with pets: Get the pets used to toys that are very distinct from your baby’s toys. Anything that is small and squeaks says, to a dog or cat: “Hi! I’m a rodent! Kill and eat me!” Also, if the baby’s toys are soft and animal-shaped, the pet’s should be ropes and rubbery things. You can also find toys that both baby and beast can enjoy together; the best one we have found is a yoga ball. This summer, we’ll see if they’ll share a backyard sandbox.