If I Knew Then What I Know Now

We scoffed at the "experts" and their books. We rolled our eyes at our in-laws. We were ready for children. We were going to be the best, most prepared parents in the world. Why? Was it the Mommy Manual the nurses hefted into the car alongside our 10-point, carbon ion, government approved car seat? No. It was Oatmeal.

Before the honeymoon pictures were developed, we went to the local pound and adopted Oatmeal The Wonderdog: Requisite Practice Puppy. We lost sleep due to three a.m. whimpering and pottying.

We cleaned up poop and barfed up Christmas tree ornaments. We learned about food allergies, age appropriate toys, tooth loss, increasing food budgets, growth spurts, specialized travel gear and just how much Grandma would tolerate from our family’s boisterous behavior.

With Oatmeal, while we lost a few shoes and furniture legs, we weren’t warned about the endless drooling, diarrhea, crankiness, sleeplessness and clinginess of human teething. How much those teeth would cost when they grew in crooked or too crowded for the mouth they called home. Why orthodontists drive cars that cost as much as my house and how dogs think $300 retainers make tasty chew toys. Wisdom teeth. I don’t believe dogs get them. But if they do, they don’t require two separate trips to the oral surgeon plus $242 worth of gauze pads, ice packs and pain meds.

Without Oatmeal’s keen warnings, we discovered tonsils, tubes, chipped teeth, fevers, stitches and sinus surgeries. Break ups, make-ups and heartaches. Crappy teachers who should have been prison wardens. Bitchy 11 year-old girl-bullies. Violent 11 year-old boy-bullies whose parents think their angel child can do no wrong even though your kid has the scabby face to prove otherwise. And the school principal who looked the other way because, hey, bully boy’s parents make hefty financial contributions to the school. Too bad Oatmeal didn’t have a killer instinct.

Walking Oatmeal on his leash without the benefits of sidewalks did nothing to prepare us for our Playing in traffic fears — when they walked to their friend’s house, rode their bike without training wheels or climbed on the school bus the very first time.

When playing in traffic became getting a driver’s license and a phone call beginning with, "Maaaaa haaaaaaa(sob)aaaaaaaaaam? Sob. I got into, sob, an accident."

Leaving Oatmeal at the kennel while we went on vacation did absolutely nothing to prepare us for our first child leaving for college.

And when, one unassuming sunny afternoon Oatmeal The Wonderdog laid down and never got up, my little family clung to each other and sobbed without consolation. I thought, "Well, maybe this will prepare us for when a loved human dies." But it didn’t.

Yes, Puppies provide only limited practice. Much is left out of the Mommy Manual. Maybe that’s good, for had we’d known what lay ahead, might’ve been too terrified to raise children at all….

I’m glad we were so naïve.

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  • Joe DeVet

    This one makes me smile.

    As NFP teachers, part of the marriage prep team in our parish, and parents of 8, we have tried many times to communicate the experience of welcoming that first child into the home. And we have given up. Any more, what we tell people is that we can’t totally prepare them for the 24/7 responsibility of a brand-new, totally dependent HUMAN BEING in their home.

    Yes, all the things that were mentioned make this a most challenging time for young marrieds. Yet why do the young parents of our acquaintance–why did we–glow with pride and joy, and more amazing yet, “sign up for another round” in 2-3 years? Because while the responsibility and challenge are not able to be explained in words, neither can the joy of loving a new little person, and gradually receiving their love as they grow, develop their own little personalities, and learn to love you back.

    Our “baby” just turned 23, and he’s a graduate student. All I can say to young parents is, even with 8, the time when they’re little is too short and over before you’re ready for it to be over. Treasure these times while they last!