Changing diapers, chasing after toddlers, tolerating loud nonsensical singing from the never-ending musical from hell – all expertise one can expect to pick up as a parent. But there’s a specific subset of skills that my pre-child mind would have never dreamed up until I needed to do them. Here’s some of the things I’ve learned how to do in my three years as a mom that I would have never predicted:
Be okay with handling my breasts in public and exposing my nipples in front of my parents.
Oh, breastfeeding. Requiring unheard-of levels of self-exposure that would have made me blush just thinking about them previously. Now I weigh the left and right boobs to see which one the baby needs to feed off next at home, the store, and even church. I try to do it when no one is looking, but if someone is, too bad! In addition, I don’t hide in my own house with my younger son the way I did with my older son. If family sees a nip slip (which I’m sure they have), they’ll deal. While I still use a nursing cover in public, my younger son’s tendency to throw it off doesn’t inspire a freak-out like it once would have.
Pee with someone watching.
Despite the personal growth / not giving a shit breastfeeding requires, I’m still a fundamentally modest person. I’ve never been one of those folks who chats in the bathroom. Peeing is a deeply personal process. Except when it comes to toddlers. It was hard enough bringing my three-year-old into the bathroom when we were out. At least that was just an occasional thing. Once potty training entered the picture, any semblance of privacy disappeared. After all, we have to set a good example. Now I have to acquiesce when he says, “I want to watch you pee.” It’s even worse when he creepily hides behind the shower curtain.
Be an expert on bath toy squirtage.
My older son has now gone through at least three generations of bath toys. (We try to discreetly dispose of them when they get particularly gross.) I’ve developed a level of expertise on how to suck in and squirt out the maximum amount of water for each type. From rubber duckies to Sesame Street characters, I’ve elevated it to an art. (In general, the most effective tactic is to squeeze as much air as possible out of the bath toy, submerge it, and then force water into the toy to fill in where the air has been squeezed out.)
Be blasé about getting puked on.
Let’s face it – spit-up is just a euphemism for baby puke. Before I became a mom, I knew I’d get spit-up on, but I never would have predicted the sheer frequency. Despite burping them religiously, both of my kids were and are big-time spitters. It’s to the point that I just shrug. In fact, as I was writing this, I realized that I’m wearing a jacket that I meant to throw in the wash and instead wore to work. And maybe this gets into bad mom territory, but we definitely didn’t change their clothes every time they spit up as newborns. They seem to have survived it.
Carry a three-year-old.
When my older son was a newborn, I used to see parents hauling around toddlers and wonder how they did it. After all, holding my baby for an extended period of time was so hard! Now I am one of those parents. I lift up my older son to help him see better, get him out of the car, haul him around if he’s super tired (like walking back to the car after events) and various other situations. I just built up the arm, shoulder and back muscles over time and practice. It helps that he can hold on to me now, although he isn’t immune to the limp fish position.
Say ridiculous things with a straight face.
I have no poker face. Even on the rare occasion when I don’t provide commentary (I’m still working on my listening skills), you can read my reaction. Despite my natural inclination, I’ve learned to control my facial expressions for parenting. If something is against the rules or just a bad idea, it’s counterproductive to be laughing while I’m correcting my kid. “If your arm hurts from biting it, you should stop biting it,” is less effective of a direction if I’m giggling. Similarly, if the kid is upset, you have to look sympathetic even if their reasoning is absurd. Both Chris and I were trying to keep it together when in the middle of an epic tantrum at bath-time, my older son proclaimed, “I don’t want to take a bath – for no reason!” Indeed.
I’ve learned many things about my kids, myself and parenting in my three years as a mom. I’m sure there’s so much more I’ll learn in the coming years that will be just as surprising.