When we were at the only Christmas party that we went to this year, a friend gave back a stack of parenting and childcare books that we had loaned her. It was nice to have them back for reference, although we haven’t looked at them since.
This points out one of the great failures of parenting books–all of them lack the ability to be read while sleeping. I swear, if I could read those books in the few spare hours I have every day, I would. The only problem is that I have a previous commitment to my pillow during those hours.
A few other fatal gaps in parenting books came to mind as I was thinking about this:
The unlikeliness principle.
While it is likely that 3B will get a sore throat, ear infection, or appendicitis, all of which the books cover thoroughly, it is even more likely that I will stay up too late, get up too early, and have one or all of the following symptoms of persistent sleep deprivation: headache, eyeballache, kneeache, backache, and that thing in my neck–nerve? muscle? tendon? bone spur? arthritis? water on the neck?–ache. And yet, I will somehow have to work through those symptoms and wake up, stand up, walk around, feed myself and amuse a toddler. Advice on how to do this was left out of all of those brilliant parenting books.
The typhoid parent principle.
As soon as you have a child, know that you will be sick for at least the next two years. After 3B turns three, I’ll let you know if the sickness lasts for three years, however preliminary reports indicate that it lasts until at least two years, five months and fifteen days. Often, it is low-grade, nagging sniffle or cough that is not debilitating, but that will slowly suck the life out of you. Sometimes, however, it flares up into something like a tear-my-eyeballs-out-they’re-on-fire! fire! fire! virus or a why-buy-an-Abdominizer-when-I-could-just-cough-1,200-times-a-minute upper respiratory tract infection, but this will only happen when you are encased in a vehicle for over eight hours with your child. This will most likely happen while you are the driver, but it might also strike while you are on one of those flights that’s so overbooked, you have to fly all the way to Cleveland with another passenger on your lap. Again, total silence from parenting books on this.
The daily tornado.
I grew up in earthquake country, so I instinctively close cupboard doors, refuse to place items atop bookshelves, and only purchase furniture that can support five tons of rubble just in case I need to dive under it when the big one hits. However, none of those instincts could prepare me for the daily tornado caused by a toddler. First, there’s the sound. Some people say a tornado sounds like a freight train, but I say it sounds more like a shrill scream followed by an earsplitting chant of “No! No! No! I don’t wanna!” Then there’s tornado itself, upon you in an instant, tearing apart and tossing aside all the contents of your house in a dizzying flurry. Finally, there’s the debris cleanup, which is endless. I swear that one day the remains of the day stretched from under our living room couch all the way to the Oklahoma panhandle. And while parenting books have plenty of opinions about what toys and activities are best for your child, none of them mention that daily tornado that results from those toys and activities.
The collapse of the time/space continuum.
There are two parts to this. The first, time, is covered by what I call Fred’s Axiom, because Fred is the dad who laid it out for me: When you have a child, everything you do takes twice as long. (Corollary: When you have two children, everything takes two-and-a-half times as long. –Yeah, those second kids always get shorted.) As for the space portion, I had written down a witty, pithy formula for how much less space you’ll have in your house when you have a child, but I can’t seem to locate it. I think it’s under one of these stacks of papers over here…but it gets down to this: your child’s possessions are like The Borg. Resistance is futile and you will be assimilated. And although I’ve searched the parenting books for advice on how to get rid of this cybernetic arm and ocular implant, I’ve come up with nothing.
The laundry paradox.
When you have a child you will always be doing laundry, and yet never have any clean clothes or linens. I believe that parenting books gave up trying to explain this in favor of working on superstring theories, which have much greater promise for resolution.
These are the only ones that I could come up with between bouts of coughing and cleaning, so please, if you’ve noticed any other topics that those parenting books lack, add them here.