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Parenting 101: Things Nobody Tells You About Being a Parent

Updated on March 18, 2015
Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy writes about family, home life, parenting, money-saving tips, and many other topics, as well as essays and occasional humor pieces.

Your Bundle of Joy Comes with Some Surprises


Child Behavior Books Don't Tell Everything

Here's the deal - Dr. Spock didn't tell the whole story on this parenting thing.

Just about the time their sweet, precious bundle of joy starts moving around on his or her own, new parents quickly learn that much of normal childhood behavior isn't mentioned in the books.

In fact, there are few tips on parenting skills to address some of the things you encounter when you have a child.

After a while, you wonder if you signed up for the Murphy's Law of Parenthood course rather than the one that seems to be pictured on all those photos of smiling parents with peacefully sleeping babies and well-behaved toddlers.

Parenting advice should mention the dark side of things, as well as the part that looks cute and eventually sleeps all night.

Can You Change a Diaper? That's a Loaded Question

You may be in for more than you bargained for when it comes to a toddler's digestive system.
You may be in for more than you bargained for when it comes to a toddler's digestive system. | Source

Great Parenting Guide on Being the Father of Twins

Parenting Laws Related to the Digestive Tract and the Bladder

There are some hard and fast laws of nature related to children and body functions. You will learn them, very quickly.

#1: At some point, a body elimination event will happen that will prove, beyond a doubt, that diaper engineering still hasn't been perfected.

As tiny as your baby looks, he or she has some powerful intestines and a bladder capacity you've never envisioned. One day, usually when it's least convenient, you'll be caught unawares when the steel-belt-radial diaper you've used can't contain things. This is part of standard child behavior, too, but nobody tells you about it.

Parenting 101 Advice: Just go with the flow (sorry, couldn't help that one!); it's all part of being a parent. Try to be prepared with wipes, a change of clothes, hand sanitizer and a heavy dose of patience at all times, in case you're faced with an event that rocks the Richter Scale.

#2: Diaper Failure will generally happen in a public setting. No setting, no matter how important, is sacred or special enough to be immune to this event. This goes for your in-laws' home, church, the grocery store, an airplane or anywhere else you might be when nature calls.

Parenting 101 Advice: If you're among strangers, pretend you are the most composed and prepared parent in the universe (you did bring those wipes, didn't you?). If the child's other parent is there, pretend you're just asking what time it is, then walk away quickly - you can fight about it later. If you're stuck with the situation yourself, take the child to the most private setting you can find and hose him or her down. If possible, don't go back into the room where the event happened; slink out the back door and send regrets later. If you're on a plane, well, I'm so sorry.

#3: Boys, no matter how old they are, cannot aim. Never, ever forget this law of physics. If you stand too near the radius of attack, you get what you deserve.

Parenting 101 Advice: Learn to dodge and weave with a split-second of notice. It will save your wardrobe (sometimes even your make-up). Besides, it's good exercise. For parents of older boys, invest in washable and waterproof flooring. If the offender is your husband, make him pay for the new flooring.

Parenthood, Privacy & the Potty

#4: From now on, you will rarely have quality bathroom time all to yourself. It can be statistically proven that few parents (especially young mothers) are ever able to take a shower or use the facilities in peace.

An important reality of child behavior is that the minute you're under the shower head, or in an inconvenient sitting position, one or more of your children will suddenly have the urge to go. Or, as a variation, there will be an emergency that only you can address.

Parenting 101 Advice: While it might be possible to learn to live with fewer showers, it's no fun. Especially if you've experienced an event such as the #1 Murphy's Law of Parenthood describes. About the only thing you can do to shower or visit the facilities in peace is to take preventative child-behavior measures beforehand by demanding a productive trip to the bathroom for every kid in the house.

Then, put them in front of something that will compete for their attention (their favorite DVD, Dad taking a nap, whatever) and give it your best shot. Learn to shower quickly, and learn to discern between a true emergency and one that can wait. If you hear a loud cry at the door, discipline yourself to ask whether there are any flames or blood as a way to triage the alleged emergency.

#5: It's a rule of child behavior that anything that can be held in a child's hand is subject to being flushed. This goes for toys, your jewelry, a dirty diaper that got wiggled off a busy bottom, the car keys, Dad's best razor and even the pet hamster.

Parenting 101 Advice: Start now in developing your precognitive skills. You will soon be able to predict (and therefore prevent) a few bad experiences. Avoid buying anything of value for several years, especially if it's small enough to apply to the above Law of Parenthood. Put small things in very high places. Your hamster may not like being on the top shelf of the closet, but he will thank you later.

#6: As with diapers, no form of plumbing has yet been developed that will survive a child's flushing stage. If you hear repeated flushings coming from a bathroom (or a faucet running for an usually long time in any room with a sink), investigate immediately. Unfortunately, most kids are very persistent in flushing again and again if something doesn't go down the first time. The lever, button or chain that works your toilet is fun to play with.

Parenting 101 Advice: As soon as you know you're expecting a child, make friends with the nearest plumber you can find. And don't forget the advice above about waterproof flooring.

Kids Love to Break Things

If you own anything fragile, kiss it goodbye. Children love to touch everything.
If you own anything fragile, kiss it goodbye. Children love to touch everything.

Laws related to physics, scientific exploration and the forensic analysis of facts

#7: An important rule of child behavior is if something can be pulled, thrown, twisted, torn, poked, smeared or otherwise manipulated, whatever can be done to it will be done. Standard parenting advice doesn't alert you that you may as well say a benediction over anything breakable, because whatever it is will be tried, tested and probably found wanting.

Parenting 101 Advice: Don't waste those valuable months of pregnancy! Start identifying vulnerable objects early. This goes for your pets, too. Sell them, or give them away; it's more humane.

#8: The destruction described in Law #7 isn't limited to your own possessions. Parenting advice sometimes mentions 'child-proofing' your home, but anything touchable in other environments (your friends' homes, your in-laws home, church, a store or anywhere else) is subject to curiosity and abuse. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Parenting 101 Advice: As soon as you know you're expecting a baby, plan your logistics for the years to come. While you're befriending the plumber mentioned above, locate a tolerant congregation in the faith of your choice (look for one with numerous other children, which will help spread the blame when things are destroyed). Develop solid friendships ahead of time, so these victims, er, people, will welcome your little one lovingly and will have a built-in resistance to suing you, since you're friends.

#9: Everything that happens was done by the other kid in the family. Children rapidly grow to appreciate the utility of having one or more siblings, and one of the first things a child learns to say is, "He did it!" or "She did it!" That phrase comes right after "Mama," "Da-Da," and "No!"

Parenting 101 Advice: This does not mean your child is a pathological liar. Instead, he or she will probably grow up to be a lawyer or a famous politician. Maybe even both. As you're sifting through the evidence to determine the truth, take pride in knowing your child will likely be able to support you in your old age; the creative interpretation of facts and events is a valued skill in many careers.

And finally

#10: No matter what happens, you will love them anyway, and you will learn to laugh about these things later. Yes, even the expensive cell phone that got flushed down the toilet and flooded the new carpeting you bought just before they were born. Ha-ha! Wasn't that a fun day!

Your child behavior memories will include your extended family, too. Remember that really embarrassing event at your brother's wedding reception? We won't go into those details here, but I'm glad you kept up with your meds and got the right counseling, and I'm glad your brother still speaks to you.

Parenting 101 Advice: Parenting is like basic training in the military - it's a test of your strength and endurance, it's for a good cause, and in the long run, if you learn to play the game right, you will survive it. And the best parenting advice of all? Those years are fleeting - enjoy them while you can!

Kids and Fire Alarm Levers? That's Asking for Trouble

Fire alarm levers are tempting for children.
Fire alarm levers are tempting for children.

True-life Parenting Story

Here's my favorite "If they see it, they will touch it" story from when my kids were little:

One day I took my two sons to my college campus while I ran an errand there. They were quite young, but old enough to know better (so I thought). As I sat on a bench in an outdoor quad area, going over some paperwork, I let them run and play on the grass a bit. In a momentary lapse of my knowledge of child behavior, I figured they couldn't get into trouble there. After all, how could they do any harm running around amongst a few trees and some bushes?

I was so wrong: Suddenly the campus fire alarm began clanging and echoing throughout the entire campus. I immediately knew my kids were somehow involved - sure enough, they came running wide-eyed from a breezeway in one of the nearby buildings, both pointing to the other and saying, "He did it!"

Break Glass in Case of Fire: You know those little glass boxes that say "Pull This" in case of fire? Well, the glass was broken. I'm not sure what fool invented that enticing alarm device, or what other fool decided it was a good idea to put it right about kid level, but I'd sure like to take some names. Obviously, such devices aren't tested under normal child-behavior conditions.

As the alarm kept reverberating through the campus, I frantically tried to find someone to report what had happened and try to pay for the damage. It didn't take me long to find the right people; we were in the quad near the administration building, and the alarm had sent every official on the campus pouring out of their offices, all looking puzzled and wondering who scheduled a fire drill.

I approached the first administrator I saw and, thinking we were in big trouble, told them what had happened.

Too late - here comes the Fire Department: My confession and offer for restitution was cut short by the sound of sirens. Many, many sirens, all screaming loudly above the still-clanging fire alarm. Fire trucks were already pulling into the campus; not just one or two vehicles - an entire fleet. They'd had no warning of a drill, so they thought it was the real thing. To their credit, since the alarm came from a large campus, they sent plenty of help. Thanks, guys; that's still a warm memory for me.

Fortunately, the campus administration officials all had a good sense of humor. I tried to pay for any damages, but they laughed it off and said they were due for a fire drill anyway.

But wait! There's more! Just as I was breathing a sigh of relief, one administrator said, "We always wondered what would happen if we had a fire drill during registration week!" You guessed it. At the time this happened, the campus still used manual registration; they had not yet implemented online registration. Everyone (15,000 students, at this particular campus) had to stand in long lines in the gym, one line for each class, and painstakingly register for each class, one class at a time. Every single student going through registration at the gym lost their places in line because they had to evacuate due to the fire alarm.


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