Everyone knows that parenting is full of questions. From that initial “They’re sending us home with a baby- by ourselves?!!?” to the more nuanced 3 a.m. existential self-doubt like “Am I doing the right thing? What if everything I have ever said or done to the child has been wrong?”, parents seek answers. (They are never going to find them, but that realization does not kick in for a couple of years. Plus, knowing that the answers are unknowable does not stop the late night soul-searching anyway. Not one little bit.)
It’s not all panic and nighttime philosophizing. Babies, in particular, are so baffling and mysterious, especially to first time parents, that there are also a ton of pragmatic questions.
“How exactly am I supposed to swaddle a baby?” (Answer: Give up trying to learn the fancy technique and just roll the baby up like a burrito. He or she is going to instantly wiggle out of the swaddle anyway. Or was it only my baby who had the infantile skills of Harry Houdini?)
“What do I do when the baby has a fever?” (Answer: Cry. Stay up all night. Worry. Listen to the pediatrician. Know it will pass.)
“Is that a rash, or some caked on oatmeal?” (Answer: Really? You cannot tell the difference? Clearly, you need more coffee.)
What no one prepares you for, when you are expecting a child, is the OTHER questions. The “Oh my God, I sound like my parents!” questions; even better, the ridiculous, never-thought-I-would-hear-myself-say-that, unanswerable questions. Sometimes I feel like I never utter anything other an interrogative. You know?
“Why are you standing naked on top of the dresser, looking in the fish tank?”
“How did you tear a hole in your new jacket?”
“Where IS your new jacket?”
“You know that it is not actually my job to pick up all of your LEGO, right?”
“Did you wash your hands? Really? With soap? Let me see. Go wash your hands!”
“Why are you out of bed again?”
“What did you THINK would happen?”
“Why is the shower drain blocked up with band-aids?”
“Why is the cat wearing your underwear?”
“Who left Hot Wheels in the middle of the kitchen?”
“How did you get a bruise THERE?”
“Why is there one dirty sock under the dining room table?”
“Oh my God, why are you peeing off of the front porch?”
“Where are your shoes?”
“Why are you not wearing your shoes?”
“Are you ready to go? Why aren’t you ready to go? Didn’t you hear me yell ‘It’s time to get ready to go!’ thirty times in the last ten minutes?”
My son was obsessed with Busytown Mysteries for a few years, and they have a little jingle that helps them solve the mysterious happenings in Busytown. When they want to find something out, Huckle Cat and his friends sing, “Who what when where why HOW” with a cute little conga line dance animated to it. I have this refrain running through my head all the time (dance and all). My life is now question based. It’s not that I do not know the answers to these questions. I only have one child, after all, so who flung the toys around or wrote on the wall in crayon or finger-painted the woodwork is really not open for debate. (Despite copious claims to the contrary, the cats do NOT have the fine motor skill required to hold crayons, and they never finger paint voluntarily.) It’s just that so many things are so frustrating, or so infuriating, or so downright mind-boggling that I just have to ask. Parenting is, as I said, question-based.
The only thing I never question is how much I love my little boy.