As an adolescent, I believed parenting would be a breeze. If I had known motherhood entailed fishing cell phones from toilets and pulling cocoa puffs out of noses, I’d have become a nun.  I would’ve evicted baby chicks from my playhouse, swaddled dolls, and listened to every conversation about hemorrhoids, infant bowel movements, and coupons my mother’s quilting group had.

 

Instead, television characters were my role models. I watched soap opera starlets tell their lovers they were pregnant. In the next episode, these same women carried the baby nine months, obliterated drug cartels, and gave birth, all with hair and makeup intact. And June Cleaver could plan a school fundraiser, knit a sweater, solve the Beaver’s problems, and have dinner for Ward all in less than

thirty minutes. Being a parent was simple.

 

Reality bit a few days after I had my first child, Jonathan.

 

“Just change the diaper, then you’re set to go home,” Nurse Gertrude said, handing me the baby.

 

I struggled to take a deep breath. This was a test I’d fail. I imagined, years later, Jonathan appearing on talk shows, saying I’d had the parenting instincts of a kumquat, and I wrecked his life. And I can’t blame him. I didn’t prepare for this new chapter in my life.

 

I hadn’t bothered reading many books. None of the authors could explain my bladder’s love affair with gas stations, or why my ankles decided to morph into cantaloupes.

 

Parenting classes were a waste too. I already knew how to breathe. The teacher lost credibility when she had us place clothespins on our earlobes, simulating labor. My mother always told me, “Babies come from you know where.” The

last time I’d checked, the ear canals weren’t “you know

where.”

 

Now I stared at the patterns in the floor, searching my brain for knowledge I’d acquired over the last few months. “How about storage bags?” I suggested. “Everything stays fresher with Ziploc™. We could cut leg holes…”

 

My confidence waned as Nurse Gertrude stared at me, incredulous. She was a no-nonsense woman, having little patience with inept parents, and judging from her deepening scowl, a cannibalistic hamster would beat me out for Mother-Of-The-Year.

 

I thought that was the last paternal hurdle I’d overcome. Again, I was wrong.

The next several months were an educative experience. Jonathan learned to time his outbursts the minute my head touched a pillow. I discovered the meaning of sleep deprivation.

 

I diapered cakes and frosted the baby. Car keys hid behind bags of peas in the freezer, and I tried to start the car with fish sticks. Shopping, something I’d exceled at in the past, became harder than stealing cocoa from a chocoholic. I’d peruse grocery store aisles, thumping bald produce men in the head to check for ripeness, and tried taking naps in the bakery.

 

Managing a household and raising a child wasn’t any easier. Once, I shoved a pacifier in the fee-collecting paperboy’s mouth and handed Jonathan a twenty dollar bill. We never received another newspaper, and it’s no wonder my now teenaged son expects money every time he cries.

 

I believe my parenting skills have improved over the years. I can fix a drain, cook a roast, and unstop a toilet, all while helping with algebra homework. The other day, I disrupted a band of cookie-selling girl scouts and confiscated their

supply. June and the soap opera moms would be proud.

 

Taken from The Toilet's Overflowing and the Dog is Wearing My Underwear by Debbie Roppolo