10 Things I Learned (Or Unlearned) When I Had Kids

(This post is also printed at the Hufftington Post. Check out the fun pictures they put to it!)

1) Sleep? What’s that, again?

My first son never slept in our bed with us, but for the first six months of his life I would wake up nearly every night, yanking all the sheets up, having dreamt that somehow he was stuck and suffocating under the covers. Those traumatic nights are past, only to be replaced by uninvited visitors making their way into the room whenever the urge strikes them. Nudge. “Daddy, get up!” Groan.

2) They come with their bags already packed.

I used to think that “nature versus nurture” was pretty evenly split, and that we really could shape our kids, impact them, make all the difference. But now I know better: It’s 80/20 (against, by the way), and all we can hope to do is keep them from going to the dark side.

3) The cute factor never wears off.

It just doesn’t. Surprisingly. I remember being a single guy and looking at some adorable kids and thinking to myself, “Yeah, that whole ‘cute thing’ is nice – for a few minutes – but it must wear off pretty quickly.” Nope. Never gets old.

4) Velcro sneakers are the solution.

Before becoming a dad, I came from the camp that believed children should learn to tie their own sneakers. And then it became, “Daddy, tie my shoes.” “Daddy, my sneakers.” “Daddy, help!” And then the next time we were in the shoe store an epiphany struck me.

5) Choose the music you play in the car very wisely.

…because if you can get them into Led Zeppelin or Vampire Weekend and they start saying, “Daddy, play again!” that means over and over. Ad nauseam. For the next couple of months until, in total desperation, you finally yank them off their fix and onto some new decent batch of songs to kill.

6) They are a mirror to me.

And I don’t mean just the good stuff. I mean the idiosyncrasies. And it’s even lovelier when I hear about them in parent/teacher conferences and I realize that I genetically condemned my child to being unable to have an ‘indoor voice’ or other unpleasant character tics that I just don’t want to get into here.

7) Toilets can be special.

No, I’m not talking about all toilets or urinals, although my boys are certainly fascinated by those. I’m thinking about my three-year-old son’s experience with using my mother’s bathroom when we were visiting last weekend. Basically, he waltzed into her bathroom and shut the door to go pee. A few moments later he reappeared with a satisfied grin and announced, “I like Nani’s special toilet.” Confused, I escorted him back into the bathroom where he proudly pointed at the bidet. Special, indeed.

8) Superman can get me into trouble.

My wife and I don’t always agree on what we think is appropriate viewing for our kids, but what harm could come from watching “Superman” with Christopher Reeve? Or so I thought. I made sure to skip the traumatic moments in the film: the destruction of Krypton, the death of John Kent, Lois suffocating in her car. I figured we were in the clear until my in-laws came over for dinner one night and my 6-year-old son started shouting at the top of his lungs, “What the hell is that??!” Over and over again. Just like what everyone in the film was screaming when Superman showed up to save Lois from the dangling helicopter. I still have bruises from this momentary lapse of judgment.

9) Only 20% of the time….

That’s the percentage that they actually do what I ask them to do and that’s on a good day when they’re not overtired, sick, or in a bad mood. Then I’m hitting 5%. I hate those days, but even still I somehow retain —

10) Amnesia when it comes to Life Before Kids.

Yes, of course I had a Life Before Kids, but being in the thick of battle day in and day out, it’s all become a bit fuzzy. Was there really a time that these little monkeys weren’t around? It’s somewhat hard to contemplate because they are so present in our lives. I certainly can go for a few days or so away from them – every parent needs that. But a little longer and I think I’d start walking around feeling like my left arm was missing. Or at least my big toe. God, I really love those kids.

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