5 Things No One Tells You About the First Year of Parenthood

So I've legally been a dad for about a year now, even if I have in some way been a father to all of you for much longer than that. But I haven't talked about it too much here, because a) big freaking deal, and b) I didn't know much at all about what was going on. Parenting was a dark and stinky fog I had to navigate through, and for a long time I had only a fraction of the information I normally need when I want to half-assedly write a column about a subject.

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"Eh. That should be gud enuf."

But after a year of diaper fighting, I now brim with parenting wisdom, and in the grand Cracked tradition of telling you things that no one else will tell you, I'm here to tell you things that no one else will tell you. Because although you'll hear many of the same cliches again and again when you become a parent -- "They grow up so fast," "They're just a little miracle," and "Are you going to do something about all that screaming?" -- there are a bunch more really important things that never seem to get mentioned. Things like ...

#5. For a While You're Not Going to Like Your Kid Very Much

So imagine you have a life and it's good and enjoyable, and you have time for hobbies, and people respect and fear you for them. Now add, oh, let's say 80 or 90 hours a week of chores to that life. That's about what it takes to keep a baby alive, and make no mistake, you do love your kid, but they're still chores. If you've got a spouse or a Roomba with a bassinet on it you can share a bit of the load, but it's still a lot of work, and your quality of life will inevitably suffer.

Your hobbies will be the first to go.

OK, but that's just work, and people work hard all the time, I've heard. You learn to manage your time better, you sleep a little less, you drink in the shower, and so on. People have been keeping babies alive for thousands of years, so even an idiot like me should be able to manage. But the workload itself isn't the really frustrating part. The part that will really tear your curly hair out is how the person you're doing all this work for is incapable of appreciating it or conducting any type of communication other than ear-piercing screams. Imagine being in hour 20 of a typical 18-hour day; you're tired, hurt, and annoyed, while the person you're trying to help is screaming, "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOU," directly into your ear. I don't care how much genetics say you're supposed to love the little monster, that isn't fun.

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Incidentally, I'd like to apologize to every waitress whose ear I've screamed, "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOU," directly into.

It's a serious issue, actually. Kids can spend a lot of their first two or three months crying inconsolably, and parents have totally lost their cool about it. My kid wasn't even that bad, and I had to throw him on the roof in frustration only a few times, but I found the experience intensely painful. It does get better, though, and after a few weeks they start smiling and laughing, and you can take them down from the roof, and everything's more or less smooth sailing from then on, at least until they become a Dreadful Teen and you have to get, like, a trebuchet or something to get them up there.

#4. Laughter Is Infectious

Good news! That last entry is the only major downside to parenting I'm going to talk about here, which kind of runs counter to the popular trend of complaining about how awful your kids are.

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"Justin threw the largest turd at the cat yesterday -- you wouldn't even believe it."

This troubled me an awful lot in the months leading up to the arrival of my kid. Other parents I knew or read on the Internet did nothing but bitch about their kids, while the upsides of being a parent, if mentioned at all, were always kind of vague and ephemeral.

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"Oh yeah, I guess I love him too."

Love? That can be simulated with the right software.

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"Or pills!"
-minutes of laughter-

But there are other upsides to parenting that no one ever mentions. The most notable I've seen can probably best be summed up as: laughter is infectious. You've probably already experienced this yourself, like how comedies always seem to be funnier when you watch them in the theater, or how when you swap jokes with a bunch of good friends, even the dumbest things can set you all laughing. Well, the same principle works even when there aren't any actual jokes being told, when the only source of amusement is a napkin that a baby is delightedly pulling over his head.

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I've done it myself, and it's honestly not that exciting. A 6 out of 10, at most.

But my son finds this hilarious and will laugh like a wolf-raised maniac every time he does it. And you know something? I laugh too. Not ironically or to humor him but out of genuine amusement and joy, in a way that I frankly don't laugh that much anymore. Watching this idiot chortle while playing with the dumbest little things makes my life measurably more amusing and enjoyable.

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You can actually measure amusement with the right instruments.

#3. Dr. Seuss Is Awesome

Dr. Seuss was a goddamned genius. This isn't technically news, but people don't say it enough, and it caught me by surprise when I started opening up his books again. During the course of raising my child into the world-bestriding tyrant that he will one day be, I will read a lot of books to him. And because the things are like 50 words long, I will often be reading the same ones again and again.

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He has very little patience for Sartre.

But even with only 50-odd words to work with, there's a wide range in quality in children's books. There's a real art to writing this stuff; it's more than just rhymes and goofy pictures. The best books make clever use of cadence, prosody, and other patterns that are then followed or broken in amusing ways. A lot of this you don't notice until you have to read them to someone, at which point you realize that some books are physically pleasurable when read aloud. Far and away the best of them are written by Seuss, who had this shit down cold.

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"Prose so hard, motherfuckers wanna rhyme me."

On top of that, his illustrations are superb, the creatures and architecture in his book interesting to look at in a way that Another Goddamned Picture of a Cow isn't.

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The Grinch is a more detailed and fully realized person than many actual persons.

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