Most people have a pretty basic idea of what it's like to be a parent. Your schedule is at the mercy of a tiny lunatic, you never have both hands free, and every hunter's moon is spent brewing tea in eggshells to force the changeling to speak and give you a quest to retrieve your real baby. Any parent knows all this going in. It's not even worth mentioning basic crap like how your days are filled with stupid limitless joy and wonder. However, there are a few things I discovered as a father that were surprisingly shitty.
If Satan is reading this, my perfect Hell is sitting on a plane next to someone who wants to know where I'm headed, has strong thoughts on a particular sports team, and just got the results of a DNA ancestry test. I don't exactly hate strangers, but small talk with a "people person" is like condom-less sex with a beehive -- it's a lot of discomfort just to make some sweet pest happy. I don't make a secret of this, so the majority of non-assholes can sense I'm not the guy who's going to care about the climate they're used to or the best burger in Cedar Rapids. That all changed when I had a baby.
If you're carrying a baby, people who would have otherwise never talked to you ever in their lives walk right up and ask how it poops or if it eats out of titties. They could absolutely have 15 minutes of questions about your child's stroller or teeth. They might give an impassioned speech about how they, a person who sucks, also had a child with hair. They're all eager to find out how old your baby is, but I have no idea why. No matter what you say, their only response is, "That's a great age!" You'll never meet a parent who holds up a fingerless hand and says, "The reason I ask is because I'm looking for the 17-month-old who gave me THIS."
You might be thinking, "Boo-hoo, Mr. Cranky. So sorry you have to suffer through honest pleasantries with nice people while my incel subreddit pokes holes in my plan to breed docile cats with human buttholes!" And maybe I am strange, but I like to warm up to someone before I disclose my plans to impregnate my child's mother again. Sex dungeon janitors field fewer questions about sperm and breast milk than a father taking his daughter to the park.
Another thing I should mention is that while some parents have intimate questions about your family's genitals and nipples, most of them only start talking to you to eventually share condescending advice. No one is more sure that their dumbass basic take is wisdom than a parent you just met. It doesn't matter if they're the head of a loving household or an oxycodone addict who couldn't figure out the abortion paperwork -- all parents are dying to share some profound nugget of bedtime management or preschool selection only they know. And I guess that includes me, because look at this article I'm writing. Speaking of which, let's do the next one ...
When you watch Sesame Street as an adult, one of the things you notice is the little moments of insanity. It's a show put together by well-intentioned educators using the latest research on child development, but every now and then, something truly inexplicable happens. After a short sketch about stamps, they might show two cartoon planes smash into each other, make the number "5," and never get mentioned again. A fireman might run onto the screen and only say COOPERATION. It is "Every one of you are robots!" crazy, but it is nothing compared to YouTube Kids, a storm of otherworldly nonsense bursting through the fragile membrane of our realm.
No matter where you start on YouTube Kids, you are never more than two taps away from a six-hour marathon of Taiwanese murderer hands pulling toys out of eggs to the tune of "Royalty_Free182.mid." And it will have 670 million views, because the machines long ago worked out how to hypnotize babies. They will stare at these chains of videos until the world collapses around them and they are mummified knowing only Baby Shark. I once took an iPad from my daughter after the algorithm had taken hold. There was no tantrum, but her finger touched a forbidden thumbnail and YouTube Kids played a video of my death. It was a horrifying look at what snakes can achieve when they work together and it was "monetized by claimant C&C Music Factory."
The goal of these videos is to take the longest possible shit into your child's brain, but some of them at least do a limp impression of education. For instance, maybe a rhino gets dunked in green paint while a narrator moans the Russian word for "green" before the Incredible Hulk pumps his dick basket at you. You sort of learn "green," but in the same way the CIA might learn "the effects of LSD."
I'm worried you're picturing a bunch of low-budget videos made by very bad educators. You naive fool. Those only make up the outer reaches of a galaxy swirling around a core of computer-generated unlogic. One to two more taps, and your child will skip past the shapes and colors to enter a loop of videos where nothing has a point. The same song gets remixed a thousand different ways as CGI animals do aggressively random things. You can actually hear other versions of yourself scream as the YouTube Kids algorithm tests reality's breaking point.
These aren't at all like the crazy videos YouTube queues up for adults about science being fake or Nazis being fine. YouTube Kids consists of primordial lunacy your mind has no context for. Cats drive larger cats onto hands made of dinosaurs. Gorillas feed bananas to cows to turn them plaid as an entrance fee to water slides. They are so fucking pointless and deranged, and your child will be mesmerized by them.
Aggressive data collection has determined exactly how to speak to the soft, unformed parts of toddler brains, and it's being using it to share with them only madness. You know when your internet stops working for a few seconds? That's lag from when YouTube Kids digitizes a nearby unattended baby. They are part of the algorithm now, water sliding with the plaid gorillas forevermore.
We have a serious obesity problem in America. A recent survey revealed our population is now over 17 percent pizza, and we lost two entire verses of the national anthem under our FUPA. Our average weight has risen so much in the last 30 years that George Lucas had to release a new special edition of Star Wars in which he digitally widened the fat X-Wing pilot, yet still renamed him from "Piggy" Porkins to "Normalstar" Average. We're so fat that I forgot what the shit I was talking abou- oh yeah, baby food.
It makes sense for adult food to be bad for you. Fritos scientists work at a much faster rate than human evolution, and they will turn you to a salty, bloated corpse long before your body realizes it's being betrayed. And even assuming evil sugar millionaires raised by evil corn millionaires were benevolent enough to make healthy food, you'd be smart enough to just eat delicious frosting instead. Well, babies aren't cursed with frosting knowledge. They will eat whatever mashed-up healthy bullshit you put in front of them. Which makes it almost intentionally evil that baby food is made entirely out of corn syrup and sawdust.
I never really noticed things like this before I was a parent, but if you see a jar of baby food with more than six ingredients, one is chalk, three are sugar, and at least two are chemicals used to industrially melt babies. Gerber baby cereal is basically white rice flour garnished with troubling chemicals. Metabolically speaking, it's like chugging butterscotch pudding, and there are only three sane reasons for that. One: Make your baby too large for hawks to carry away. Two: Disguise it as an emotional support pig so you can bring it into a strip club. Three: Pudding laundering, but I'm way off-subject again.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that the same food industry that hid sugar under 56 different aliases and allows up to 40 percent Kevin hand in ground beef did not magically become the good guys when they started manufacturing feed for human infants. And so far, I've only mentioned the shit they mean to put in the food. When you reduce a mountain of feathers and bones into a jar of "Pureed Chicken and Gravy," you're going to also get a few toxic metals and pesticides. A study from 2017 showed that 65 percent of top-selling baby food tested positive for arsenic, and 36 percent was contaminated with lead. So now that I think about it, the best parenting advice I can give is to watch out for wealthy liars trying to get more money by turning your baby into a poisoned ham.
In a lot of ways, being a parent lowers your defenses. You are desperate to succeed at any cost, you have no clue what that means, and you're always a bit sleep-deprived. These things combine to make you an ideal mark for grifters. For example, say you're walking through Target and notice a section for asswipe warmers. Before, your brain would politely ignore them, but your new parent brain will seize up and go "HOLY FUCKING SHIT WE WERE SUPPOSED TO BE WARMING THOSE UP? HOW MUCH FROST DAMAGE HAS THE BABY'S ASS ALREADY TAKEN?" It's a product you provably don't need, which on its best day might make an unpredictable screaming thing 1 percent less screamy, and it's the most comforting $40 you'll ever spend.
In 1996, some lady released a VHS called Baby Einstein that promised to make your baby a genius. You've probably heard of it, since with the help of Oprah and millions of shrugging parents, it grew into a $400 million business. It was nothing more than camcorder footage of toys while voices said unrelated words in random languages. It was both total bullshit and the perfect crime. After all, how do you prove your child didn't get smarter from seeing a toy train get called a biblioteca? Trap them in a maze? It's not going to be that easy, Minotaur.
When you truly want to believe something, your brain is nice enough to turn off its ability to spot obvious lies. It's why The Wall is going to keep us safe. It's why I keep sending money to Russia after seven different horny teens got lost in the mail. It's why Google returns zero results for "Penis Enlargement Pill Clearance Sale." And it's why it took ten years before anyone complained to the FTC about Baby Einstein. Then it took another four before researchers actually looked into it. This is going to seem duh after you hear it, but it turned out the only difference between a Baby Einstein baby and a regular baby is that one of them had verifiable idiots for parents.
I like to think there are effective educational toys out there, but there's virtually nothing to stop a sweatshop owner from slapping "LEARNING" on a farting plastic fish. If there even exists some official council of educators who declare which toys are good, their findings have long since been buried in an avalanche of clickbait articles.
Here's a hugely popular piece from one of the largest parenting sites, called "Toys That Make Your Baby Smarter." The first such toy is a vinyl tummy ramp to help what I imagine must be total pussy babies hold their heads up. I thought it was ridiculous until my daughter's pediatrician said, "This baby gurgles like a dumbshit. Tell me the truth, has she not been laying on, like, a stupid little ramp?"
The next items in that article are a dome with dangling monkeys, a rattle, and a stuffed octopus. It's cute that they thought readers of a parenting site would have never heard of rattles and stuffed animals, but I'm more worried that I, a man with no background in early childhood education, so easily spotted how none of these toys are educational, and some aren't toys. That's how little value the words "educational toys" hold even to the editors of a widely read parenting site. In my line of work, that'd be like setting up a hilarious punchline to lead into the final article entry and only typing "RoboCop toilet." Which reminds me, RoboCop toilet.
Have you ever threatened to kill someone? Maybe not even anyone specific, just a directionless intent to murder? As a parent, you might find yourself doing this all the time, proudly and publicly. When your child is born, you grow a Liam Neeson gland, and its only job is to flood your mind with thoughts of killing the bastards trying to do terrible things to your child.
But since we live in an overwhelmingly safe world, indulging these fantasies takes a lot of imagination. You might think things like "Why would a man be alone at a mall, if not to have sex with my son?" Every fucked-up bit of paranoia from the toxic depths of your soul gets brought to the surface and rebranded as "doing whatever it takes to protect your family." Sometimes parents don't even need a specific reason to threaten homicide. Here's a video that went viral several years ago:
As of writing, that sloppy poem in which a maniac describes using his military training to murder and ritually carve the remains of anyone who hurts his daughter's feelings has 4.1 million views. And of those 4.1 million, only 870 viewers disliked it. That is overwhelmingly crowd-pleasing. Those are Dog Caught Secretly Riding A Pony When Owners Aren't Home Late At Night metrics. And that's because a sweet revenge killing is a universally shared dream among parents.
But let's take a moment to picture what it would look like if he didn't have a daughter. Imagine it's just some guy back from deployment and shouting about defiling the corpses of young boys for breaking up with their girlfriends. The only difference between a serial killer's manifesto and a completely ordinary conversation with a parent is that serial killers have slightly fewer bags of human shit in their home.
Children make you feel like the good guy in every argument, especially when you're so clearly the asshole. You can proudly hold up an airport line all day if you have a kid. You have the moral high ground in any financial disagreement, because the other person is literally taking food from your kid's mouth. Just last month, someone tweeted at me that when it comes to trans folks and restrooms, they don't care what gender someone wants to be, but if "he" or "she" tries sneaking into the bathroom with their kid, "he" is going to get shot in whatever "she" call her balls! That awful fuck thought he was the last line of defense for the precious innocent, when all he was was an ordinary bigot accusing an imaginary person of a felony while imagining committing one himself. For all their screaming and peeing, babies translate all your behavior into heroism. Which is why they're called Nature's Reverse RoboCop Toilet.
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How did these hyper-specific tropes spread so quickly?
The Hollywood rumor mill has been playing games with celebrity deaths for at least a century.