The Flat-Packed Life

build-all-the-ikea-furnitureI’ve heard it said, once, that building a life is a lot like building a fine piece of furniture.

I can’t remember who said it, but I would really love to smack that person.

I can only think they must have been talking about building a life without children, or the limitations that come with illness of any sort, or financial hardship. They certainly weren’t talking about raising multiple children with special needs, on a very restricted income, while trying desperately to cobble together something of a career. That effort is like constructing the Taj Mahal out of popsicle sticks and white glue, or at least that’s what it often feels like.

Now, I’m not totally inept when it comes to building things, whether it is a piece of furniture, a child, or a life. Prior to having Jill, I researched everything “baby” like a madwoman- I took in every bit of advice I could, whether it was useful to me or not, and tucked it away in my mental filing cabinet. I learned how to do things- things like canning my own baby food, and how to get disgusting messes out of clothing. I hoarded baby gear like a… well, like a hoarder.

I came into this whole parenting thing, feeling pretty confident about showing off all my new-found awe-inspiring knowledge and devastatingly incredible supermom skills.

I was all of that, and humble too!

I was going to build that piece of fine furniture.

I was going to show it who was boss.

When the baby came along, though, all that confidence got up and left the building. As the years have gone by, it’s become increasingly obvious that my life is not going to be at all like a fine piece of furniture, hand-crafted by yours truly.

Really, it’s more like a piece of flat-packed furniture from Ikea, built with a lot of determination and swearing.

More to the point, it is like a piece of flat-packed furniture from Ikea that came with a poorly written set of instructions, an inadequate supply of screws, and dinky little tools that seriously sucked at doing what they were supposed to do.

If I have learned nothing else in my life to this point, I have learned how to make something good out of what you have got.

So, here I am, in the middle of the bits and pieces. Here I am, the instructions thrown away, cursing and swearing a blue streak, and building until I have put together a bookshelf or something that looks more or less like the one on the package. There at my feet, are the leftover screws (from the inadequate supply) that should have been up there on the project with their buddies but are somehow lying on the floor among the leftover packaging.

Instructions be damned- I’m winging it.

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The Poo-Nami

Diaper Loading please waitAh, the Poo-Nami.

In an ideal world, baby poop would come packaged up in neat little pellets that were easy to contain, easy to clean up and smelled like freshly baked cookies or something equally pleasant.

The reality, however, is somewhat different.

Well, O.K, it’s nowhere near the same.

As a new parent, when you have to change your first-ever Poo-Nami (also known as a Blow-Out) diaper, you might still be in the “cutesy” phase parenthood. Everything is still bright and shiny and new, and you have the cutest little baby who makes the cutest little sounds and the cutest little messes. When your little poop machine makes their first giant mess in their teeny-weeny little diaper… and pants… and shirt… and possibly their hair, you may even be the sort of parents who take pictures and post them online.

If you’re that kind of parent… seriously, what the hell’s the matter with you?

You may find yourself leaning over your baby, holding your nose, and saying things like: “Who’s the cutest little poopy pants in the whole world?”

Personally, I was the kind of new parent who held my breath while hosing the baby off in the shower, wondering how in the hell it was possible for so much nastiness to fit into such an adorable little body.

The experience loses whatever charm it had, believe me, and pretty quickly too. Those things aren’t cute. It won’t be long before you go from thinking your baby’s messes are adorable to browsing E-bay for the cheapest gas mask that you can find.

I think I should mention here that babies often have creative ways of “sharing the wealth”, by which I really mean “spreading the poop”.

Babies are creative. They will reach into their diapers and pull the mess out. They will pull off their diapers and butt-scoot across the floor. They may even decorate the walls with it. Out of all those creative ways to drive you to drink just with the contents of their diaper the Jolly Jumper is, in my opinion, the nastiest.

“But the Jolly Jumper keeps my little dude happy!” I hear you protest. “When he’s in the Jolly Jumper, I can get things accomplished!”

Indeed, you can accomplish things when your Mini Me is happily bouncing away, but that little bit of freedom can come with a price.

Now, a regular old Poo-Nami that goes up their front and back, down their legs and into their hair (and all over whatever they are wearing) is one thing. Having your baby in the Jolly Jumper when a Poo-Nami strikes gives the story a whole new twist.

Picture a poop sprinkler and you’ll have the right idea.

The Poo-Nami is one of those many little things that no parent on earth ever tells an expecting parent. I’m pretty sure there’s a good reason for that, but I’m inclined to think it’s because they don’t want you to give up your baby for adoption. It’s one of those things that will make you question your life choices, but you probably won’t hear about it until you have the unspeakable joy of experiencing it for yourself.

Then, they give you a knowing look, a pat on the back, and possibly a bottle of wine before you dissolve into fits of sobbing on their shoulder.