About a month ago my husband walked in on our daughter Taylor who, unbeknownst to us, had learned to sit up in her bed unassisted.  She wasn’t however, just sitting quietly; she was happily chewing on her crib’s wooden front rail.  Seeing the teeth marks in the not-so-inexpensive piece of convertible furniture that’s supposed to last until college, he very calmly pried her little baby jaws off the rail and lay her back down for nap time.  Shortly thereafter, we showed her who was boss by permanently moving her crib mattress down to its lowest level.  As predicted, the chewing stopped.  Score one for the grown-ups.

Fast forward to yesterday morning.  I was just about to check my email during a moment of peace, when Taylor’s usually vocal morning nap protest turned eerily quiet.  I flipped on the video monitor to do a quick check-in and discovered her latest trick – pulling herself up to stand in her crib.  Proud and annoyed all at the same time I headed upstairs while rehearsing my calm and collected speech, “No, no honey, it’s nap time and nap time is for sleeping and you can practice standing after you sleep.” But my thoughts were quickly diverted when I walked in to find her chubby little cheeks covered in what appeared to be brown marker.  If only that had been the case.  I looked down to see a new row of freshly imprinted baby-sized teeth marks all along the front rail of her crib, much deeper and messier than before.  She smiled up at me with what I now realized was crib paint (non-lead-based of course), smeared from ear to ear and all over her nose.  Her mouth was wide open as if to say, “See Mommy?  Are you going to clap for me?”

Rather than scolding my 9-month-old about the inappropriateness of chewing on one’s own furniture, I playfully scooped her up and whisked her over to the bathroom sink for a scrub, hoping the paint wasn’t of the skin-staining variety.  Thankfully it wasn’t.

Wash cloth in one hand, squirming baby in the other, the only thing I could do was laugh out loud.  I wondered if I was the only person this had ever happened to, but guessed immediately that I was probably just one of a million other mothers who’ve had the same experience.

It has dawned on me multiple times in the last 9 months just how unprepared for real life parenting I am.  You can plan and prep and make lists and check off the boxes, but kids are just wild cards.  And you never know what you’re going to get from day to day.

What I do know, however, is that the surefire way to see things go awry is to think (even just for a second) that you’ve got this parenting thing in the bag.  Literally the day before this all went down, I was patting myself on the back thinking, “This is turning out to be a piece of cake … we’ve got the nap schedule down … the eating schedule down … the play time schedule down … I can finally settle into some sort of a routine.”

Talk about a rude awakening.

I will say that these are the moments I was secretly looking forward to as a parent.  Though not always funny in their midst, they are the kind of crazy stories that only parents can tell.  The kind of situations that call upon your ability to remain calm no matter the circumstance and then challenge your inner McGuyver to fix whatever the problem is.

In my case, that fix was a few blankets and a roll of duct tape.

I later found myself Googling the phrase, “HOW TO GET YOUR BABY TO STOP CHEWING ON HER CRIB” and found a surprising number of crib-chewing experts out there who had products and solutions for just about every type of crib and every size child.  Who knew?  More importantly, why are we not given this information from the start?  You know … some sort of gigantic all-knowing reference library of possible child-related predicaments and their most obvious solutions.  Kind of like the Encyclopedia Britannica, but written by a frazzled mother who’s seen almost everything.  That would be handy.

I suppose until said reference manual is actually written and distributed to bookshelves near you, I’ll just go about parenting in the same way as those who’ve gone before me – winging it through one dilemma at a time.  And as long as I promise myself to keep my sense of humor and wits about me whenever the curve balls are thrown, I might actually be okay.  In the meantime, I’ll do my best to control any premature praise I might be tempted to bestow upon myself for even thinking I’ll somehow be more prepared the next time.

And, I’d love to hear your words of wisdom too.  What unexpected mishaps have you successfully endured as a parent?

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3 Responses to Parenting 101: Prepare to Be Unprepared

  1. jani Perttula says:

    Oh, Bobbi…how I feel for you! There is no book for everyday things like this! Just remember..YOU are the parent and YOU are in control! You handled this real well with a good sense of humor. One must always ask..what next!? You can throw routine out the window for awhile. Until she gets a school schedule! I enjoyed your life lesson and am looking for more. With me, if not for my family to vent to…I think I would’ve gone crazy! Never, ever be afraid to ask for advice. You are never ever alone!

    • Connie says:

      My experience with the practice of standing in our crib cause we just learned how, is…”oh, oh, how do I get down so I can take a nap, which is the reason I am in here. UUUMMMMMM, MOM!!!! I can’t get down and I am getting kinda crabby about it! She will come in and help me down just like she did the last six times in a ten minute period. I love Mom! She is sooo patient!”

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