31 Things No One Tells You About Becoming a Parent: A Response

Yesterday on Facebook an old classmate of mine posted a link to a list entitled, “31 Things No One Tells You About Becoming A Parent”. Every entry on the list made me either nod enthusiastically, laugh, or kinda cry a little (for various reasons), so I thought I’d list the entries here, along with my own personal response to each one.

Rule #1: Assume crash position.
Rule #1: Assume crash position.

1. At some point you will accidentally hurt your kid and you’ll feel like the worst parent ever.

The first time this ever happened to me was when I was clipping my daughter’s nails when she was an infant. She wasn’t even squirming, but somehow I positioned the nail clippers (infant nail clippers, even) in such a way that I clipped off a piece of skin at the tip of her finger and she immediately started crying. The crying only lasted about twenty seconds, but I felt like the worst person ever for quite a while afterward.

2. You will know a lot less about this: [insert image of a newspaper showing important world news]

I’ve never been all that up on what’s going on in the world, but I can definitely state that since becoming a mother I rarely, rarely know what the hell is going in the world. My world has gotten a hell of a lot smaller, after all. 99.9% of the important things to me begin at the top of my daughter’s head and end at the tips of her toes.

3. And a whole lot more about this: [insert an image of a bunch of special figure toys]

I’ve always been the kind of person who knows more about things like toys and video games than “adult” things, but that knowledge has increased tenfold since I became a mother. I swear I know the specs, available colors, and price tag of every toy available at stores in this province.

4. Your Netflix account will eventually only suggest kids’ shows.

My husband and I don’t actually have our own Netflix account, but my husband’s parents do, and I can let you know that, yes, their account has decided that there are nothing but children in the house. Between my daughter and her cousin, Netflix shows pretty much nothing but My Little Pony and Ninja Turtles.

5. Your pet will no longer be your top priority.

Sometimes I genuinely feel bad about this, but yeah…my cats have become less than second fiddle since my daughter was born. In fact, most of the time I want to lock them in a room somewhere just so I don’t have to deal with them.

6. You will gain 15 pounds.

Hahahahahahahaha…. This one is supposed to be based on the fact that kids eat junk, and thus you will end up eating junk as well. That’s definitely part of it, but I also submit that while you may spend a good part of your day chasing around a super-fast little lunatic, you will then ultimately spend any time when they’re asleep lounging on the couch in pajama pants and stuffing yourself with whatever food is closest to your hand.

7. The backseat of your car will be nasty.

I considered taking a photo to back this one up, but I didn’t want any of my readers to lose their lunch. The saddest part is that I clear out our back seat actually quite regularly, but it ends up back the same way within a day or two.

8. You will eat 95% of your meals either incredibly fast or with one hand. Or both.

This phenomenon has been slowing down as my daughter grows up a bit, but it’s still pretty common for me to eat with one hand (usually the wrong one) because she wants to sit on me during supper time. And don’t even talk to me about meals like breakfast. Usually I just eat them from the kitchen counter as fast as I can because otherwise she sees and wants me to “share”.

9. You’ll basically become a ninja.

The quote that goes with this one is “When you need something from the baby’s room late at night you’ll be able to slip in and out without upending a feather” and I can absolutely confirm that. My daughter goes to bed at night with one of her TV shows on and usually rolls around so much before falling asleep that she ends up without a single blanket on her. As a response to that I “ninja” into her room every night to wrap her back up in blankets and turn off the TV. To date I’ve only woken her once or twice.

10. Despite your best efforts, your kids will get their hands on your iPhone.

Yes, yes, yes. Once, my iPhone ended up locked for over an hour because my daughter failed to properly input my code a ridiculous number of times.

Also, my photos folder is full of adorable toddler ‘selfies’.

11. Parenting is harder than you think it’ll be, but you won’t really notice.

The author of the list states that parenting will continuously get harder and harder but you won’t really realize that it’s happening. The more I think about it the more I agree. Though the days of being up all hours of the day and night and being at my daughter’s beck and call every second of the day are over, things have gotten harder in other ways. But, as the list’s author states, I haven’t really acknowledged that difficulty increase. It’s just kinda the way it works, I guess.

12. You will have to sneak candy like it’s a contraband substance.

This one really made me chuckle. Every year after Halloween my husband and I go out and buy a ton of discounted candy, which we keep in a closet on the main floor of our house. And whenever one of us wants a piece of that candy, we have to sneak around like thieves in the dead of night in order to make sure that our daughter doesn’t see us, especially if she didn’t eat her supper that night.

13. You will laugh more than at any other time in your life.

Young people without kids would never believe that this one is true, especially when they’re watching people with kids running around, chasing them, yelling at them, and looking like they haven’t slept in a year. But it is true. My daughter does so much stuff on a daily basis that makes giggle like a fool or laugh like a lunatic. Kids are the world’s little jesters.

14. You’ll be awakened at 2 a.m. to fetch a glass of water only to find your kid passed out when you deliver it.

I’ll admit, this one rarely ever happens to me. Not the “awakened at 2 a.m.” part…that happens almost every night. But the part where the kid passes back out before you can complete your task? No, that’s not me. When my daughter wakes up, she’s up. That said, there was one night that she banged on her door and when I walked in the room she was drowsily rubbing her eyes and complaining that she wanted her TV show on. I tucked her into bed and set about trying to find the right show, but in the thirty or so seconds that took I turned around to find her snoring on her pillow. I then employed number 9 of this list.

15. You will see your own faults reflected back at you.

Hahahahaha…oh my, yes. A big one (which I think is common in my neck of the woods) is the swearing and/or saying mean things. My husband and I have a very bad habit of telling each other to “shut up” when we’ve lost an argument. We don’t say it in a mean way…it’s actually a bit of a playful thing…but every time the daughter hears it she repeats it, which we obviously don’t want.

Also, stubbornness, temper, impatience, and a gluttonous sweet tooth. Yeah. She’s like a damn mirror.

16. Folding kid and baby clothes is torture.

I’ve pretty much gotten a handle on this one at this point, but my husband definitely hasn’t, and I don’t either of us will be able to properly fold the daughter’s underwear until she’s grown a few dozen more sizes. Those things are ridiculously small.

17. It’s impossible to feel manly when folding said baby clothes.

Obviously I can’t judge this one personally, but I can definitely say, without hesitation, that it is impossible to look manly when folding baby clothes.

18. The power of cute is more formidable than you realize.

The power of cute could rule the universe, I’m certain. Since the day she was born my daughter has been using the overwhelming powers of cuteness to diffuse situations and get out of trouble. How can you stay mad at a kid when she looks up at you from under her eyelashes and says – with a big frown – “I sowwy, mama”?

19. You will find talking to your friends without kids more difficult.

At this point in life more of my friends have kids than don’t, but yeah, I can definitely agree with this one. You don’t realize how much your kids have become your entire world until you try to have a conversation without bringing them up. Because, let’s admit it, your friends without kids really don’t give a rat’s ass about your kids, and you don’t want to be one of those parents, but then, what do you talk about? Because honestly, you haven’t done much more than cook, clean, change diapers, and watch Treehouse TV for the past year.

20. Kids become actual people and not baby blobs way sooner than you think.

Tell me that the wording of that one didn’t give you a chuckle.

It’s amazingly true though. It feels like it was just yesterday that my daughter was sleeping fifteen hours a day and couldn’t even hold her own head up, but now she’s this little individual with likes and dislikes, attitudes and tempers, and a unique personality. She’s a person…just smaller and slightly more difficult to understand.

21. Something you love will get ruined.

I’m patiently waiting for the day this one happens to me, but I can honestly say that it hasn’t happened yet. I’ve had glasses broken (eh, they were cheap glasses anyway), drinks spilled on bedsheets (washed and dried and perfect again), and my daughter has an affinity for getting all manner of disgusting fluids and crusty things all over the screen of my tablet (that’s why we buy screen protectors!), but to date she hasn’t destroyed anything that I love. This is one thing on this list that I seriously hope to foil.

22. You will turn into your parents.

No comment. Move along. lol

23. Very little will embarrass you.

I can remember before I had my daughter, whenever I would see a kid throwing a tantrum in a store I would (after I got over the annoyance of having to listen to a kid scream) feel sorry for the parent. How embarrassing, I thought, must it be to deal with that kind of thing in public, surrounded by judging eyes.

I can tell you now that, for me at least, it’s not embarrassing at all. When my daughter is being a little brat in a public place I literally throw her over my shoulder and just keep going about what I was doing while she kicks and screams and whines, and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest if every eye in the room is on us. Kids throw tantrums sometimes, people. It ain’t a circus act.

Also, as a mother, once you’ve shown up to playgroup with bed hair and no makeup because you were too focused on getting the kid ready and totally forgot to get yourself ready, nothing can embarrass you anymore.

24. You won’t be able to watch movies where kids are killed or kidnapped.

This one started for me when I was pregnant. It’s seriously just not possible. My heart physically hurts now if I see a kid die in a movie. Before I’d feel a little sad, but hey, it’s not real, that kid’s an actor. Now I feel like someone is stabbing a hunting knife in my stomach and twisting it.

25. You won’t want to spend money on yourself because you’ll know every dollar spent on yourself is a dollar you could’ve spent on your family.

I know quite a few parents who are the exact opposite of this, but I can say that, yes, some parents definitely fall into this category. I occasionally spend money on myself, usually in the form of some small treat. But for the most part I spend 2 out of every 3 seconds spent in stores looking at kids clothes and toys, thinking about all the things I want to buy my daughter. If it weren’t for the tiny inkling of restraint that I do have, our house would be a ball pit of toys and not much else.

26. Buying your kid something will make you way more happy than buying yourself something.

Christmas is a testament to this now. I love Christmas, and I’ve always loved both giving and receiving gifts, but now that I have a daughter 200% of my attention is focused on her when it comes to presents. I get a little thrill of giddy happiness every time she opens a present, I really do.

27. When your kid is little, every trip out of the house will feel like getting ready to go to the airport.

Once, when my husband and I both lost our jobs and had to take a trip to New Brunswick for job interviews with another company, I didn’t think our Corolla was going to make it because it was so loaded down with the gear we needed for the baby.

28. You will love to watch kids’ movies.

I’ve always loved kids movies, to be honest, but these days I even love watching them if I’ve seen them eighty times already because nothing is better than snuggling under a blanket with my daughter and listening to her reactions to a great movie.

29. You will cram your entire adult life between the time your kid goes down and you go to sleep.

If you put a spy camera in our house you would see this one in action. Sure, I write during the day, sure we get chores and the like done while the little Missy is up and running around our ankles. But things like watching (non-kid) movies together or having  a couple of drinks? Yeah…that stuff starts around 9 pm and ends around 11 pm.

30. For a while, only you will be able to understand them, so you’ll basically become their interpreter.

My husband is better at this one than me, but it’s true and also hysterical. My daughter’s grandparents can never figure out what she’s saying, especially my husband’s father, so it’s up to us to regularly translate every line. The other day my daughter was singing a song to my mother and I had to keep shouting out every second word so that my mother could repeat it.

31. And lastly, it’s all worth it.

Some days it won’t feel like it. Sometimes you just want to jam a pillow over your head and pretend that the world outside your personal bubble doesn’t exist. Sometimes your kid will go on and on and on and on and all you’ll want in the world is for them to shut their yappy little mouth for five minutes. And sometimes you’ll seriously consider installing dead-bolts on all your bathroom doors because JEEBUS CHRIST, CAN I PLEASE PEE IN PRIVATE?!

But the other times, the times when your kid says or does something that truly amazes you, or the times when they come to you with tears in your eyes to ask you to kiss a boo-boo better, or the times when they come up to you for absolutely no reason at all to give you a hug and a kiss and tell you that they love you…yeah, those times make it 100% worth it.

Photo 11-22-2013, 3 13 16 PMHow about it, fellow parents? How much do you know about toys these days? Have you gotten your black belt in ninja stealth yet? When was the last time you saw any actual upholstery in the back seat of your car? Please share your own thoughts and stories! 🙂

Laugh, Cry, and Scream

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of jumping between stories. Within my own work I’ve been moving between zombie apocalypses and werewolf romances, between epic fantasies and personal journeys. At the same time I’ve been reading books, watching movies and TV shows, and playing video games. All this going back and forth between different stories with different characters has gotten me thinking about what makes a truly memorable character. What is it that makes a particular person in a book, tv show, movie, or game become this amazing character whom you can’t get enough of? What makes a character great?

I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I’ve come up with three answers, three things that make a character great, in my opinion.

Great characters make you laugh.

Humor is almost a given, isn’t it? Laughter is like a drug, one for which the only side effects are happiness and maybe some pleasantly sore muscles. Mentally and physically, our bodies get high on humor, which is why we love comedies so much, why we appreciate friends and loved ones who can make us chuckle, and why we tend to gravitate toward peers who share our appreciation for what is or isn’t funny. Sense of humor is not universal, of course, but almost everyone will find themselves drawn toward a character who can make them laugh, especially if that laughter is of the deep-down, belly-rumbling, gasping-for-air variety.

Characters who give me the giggles:

Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory – He’s just so absurd and stoic in everything he says and does that it’s absolutely hysterical. I genuinely don’t know how the actors of this show make it through their lines sometimes.

Tyrion Lanister from the A Song of Ice and Fire series (G.R.R. Martin) – I’ve rarely read a character so damn witty. His humor is rude and crude one minute, and exceptionally intellegent the next. Every second line out of his mouth makes me go “HA!”

Great characters make you cry.

Sadness is a little less obvious, but whether you might believe it or not sometimes we crave a good sob-fest. Why else would movies like The Notebook be so popular? The thing is, crying is cathartic; even if you didn’t realize you were stressed out or upset, crying gets all the pent-up bad mojo out, and while no one wants to be sad for real-life reasons, being sad for a character allows you to experience that release of emotions. Being able to feel for a character, to be truly empathetic toward them and experience their pain, releases a host of hormones and chemicals that leaves you feeling somehow refreshed and rejuvinated.

Characters who give me the sniffles:

Dean Winchester from Supernatural – It’s one part great writing and one part awesome acting on behalf of Jensen Ackles, and the combination is a character who has made me exceptionally weepy on more than one occasion (but don’t tell my husband…I always turn to my side so he doesn’t see).

Simba from The Lion King – There is one scene in particular that I’m talking about, and if you don’t automatically know which one I’m talking about you can’t possibly have ever seen The Lion King, so GO WATCH THE LION KING RIGHT NOW, YOU FREAK.

Great characters make you scream.

Fear is another thing entirely. Though there are always going to be some people who run in the other direction when faced with fear, quite a lot of us love it. Fear gives a person a unique rush of adrenaline and “fight or flight” hormones that can be obtained in no other way, and how better to experience such a thing than from the comfort of your own home while reading a scary book or watching a horror movie? When a character makes your heart beat faster, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and gives you a nervous twtich because of the incredible tension, that is something real and visceral that you won’t soon forget. If the eventual result is actual nightmares, the character has really done their job.

Characters who give me the wiggins:

The creepy ghost girl from Shutter (original Thai version) – There is one thing I will give to the Asians…they know how to do ghosts, and this chick in particular had me literally watching the movie from between my fingers. Bonus points for totally freaking out my husband and father-in-law.

The Joker from The Dark Knight – He may not be scary in the “I’m going to have nightmares forever!” sense, but Heath Ledger’s maniacal version of The Joker creeped me out more than I can tell. He was truly, entirely mad, and that is a frightening concept.

There are, of course, lots of other factors that go into making a good character. The protagonist should be likable but also have real flaws, the antagonist should be hateful but have relatable qualities as well… You’ve heard it all before, I’m sure, or if you haven’t I’m sure you know most of the rules without even realizing it; that’s how you as the consumer recognize the characters you like. But in my opinion, the three things I’ve mentioned above are what take a character from simply enjoyable, to positively incredible. And if you can somehow incorporate all three of these types of characters into one story…wow. Just wow.

Character (groups) that have made me giggle, sniffle, and wig out:

The cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV) – Fear doesn’t necessarily apply anymore, but I watched this show when I was young and significantly more innocent, so hear me out. Back in the day the monsters creeped me the hell out, the banter between characters (good and bad) constantly had me laughing, and the misery that several of the characters went through made me (on more than one occasion) bawl like a little girl. To me, that is seriously a winning combination, and that is why this show is one of my all-time favorites to this day.

The characters from Invitation to the Game (Monica Hughes) – The characters in this book were witty and amusing, went through a tense, frightening situation that threatened their lives, and experienced a plethora of negative emotions and miseries. I’ve read this book dozens of times and I still experience an emotional rollercoaster whenever I read it.

As a writer I now find myself in the position of trying to incorporate these factors into my characters, which is a much more difficult endevour than simply pointing them out in the books I read and the movies and shows I watch. Humor isn’t my strong point, although I’ve been told by readers of my fanfiction that I’ve made them chuckle a time or two. I strive to incorporate fear into my horror and fantasy pieces, and I hope it comes across, but I haven’t been in the position yet to have anyone tell me one way or the other. Misery seems to be my “thing” (what does that say about me…?), as I love to torture my characters and I’ve had a number of people inform me that I was successful in drawing out those tears. It’s a very difficult thing striking all three, but as other writers will attest, writing is rarely easy and creating excellent characters can often feel like an exercise in futility. Regardless, now that I’ve beaten down exactly what it is that creates characters I’ve come to love, you can be damn sure that I’ll be keeping these three factors in mind whenever I put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.

What about you? What characters have made you laugh until your belly hurt? Sob like a baby? Cower under a blanket? Are there other factors that make a character great for you? Please share!

Like a bra, unsupportive people are useless.

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

87. Dealing with people who are unsupportive.

I feel for people with this problem, I really do. Personally, I’ve been lucky enough that it hasn’t been much of an issue for me. I’ve had people in my life who perhaps were disinterested or indifferent about my writing, but rarely have I had to deal with someone who was outright unsupportive. The most important people in my life have always been perfectly supportive of anything that I chose to do (for the most part) with my life, and most people I’ve known have reacted to my writing with polite interest and the occasional, “Good for you!” The most unsupportive people I’ve really had to deal with were the occasional reviewers who critiqued my work based on personal opinion and tastes, which is something that any writer is bound to have to deal with in spades.

Despite the luck I’ve had, however, I’m not naive… I know that there are plenty of writers out there whose families/friends/spouses/etc are monstrously unsupportive. I’ve read blog posts from writers whose significant others scoff at them for “wasting time” on writing. I’ve spoken to fellow NaNo novelists whose families and friends laugh at them for bothering with something so “stupid and pointless”. I’ve heard about school kids whose parents and even teachers have scolded them for bothering to waste their efforts on “useless stories”.

And it’s sad. Writing, like other arts, has a stigma attached to it that basically boils down to, “you ain’t gonna make any money off that, so why bother?” That’s depressing for two reasons. One, that attitude in and of itself is the epitome of being unsupportive because you don’t know if you can make a living off of something until you try – that’s true of anything, not just the arts. Two, even if you’re not interested in making money, the bad attitude suggests that writing is pointless even if it’s just a hobby. Consider that for a moment. If someone works hard all day and then goes golfing during their down time, well that’s their prerogative – it’s their time to do with as they choose. But if someone else works just as hard and then uses their spare time to write, it’s all “what a waste of time” and “why don’t you do something productive?” and “what’s the point of that if you’re not going to make any money off it?”

This is a generalization of course, but it’s something that plenty of writers put on with on a regular basis.

Without any personal experience there isn’t a whole lot I can say about dealing with unsupportive people. My instinct is to say, “cut ’em loose” because people who can’t be supportive of your decisions don’t deserve to be in your life. That becomes sketchy, however, when the unsupportive person is the spouse you love very much, or a parent when you’re a minor under their roof. So I guess the best advice I can give is to understand that there are people out there who are going to be unsupportive of your goals and dreams, and that sometimes you’ll have to put up with them for a while, but you don’t have to listen to them. Stay strong, believe in yourself, and when you become hugely successful you can turn around and laugh in their stupid, unsupportive faces.

“Shh…it’s not a video game, it’s research!”

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

16. How you researched your last book

This prompt made me laugh a little. It was one of those, “Ha ha…seriously?” kind of laughs.

Research? Ha ha…seriously?

I’m not the researching type. I’m not really the “preparation of any kind” type, at least not when it comes to writing. I tend to just…go. I don’t do layouts or outlines, I don’t create character sheets or brainstorm scenes ahead of time. I just tend to…write. I get ideas, and I produce them in prose form. That’s about all there is to my process.

In my defense, most of what I write is original to my brain. I don’t really need to research much because I’m making it all up as I go along anyway.

I will admit, however, that every now I get ideas as a result of inadvertent research. For instance, the zombie book I’ve been working on, tentatively titled “Nowhere to Hide”, came into being because over the past few years I’ve been rather immersed in zombie media. I’ve watched a ton of zombie movies with my husband, read several zombie books and ‘survival guides’, and played a number of zombie-killin’ video games. Eventually all this lead to my deciding to write my own zombie story, and by extension all the watching/reading/playing I’d been doing became akin to research. I took things I liked and scraped things I didn’t.

Is that close enough? Am I any less a “real” writer because I don’t do “real” research? 😛

30 Days of Truth – Day 2

Something you love about yourself.

This one is harder than it should be. I can’t speak for other people, but I know that myself, personally, I don’t have many traits that cause me to think, “Oh yeah, I am awesome and I love myself.” Sure there are things I like about myself. I like my eyes, for instance. I like my singing voice. I like my imagination. But love? Love?

How about this: I love he way I can make my daughter smile and giggle just by pulling a silly face or making goofy voices and sound effects for her toys. That is definitely something I do that I love. 🙂