I used to be a professional rapper. Wait … no. That came out wrong. What I meant to say is that one time I got wasted in Manhattan and then spent the evening free-style rapping with a group of men who I have to assume were in a professional rap group. Or maybe they were cokedealers, it’s hard to say. What I CAN tell you is that in the morning it was obvious that I had slept with one of them so I’m pretty sure I made the team. Also, despite feeling really confident that I had been in Manhattan, it was soberingly clear the next day that I was now in New Jersey.
I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not well-suited to be a parent. I’m not someone who “works hard to achieve their goals” or “learns from their mistakes.” Instead I’ve spent my life bucking authority, never reading the rules in the first place — thereby ultimately breaking them and being severely punished — and, most embarrassingly, realizing that my peers had been trudging along in an orderly fashion for years and were now young professionals whereas I was in rehab. My life has been a real slap in the face.
Clearly parenting was not part of the plan. While I was aware that other people were having children, it was obvious to me that I would instead be having whiskey so I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what would ultimately be required. Most of my childhood friends had children years ago and I wondered what had happened to them. I saw women who used to excel at joint-rolling now swaddling their newborns with the same sort of intense precision and I wondered why they had traded in ganja for shitty diapers. Also, what was all the fuss about? Couldn’t you just throw a blanket on the kid and call it a day? What was this perfect origami sheet situation and how could it possibly be important? I watched my friends fret about their kid’s schoolwork, struggle to buy houses in “good school districts” whatever that meant, and meticulously chronicle their children’s sports activities, social events, physical fitness, and general wellbeing. In the end, I figured having offspring was unlikely, but if it happened I wasn’t going to become one of them.
I constructed a belief that is already dissolving before my eyes: I Am Not Going To Be A Helicopter Parent!
When Perfect Daughter was born, I played it pretty fast and loose. I didn’t insist that people antibacterial their entire bodies prior to holding my kin. I brought her out of the house pretty quickly with no fears of her absorbing world germs into her tiny, new, pristine immune system. I wasn’t going to be overbearing and over-involved or keep my kid in a glass castle. She was gonna be passed around like a cocktail. She was going to meet new people and like it! She was going to nap when she was tired, eat when she was hungry, and wear whatever the fuck I had laying around. I wasn’t going to fall victim to this belief that your kid needs to be sheltered and programmed and calendared and scheduled. My kid was gonna live it up and we were gonna roll with the punches!!!
This lasted for around three months during which she mostly slept and ate so there was little else to be accomplished. But, as soon as she started making eye contact and showing interest in the world around her, I started to panic.
Me: Husband! She’s looking at me! What are three month olds supposed to be doing?!
Me: Like, am I supposed to be doing something? Surely she’s supposed to be learning something. I can’t just sit here like an asshole.
Husband: I think she’s supposed to be raising her head?
Me: Shit! Raising her head?! And here I’ve been letting her lie around like a fucking blob. Head raising … what the fuck … How did you even know that?
Husband: I Googled it.
Me: You Googled what?
Husband: What’s my three-month-old supposed to be doing?
Me: You. Are. Fucking. Brilliant.
Little did Husband know he was watching the beginning of my demise. I started a daily Google search so that I could track the milestones Perfect Daughter was supposed to be achieving and, like a good drug addict, I got hooked. Before I knew it, I could not be bothered with any activity that did not immediately further her ascension to first female president or C.E.O. or Soul Cycle Instructor. Perfect Daughter was going to take over the world and clearly she needed me to guide her. I started demanding that all toys be educational. I banned rice cereal because there have been studies that show it is laced with arsenic. I forbid all walkers, jumpers, and other gadgets that would have ultimately made my life significantly easier.
I adopted a theory that, if I was happy or relaxed, my child wasn’t engaged and therefore she wasn’t learning which meant she would probably end up homeless or worse, find herself in a position where she thought she was auditioning for a rap group in New York. Luckily, my inner-voice did a wonderful job of keeping me on track. Anytime I thought a nap sounded nice, the alarms would ring and the helicopter parent that was growing inside me would scream, “A NAP?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME, YOU LAZY FUCK?! MUST BE NICE TO TOTALLY CHECK OUT WHILE YOUR PERFECT DAUGHTER LEARNS LITERALLY NOTHING AND THEN SLEEPS UNDER A BRIDGE SOMEWHERE FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT?! NEXT THING YOU KNOW, YOU’LL BE LETTING HER PARTICIPATE IN SCREEN TIME, YOU PATHETIC DEGENERATE!”
Things were not going well and I was about to embark in every Helicopter Parent’s worst nightmare — daycare. This is when you leave your child with strangers who you’re certain aren’t as smart as you despite the fact that you’ve had six months of experience with a child and they’ve had literal years. Regardless, I was on high alert and things started to spiral out of control.
In the beginning, I attempted the Perfect Mother approach. I brought pastries in on my first day. Then I started handing out individualized gifts to each caretaker with thoughtful notes written on behalf of Perfect Daughter. I sent emails with helpful hints and suggestions in case they were wondering how to fulfill Perfect Daughter’s every want and desire. When these offerings weren’t met with immediate responsiveness and gratitude, I concluded that my child was being held hostage by a band of self-important dimwits. I became increasingly suspicious and paranoid that these women were somehow trying to outsmart me. I couldn’t exactly tell what they were doing wrong but I knew it was something and I was determined to get to the bottom of it.
For starters, I found it to be very suspicious that someone was always holding Perfect Daughter every day when I picked her up. There’s a lock on the door (which I approved of because it will keep out the murderers that are rampant in suburban Glendale, CA), so I have to knock every time I come to get my precious cargo. I concluded that they were waiting to see which parent’s car pulled up, at which point they would pay extra special attention to that person’s baby in order to make it look like our children were in the hands of loving caretakers and not THE LITERAL MONSTERS I had convinced myself they were.
Thus began an eccentric car hiding process — I would park in places that would not reveal my car so they couldn’t look out the window and ready themselves for my arrival. AH-HA!!! I braced myself to find my beautiful fawn chained to furniture or otherwise abandoned. I shared my beliefs with Husband and he threatened divorce then suggested potential hospitals where I could maybe “get some rest” and “meet some new friends.” I could tell he didn’t love our daughter nearly as much as I did and I felt sad that he would have to live alone someday while Perfect Daughter and I moved forward together in our impeccable lives void of pacifiers (NO!) and nonorganic baby food (ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!).
But my imagined fate never materialized. Each day, I walked in to find Perfect Daughter in varying degrees of self-soothing, independent play, or otherwise general happiness in the loving arms of an Armenian woman.
At this point, I was exhausted. Maybe it was from all the extra miles I was walking to daycare while my car hid near a row of camouflaging bushes. Maybe my eyes were weakened from the tireless amounts of reading I had done on which toys are best if you want your six month old to eventually attend an Ivy League school. Or maybe my brain was scrambled from the constant demands my inner-Helicopter Parent voice was barking at me involving reading books together every day, having a consistent sleep schedule, only dressing your child in cotton pajamas, making sure they get 10-12 hours of sleep a night, don’t forget to lose that baby weight! OH MY GOD, STOP EVERYTHING, SHE LOOKED AT THE TELEVISION! ALL IS LOST!
I’ve regressed. After the stalker/believed-to-be hostage situation, I threw in the towel. Perfect Daughter was obviously fine and I was obviously about to spontaneously combust. I stopped trying to trick her caretakers, I’ve started letting her eat whatever she wants, and I don’t panic if someone tries to put her in a jumper (although I will monitor her tirelessly). Ultimately, I just want Perfect Daughter to be happy. I want her to be safe and I want her to be healthy. And every day I try like hell to be a good parent because at the end of the day, I think we all just want the same thing for our kids — each morning, when they wake up, we want them to know which state they’re in.