Of all the new child-related phenomena that have shaken my already tenuous understanding of the world to its trembling core, probably the one I anticipated least has got to be the two or three poops my son had a few months ago that smelled exactly like hot buttered popcorn.
Seriously. I am not joking. Google it: “baby poop” + “hot buttered popcorn.” I know that’s way beyond gross, but news flash Mr. Squeamish, it’s time to buck up, right now. After all, what is being a parent if not learning how to cope with an ever-escalating series of disgusting and/or soul-shattering incidents?
Next up in the baby-stuff-nobody-ever-talks-about-for-some-reason file is the staggering amount of time I have spent trying to trim my kiddo’s fingernails so as to render them a tiny bit less deadly.
I’m convinced that if you could hold their hands still for longer than three seconds, you could watch a baby’s fingernails grow. And not only do they grow at a shocking rate, they are also sharp enough to slice open any material known to man.
Not two hours before I sat down to write this, I was hanging out with my boy, lying on the bed reading books and talking, when he leaned over and grasped my nose, squeezing it in a violent death grip. His thumbnail cut open the underside of my septum. He apparently thought this was just too funny. He’s only eight months old, though, so there was only so much I could say to him.
“Son, that hurts terribly,” I said. “Please do not do that again, I beg of you.” (That’s not actually what I said).
He replied with a shriek not unlike that of a small, clever monkey that has just snatched the wallet of an unsuspecting tourist and is fleeing through the crowded bazaar, back to the shadowy den of his criminal master. It was the sound of a brash, untamed scofflaw, mocking his hapless prey without even a hint of remorse. After I got the bleeding stopped, I reached for the baby-sized clippers and emery board and managed to remove most of the sharp edges and nasty points from his talons. He literally fought this with tooth and nail, but I prevailed eventually. I breathed a small sigh of relief, but deep down I this sobering fact remained: I’d survived the skirmish, but the war was far from won.
The other wildcard element of clipping a child’s nails is that if you screw up, you could cut open your precious little one’s tiny, helpless fingers. It’s a tightrope act that’s equal parts steely nerves and sheer upper-body strength. I’ve talked to some parents about this who said they finally got to the point where they’d had enough and just chewed their children’s fingernails themselves rather than risk cutting them with the clippers. I can’t bring myself to do that, but then I also haven’t experienced the terror of a screaming baby with a blood-spurting pinky.
If, prior to his birth, you’d asked me which part of child grooming I figured would be the least pleasant, I would have probably paused, maybe looking up at the ceiling: “Oh, I don’t know… changing dirty diapers?” Ha. “Dirty diapers?” What golden days of sweet ignorance those were. I never would have guessed that my own flesh and blood would cause me so much pain and suffering with his claws. I would rather change the most apocalyptically dirty diaper in the history of babykind than have to clip his fingernails. Funny thing is, I’ll certainly have to do both, many, many more times.
I shudder to think of all the unforeseen ways he’ll hurt me in the future – physically, psychologically, financially. It’s probably a good thing I can’t really remember anything anymore because of all the sleep deprivation.
Who knows what other trials are lurking just beyond next week?
Children are unbelievably strong – much stronger than their parents. Sure, they’re essentially just tiny human beings, so it should be no contest, right? No, that is wrong. They will decimate you. They will break you into two hundred thousand pieces or more, and you will have no other recourse than to try to put yourself back together again. You probably won’t ever be solid again, however. Like that cabinet from Ikea, there will be load-bearing pieces of you that get lost somewhere — maybe in the seat cushions — and then later on, some small thing will be put upon you, and then even though you seemed stable, you’ll suddenly and unexpectedly collapse into a heap. And then it’ll be time to start digging in the seat cushions.