The choice to reproduce, for those of us fortunate enough to have one, is supported by many terms and conditions. Most of these are assumed from the get-go: less sleep, more mess, less control, more chaos, less sex, more cuddling. The “experts” (many of whom haven’t had children but have written lots of books about children) will tell you about allergies, diseases, immunizations. Older generations will advise on cradle cap, night terrors, and fevers. Friends, if they’re good friends, give you a heads-up about other things: public displays of questionable behaviour, innocent curiosities, uncontrollable influences. Some things you simply discover on your own: no one is above bargaining, a stream of pee can reach unimaginable distances, hugs and giggles can be highly effective medicines.
While some of the above may not always be foreseeable, none of it is surprising. There is, however, one thing that no one told me, which I now pass on to every parent I know: when you choose to become a parent, you are choosing “Urine As A Lifestyle”.
From diapers through potty-training to occasional accidents and periodic bedwetting, there is no way to calculate exactly how much more pee there will be in your life. It will be everywhere.
Accidents are to be expected, so you will clean them up. You will change their clothes, you will change their sheets, and you will change their curtains too. You will scrub the carpet, you will scrub the couch, and you will scrub the wallpaper. You will launder the plush toys (and they will never be the same), you will rinse the Lego, and you will wipe down their board books as best you can. You will assume you’ve got it all, and then you will find more – in the most unexpected places.
If you are like us, you will tear up the carpet and install indestructible laminate everywhere in the house. You will start cleaning your toilets daily, even when unnecessary, just because you have two boys. You will put a waterproof mattress pad on your own bed, as well as theirs, and you will take an extra one with you everywhere you go, just in case. You will buy the best quality sheets you can afford for the children rather than for yourself, because you will be laundering theirs far more often. These are just some of the ways you will adapt to your new lifestyle.
You will remind your child before every major outing to go to the loo, and he will still wet his carseat (so you will learn to carry extra pants in your bag.) You will ask him to go potty before stepping into the bath, or getting into the pool, and he will still pee in the water. You will see him drain himself before helping him into his snowsuit, and he will still end up with wet pants (on top of wet pants, on top of wet pants).
This is “Urine As A Lifestyle”. It is what it is. You cannot prepare for it, you can only react (hopefully, with patience) and know that you are not alone.
Outside of the world of urine, there are other things that will impress: how long a child can go without a bowel movement, how large a deposit they can make in the toilet, and exactly what kind of non-organic objects you will find at the bottom of the bowl.
It’s important to share these discoveries with the rest of the tribe (ie other parents). Anecdotes are more valuable than advice. It’s comforting to learn that every experience is unique, even if we’ve all shared it, and everything is normal, even when its not.