After a good decade of parenting, you realize that the best way to prepare for having kids would have been to fully immerse yourself in similar sensations before the baby fell into your arms full time. Oh, you can read your babyproofing and sleep training books to your heart’s content before having kids, but to fully grasp what it’s like to live the life of a breeder, you’ve gotta fully commit to getting your hands dirty and your shoes sticky. Fret not, parents-to-be! I have a list of suggestions of where you should spend your pre-kid time in order to warm up to this gig, and how they will help you understand what you’re getting into.
And yes, you have to leave the earplugs at home.
1. Pediatrician’s office during peak cold season
Your world is about to become enveloped in a slick sheen of mucus for a solid decade. Hang out in waiting rooms teeming with oozing tots who smear their sickies over every surface within reach while coughing directly into your mouth. Perfect your gag reflex when witnessing kids slurp down the gobs of snot dangling from their cute noses. Collect Strep test sticks as parting gifts.
2. Foreign-language films without subtitles
You’ll sit there, not quite sure what, exactly, the story is about but you don’t want to seem rude, so you’ll act interested with lots of head nods and sweeping facial expressions. Just like when your kids are learning how to talk, or later when they are talking about Minecraft or anything at all, really.
3. Build-a-Bear workshop
It’s bright enough to burn the corneas and crammed with too many choices for your kids to not become so overwhelmed they end up in tears, yet by the end of your visit you will end up in tears because you witness sweet-faced kids whispering something to the felt hearts they shove into the carcass of an overpriced plush whatever with so much conviction your own heart just can’t handle it. Unexpected emotional roller coasters: check.
4. A theme park during the worst heat wave on record ever
Family fun is at its best when the chances of heatstroke and cherry-colored projectile vomit are at an all-time high and your back account is drained to an all-time low. Might as well build up a tolerance while you can!
5. Chuck E Cheese’s on a rainy Saturday afternoon
Go during peak hours and hang out in the completely-booked party room amidst the animatronic live musical show, just as the cake sugar rush hits the bloodstreams of hundreds of kids. That way, you can experience the exact sound level in every family home pretty much constantly from toddlerhood on. Whee!
6. World’s strongest man competition
Learn to never underestimate how much a human being can move when he or she is determined enough. Like when your preschooler decides to stack all the furniture in her room on the center of her bed during naptime in order to reach the ceiling fan. Also something to get used to: excessive amounts of grunting and throwing by people wearing nothing but underpants and suspenders.
7. Target with the grocery store inside
Once you reproduce you will live there. Get comfortable, learn the lay of the land, befriend the pharmacist, suss out who the fastest baggers are, and learn to never ever, ever shop while wearing red and tan.
8. A kid’s birthday party thrown by his overachieving mom
The sensation of being both completely blown away by the brilliant execution of a DIY party that knocks your socks off and feeling judged that nothing you ever have done (or will do) for your kids in this vein can even compare to it? Welcome to parenthood.
9. The reject pile in the music store
Go into the store hoping to find something cool, but end up overpaying for the worst of the worst catchy tune compilation CD, then get it jammed in your car stereo, playing on repeat until about five years from now when you finally sell the car to upgrade to a minivan because there is no avoiding it.
10. Large public bathrooms (*without adequate dividers)
Also necessary: stall doors that pop open at the slightest jostle. Now invite an entire preschool class into the filthy echo chamber, and let them interview you at top volume about what are you doing in there, what was that tooty sound, are you going poopy while trying to reach their curious damp claws into the special silver trash can precariously hanging on the wall by the toilet.
11. A corn maze
You were told it would be fun but you are lost and slightly panicked and don’t know why anyone thought you could ever be successful at this until you suddenly break through an itchy hay wall smelling of flop sweat and the last sweet breath of hope, and see that you did survive it, after all. Repeat as necessary to get the point across.