Last fall my husband and I decided to ruin a beautiful sunny day in Los Angeles by going to IKEA. We held hands, casually strolling around, gazing at dressers and mispronouncing Swedish words.
And then we saw it.
In a haze of children running rampant, throwing pillows and screaming, the crowd parted and we saw two haggard parents nonchalantly changing their baby's diaper on a gray KARLSTAD sofa. I dug my fingernails into my husband's arm. "Oh my god," I whispered hotly, clutching my pregnant belly. "I see it. I see it," he responded in disgust, turning away from the horror of it all.
As we rounded the corner, somehow landing among the office furniture, we looked at each other, an image of pure contempt and revulsion mirrored back at ourselves. What we saw was so repugnant, so utterly uncouth, that we found ourselves telling and retelling the story of The IKEA Sofa Change over and over to anyone who would listen.
"Can you believe it?" we'd say. "Just changing a dirty diaper on a couch like that! A couch that people sit on! A couch people come to try out! There are perfectly good changing tables just a short 10-minute walk through the maze of MDF furniture. The germs!" My husband would heartily shake his head, chiming in, "Really. Just out there in the open like that. Poop so close to other people! So inconsiderate. So disgusting." In unison we would conclude our harrowing tale, "We'd never do something like that."
A few months later we had our baby girl. And something weird happened. When she was about four months old, my husband walked by, kissed the top of my daughter's head, and said sheepishly, "You know… I can totally see why that couple was changing that baby on the couch in IKEA." "Oh my god! I KNOW!" I said back.
Sometimes your baby goes to the bathroom itself, and you, subsequently, can not give a sh*t about anything else. This got me thinking about all the other things I swore left, right and center that I would never in a million freaking years ever do as a parent. And it turned out that, yeah, I kind of, probably, definitely would do some, maybe all of those things.
I remember watching my sister-in-law have a near meltdown because her baby had been in the sun for a certain amount of time. What a nut job. I thought to myself, eyes wide with judgment. Like, Jesus Lord, we are only a 15-minute walk to the car. It's not that big of a deal. Then I had my tiny fair skinned spawn and I saw the sun for what it truly was: an angry, blazing hot, ball of fire intent on scorching everything in its path. "Babe, please," my husband implored me at a kid's birthday party last week. "If you're going to be outside with her, at least stand in the shadow of the house. Here, let me take her. I'll go grab her sun jacket."
I used to wonder why my friend stripped their child down to his diaper before placing him inhis highchair for dinner. "I mean, they make bibs for a reason. What is the point of stripping him down like an animal?" I snarled to my husband on our way home from dinner at their house one evening. When my daughter was ready to start solid foods, my husband set up the camera, while I put her in a very expensive Baby Gab ensemble and lovingly placed a crisp bib with a perfect pink cartoon pig on her neck.
She smiled, looked me in the eye, took the carefully sliced avocado, and began gently massaging it between her fingers. Maintaining eye contact, she then took her slimy green hand, ran it through her tiny tuft of hair, grabbed her bib, pulled it up to her mouth and then slathered the remaining food on her polka dotted romper.
That was when I finally accepted that I'll never be as good of a parent as I was before I gave birth.