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Here’s something I didn’t know about parenting
But Moe: the gunk. The gunk!
If you spend any amount of time on Tiktok or Instagram’s blatant rip-off Reels, the algorithm will have sent you towards Sidney Raz. “Here’s something I didn’t know until I was in my thirties …” he’ll announce at the start of each video, before sharing a lifehack that you should surely know by now. Like how to mount a multiplug adaptor on a wall. Or how to successfully dry your shoes without trashing the drum. How you can use your thumb to turn the top of an Allen key. Or the simple realisation we all eventually make, at some point in our lives, that not being hungover is better than being drunk.
Sidney recently became a dad. He’s now learning the pains many of us are all to familiar with. One example: THERE’S MORE THAN ONE SLEEP REGRESSION? That one hurt, and should probably come with a trigger warning. He’s sharing advice that should be handed out on a leaflet as you leave the hospital with your newborn—if all you take, from this entire email, is this hack for making baby wipes less of a pain in your actual ass, then your time here will be well spent.
“It would have been nice to have known that before” is a phrase you’ll regularly think as a new parent. So much is unexpected. Like how brutal raising a small child can be. If an occupying force put your body through the extreme conditions that come with a newborn child: sleep deprivation, ultrasonic weapons of mass destruction, a constant onslaught of various fluids on your skin, your clothes, your carpet, and, on occasion, into your mouth? Well, we’d be banging down the door of The Hague.
One thing I wouldn’t have believed is the abundance of grime that comes with children. It’s everywhere. It starts small—the blocked nose you’ll suck clean or blast out with a saline solution, or crusty bits in their eyes when they wake up. Soon you’ll begin to notice it in other places. It’s not just inside your kid’s ears, but behind them too. It’s the proof points of a life lived wild built up under their fingernails. It’s in the bottom of their school bag, and every single tote bag you’ll pick up for the rest of your life, coated in a sea of plastic wrappers, biscuit crumbs and slowly decomposing grapes. It’s the muck that clings onto the bathtub, somehow worse when they go nuts with the bubble bath, after the detritus of all the floors they’ve licked over the last few days is liberated from their body and stubbornly remains on the base of the tub.
Or the gunk that piles up in all the places you regularly need to reckon with: the small protective shield—the sink condom—that catches food before it plunges down the plughole; the fluffy-pully-outy bit of the tumble dryer (a “lint trap,” apparently, thank you Google) you must remember to empty before it sets your house on fire; the bins that fill up nine times faster now, even though there are only 2 more people, and how do they create so much crap when they’re so small?
At least once a year you’ll be forced to reckon with a whole new location where crud has built up, unbeknownst to you, in a private gathering of pure filth. You know about the fatberg, right? Everything that wasn’t supposed to go down the drains is congealing together—oil, fat, wet wipes, anything non-biodegradable—underneath us into disgusting congealed blocks. They found one in Devon recently that was longer than six double-decker buses. It took them eight weeks “to dissect this monster in exceptionally challenging work conditions.”
That grunge lives below us, Ghostbusters II style, congregating like teens in the mall. But you don’t have to climb down a manhole to experience it. The gunk is coming from inside the house. Come close. I need to tell you something. (Whispers) Did you know your washing machine has a secret compartment? James Bond vibes, hidden down there in the bottom corner. If you open up this mysterious tunnel, you can root around for lost treasure fallen from your pockets, caught and collected during the hundreds of washes since you started using it. It’s all there—random pennies, hairclips, tiny plastic toys, bobbles (if you have a daughter, THERE WILL BE BOBBLES)—and they’re all waiting for you, a shitty surprise soaked in stagnant water, ready to leak all over your floor. If you realise this after your washing machine pumps out an incomprehensible error message, you’re already too late—you’ll need the shallowest of oven trays, and an insane amount of patience, to save the day and protect your wooden floorboards.
Or consider the dishwasher. A life-changing device that relieves a significant chunk of the daily grind of parenting. You never realise just how good you have it until you move into a rental house without one, or your beloved appliance decides to give up the ghost and die completely. And why might that happen? Well, it’s the gunk, stupid—bits of food clogged up in the wastewater chute, requiring another Marioesque dive into a pipe, but lacking delightful gold coins, princesses and mushrooms, just more ossified ooze you had no idea existed.
It’s all slime, all the time—on everything, everywhere, all at once—and you’ll never know which secret gathering of gloop will cause the next breakdown, because there’s no way to know where they all are. How are we supposed to know about all of these things? Who is the person that tells us, when we become adults and parents: “Hey, I have to tell you something about your house, and its secret cheat code—15 classified locations that contain a thing that regularly needs to be cleaned, emptied, or serviced, and if you don’t do it, your house might fall apart, or be blown down by an aggressive wolf who claims to know someone inside.”
Did you know? And if you did, WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?!?
3 things to read this week
“There is 1 week until Mother's Day” by Claire Zulkey in Evil Witches Newsletter. PSA for dads in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Japan, most of South America, and big chunks of Europe (with the obvious exception of the UK)—it would be a dereliction of duty if I didn’t remind you it is five days until Mother’s Day. Zulkey offers 10 tips to make sure you “can perhaps play a tiny role in making [this day] alright.”
“Watching ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ With My Six-Year-Old Was Surprisingly Emotional” by Patrick Klepek in Vice. We lost ourselves in Mushroom Kingdom earlier this month, and had a blast doing so. As a long-time gamer and Nintendo fanboy, I hadn’t quite been able to put my finger on all the feelings that came with it, but a lot of what Klepek captures here resonated. My two have started getting into the Switch, and are slowly getting better at Mario Kart 8. I will, however, still red shell them into oblivion without a moment’s hesitation. Life is hard. Best they learn it at home before the world teaches them.Go read this whilst the Vice website is still up, I guess? “You can have the best of intentions when it comes to letting children be their own people, but especially early on, intention matters less; they are partly a reflection of you and an ever-evolving mixture of other things building into a unique identity.”
“Not Being Able To Have A Baby Was Devastating. Then I Found People Who Embraced A Childfree Life” by Helen Pidd in The Guardian. One thing I want to explore more here is the growing trend of both men and women who choose to live a childfree life. Andrew touched on it last week in his climate essay, but there’s more to mine here, especially how the modern fatherhood experience increasingly means choosing not to have a child, and being a fatherhood figure to others. This Guardian article chronicles Pidd exploring the burgeoning communities forming around childfree living, and visiting a We Are Childfree meetup in Berlin. “Forty strangers offered to tell their stories, and the project took off. During the pandemic, Noble and her husband, James Glazebrook, decided to devote more time and resources to building what is now Europe’s fastest-growing childfree network. Their website hosts 200 diverse stories of people living their best lives without children, usually but not always by choice, and their podcast features interviews with childfree pioneers.”
Dad joke Special Edition
Finally: please introduce me to your therapist
The Therapy Fund hit a little bump last week when I was informed that non-US therapists can’t work with US dads, for all kinds of insurance and legal issues. So, I’m on the hunt for your recommendations for US-based therapists who are taking on new clients, and are happy to work over Zoom. Bonus points if they’re not based in a major US city—I heard the going rate for a therapist in New York is around $250 a session, which would wipe out the fund pretty quickly. Hit reply here, or send me an email, if you’ve worked with someone you’d happily recommend to other dads. Thank you!
How did you like this week’s issue? Hope you enjoyed the illustration. Who needs DALL·E or Midjourney when you have talented, compliant kids?