This just in: Parenthood apparently requires parenting skills
There's so much work involved with caring for a very small child, but pretty much all of it boils down to Keeping the Baby Alive, Limiting the Amount They Cry, and Occasionally Removing Their Coating of Filth. I mean, sure, there are intermittent brain-benders having to do with figuring out their sleep, and finding the best ways to get calories inside their cry-holes, and deciding whether or not Baby Einstein videos promote development or beam math-destroying dullard rays directly into their fontanels -- but generally it's less about middle management strategy sessions and more about digging for patience reserves as you deal with what is essentially a tiny, adorable howler monkey.
Toddlers, on the other hand, are sort of a terrifying combination of Infant + Teenager, where one minute they're curled in your lap wanting hugs and kisses, and the next they're slamming the door to their room and blaring emo music and writing angry poetry because no one understands their needs. They require much of the work a baby does -- because they aren't quite ready to open the fridge, fix themselves a sandwich, then grab a hot shower before motoring off to preschool -- and they also require active intervention, in the form of discipline, education, and guidance.
Guidance! How scary is it that there is a human on this earth that needs my questionable life-navigation advice? Never mind the sheer horror of helping my kids make it through their school years without succumbing to the various horrors that could befall them (like drugs! Unsavory friendships! Eventual dedication to the Republican Party!), I'm freaked out that my ineptitude is going to ensure the presence of a diaper under my child's commencement robe.
See, we're in the midst of potty training in our household, and nothing has made me question my parental abilities quite like the task of teaching a child to void themselves somewhere other than their own pants. I secretly want to punch all the people who claim they trained their kid in one joyous feces-filled day, and if there was a professional potty trainer I could hire -- sort of a Cesar Milan-esque Potty Whisperer -- I would totally do so, because at least I could feel confident that someone with some EXPERIENCE was handling this project. My only skill set with regards to the potty is knowing how to use it myself.
(And, frankly, even that came into question more than once during the Great Third Trimester Chest Cold of Aught-Seven.)
Still, though, what can you do but muddle onward, making mistakes and hopefully learning from them (Handy Potty Tip! Offering M&Ms as a reward can result in a child producing exactly one molecule of pee at a time before demanding a CHOCWATE, PLEASE). This surely won't be the last time I'm faced with a parenting challenge and feeling unsure about whether or not I'm doing the right thing -- but man, I sure hope it's one of the last ones that involve poop.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.