Parenting: 8 ways that it’s just like pledging a fraternity or sorority

As a new parent, I have heard some iteration of the following advice about 15 million times:

“Parenthood is unlike anything you’ve done before.  You’ll never truly understand until you’ve been through it.”

As someone with literally zero experience with the logistics of parenthood (e.g., changing diapers, cleaning spit up out the little crevice between the underarm and the chest, or wiping projectile diarrhea off the ceiling), I was concerned.

Once I got started, however, I realized it all seemed so familiar.  I wondered to myself, “Rob, how can you be so calm in the face of all these new experiences?  Where did your parenting prowess come from?  What in your life made you such an expert at parenting?”

And then it hit me:  The late night wake ups, the incessant crying, the bodily fluids everywhere, the nagging sense that there was something else I should be doing, the disconnection with the outside world.

Being a new parent is exactly the same as pledging a fraternity or sorority.

How parenthood is like pledging a fraternity - drawing by Rob Pollak

If you’re a new parent, just imagine yourself as a pledge of Delta Alpha Delta (D.A.D.) or Mu Omega Mu (M.O.M.).  Don’t panic, it will all be familiar.

You lose all control over your own time.

My first night as a pledge, I awoke to my phone at 3am.  I answered.

“Yello?” I said.

“Who’s this?”

“Pollak.”

“Pollak, you fuck.  I need you to bring me a pack of cigarettes and a yoo-hoo.”

For the next few months, I had no control over my schedule.  At any given hour, I could be forced against my will (on a completely voluntary basis, of course) to go searching for a taco, to bring a case of beer to someone camping in the woods in a nearby state, to walk miles just to be yelled at for not going fast enough, or to hold a match while reciting–in alphabetical order–the names of people long deceased.

Now, as a parent, I feel the same sense of uselessness when I shut my eyes.  The second I enter REM sleep, a whimper will sneak its way out of the bassinet, a stream of pee will make a triumphant escape from the diaper, a bombastic fart will echo across the room, foul-smelling poo will makes its presence known.  And just like that–bleary eyed and hallucinating–I get out of bed and figure out how to make it stop.

New moms

You get drenched with bodily fluids. 

Before becoming parents, everyone insists that they will not end up covered in human feces, but at some point it’s bound to happen.

New parents tend to go on and on about the time they aimed their kid at the Diaper Genie while the kid let loose a barrage of machine gun style diarrhea that obliterated the walls.  Not surprisingly, pledging can also include odd rituals that involve feasting on bodily fluids and super soakers of urine.

Don’t believe me?  A quick google search of fraternity hazing and bodily fluids brings back a mind-boggling smattering of hazing ideas that can keep young men occupied for years to come.  I’m guessing you’ve never had a vomlet before, have you?

New dads

You can’t go anywhere without telling everyone exactly where you will be and when you’ll be back.

Similar to the loss of control over time, new parents and pledges both lose the ability to disappear from the face of the earth.  No more sneaking out for a quick nine after work, or  over to your girlfriend’s dorm room for a quiet afternoon.  You now have to account to the other pledges for your whereabouts.  Some societies even make you travel in packs at all time.

With a new kid, you no longer can just get up and go.  Everything becomes a process.  I once got caught in a long checkout line at CostCo and Anne texted me 74 times.

[Anne didn’t really text me 74 times.  I completely made that up.  I normally assume that this kind of joke is clear, but Anne is in an interesting hormonal place because she recently gave birth.  She might rip my head off, screaming “I never fucking texted you when you were at Costcooooooooooooooo.]

[For the record, Anne’s not in an interesting hormonal place right now.  I dramatized that as well for another joke.  She’s very loving and caring and is an excellent mother].

You stick a finger in someone else’s asshole.

With a baby, it’s to wipe or apply ointment.  With a fraternity, it’s to do the The Elephant Walk.

You have to wear ridiculous outfits.

During pledging, you may have to dress in certain colors or costumes.  It’s not surprising to see pledges dressed in drag or even running around campus in the nude.  Likewise, new parents must wear Baby Bjorns, Bert and Ernie shirts, and often force the newborn to dress in similarly ridiculous costumes.  Anne wants our baby to be Oatmeal for Halloween.

You constantly clean up after someone else.

One of the best things about being a baby or a sophomore in a fraternity is that you don’t have to lift a finger.  Whenever there’s vomit on the floor, just cry or pick up the phone to call mommy, daddy, or that pledge to clean up your mess.

You are forced to listen to terrible songs on repeat all day.

I’ve heard stories of pledges sitting in a room blindfolded listening to Journey on repeat for 20 straight hours.  It doesn’t sound half bad now that I’m rocking out to the Bubble Guppies theme song for 93 straight hours.

To make matters worse, I only know the lyrics to one song.  So my poor baby has to listen to me sing the first verse of twinkle twinkle little star until he can’t take it anymore and pretends to go to sleep so I’ll shut up.

Every once in a while when all hope is lost, something wonderful happens.

Both parenting and pledging have moments that are pretty damn hard.  Maybe you even question whether you can hack it.  It’s in those moments–the ones that often come at 4:30 in the morning–when you awake to another in a long line of stressful activities.

But this time, instead of the usual hazing or, well, hazing, you get a surprise keg party or a sweet little smile.  Then, BOOM.  You’re sucked back in because, in the back of your head, you think that even the worst moments might be one huge mindfuck on the way to a happy ending.

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An interview with a dad: Me!

On August 14 at 6:07 a.m., my golf career officially came to an end. That’s when Anne and I welcomed our son, Owen Michael, into the world.

For the nine months leading up to that momentous occasion, I ended every night by whispering into Anne’s belly. “I can’t wait to meet you,” I’d say. “But please, oh please, pretty please, don’t come on August 14th. That’s the day when daddy gets to play a really nice golf course.”

Kids. You know? They never listen. 1 week ago, I didn’t think anything in the world could be better than playing a beautiful exclusive country club for free on a cool summer morning. (sorry Anne). But then I saw this for the first time:

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And in that one moment, when I looked into my son’s eyes for the first time, I could feel my life changing forever. I felt a sense of purpose, of pride, of protection, of parenthood. And then, I had the most amazing realization: If I hurried, I could still make my tee time.

EXCLUSIVE: My First Interview

To commemorate the birth of my first child, a masculine child, I’m bringing back my “Interview with a Dad” series to answer all your pressing questions. My first subject, Ryan, is back. But this time, he’s the one asking the questions. Here’s what Ryan had to say for himself.

Ryan: Congratulations, Rob! I’m so happy for you.

Rob: I wrote that part.

Ryan: I know, but the rest will be the things that I really asked you. So let’s get to the questions.

Rob: Fine.

Ryan: Biggest surprise so far?

Rob: I never thought anything in the world could prevent me from responding to emails at the precise moment I received them. Even if someone were to chop off my hands, I could just get one of those straw microphones to dictate my responses. So I was quite surprised that having a new baby somehow prevented me from responding.

I was also surprised by how much my kid sucks, and even moreso by the power of his sucking. One of the books we have suggested that the dad put his finger in the kid’s mouth to soothe him when he cries. I tried that, and the next thing I knew, I was pulling my shoulder out of his throat.

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Actually, there was one other thing that was the quite surprising. After the onset of labor, when I was blitzing through the house grabbing every last thing we could ever need, Anne decided that she should take a quick shower and blow dry her hair. I was in full on panic mode, and Anne decided to clean herself up and make herself beautiful for the hospital. At least it worked – her hair looked fucking amazing until a little but of her vomit got caught in it.

Ryan: One thing that happened from the water breaking to the birth that you wish you could take back?

Rob: Nothing. But I imagine that I’ll say something in this blog post that I’ll need to take back. Maybe the vomit comment. Or the sucking thing. She’ll probably think I mean that he sucks, like “Man, what a jerk. That guy totally sucks.” When what I really meant was :

suck definition   Google Search
Ryan: What’s the meanest thing Anne said to you during that same period?

Rob: I’ve spent the last three hours thinking of a good response to this question. And believe me, I love taking shots at Anne. But she was amazing throughout the whole process. I mean, I guess if I had to pick something that was kind of mean, it would be the moment when she said, “Rob, I wish I never married you. I hate you and I hate your face and I hope that you burn in the pits of hell for ever and ever. Oh, and I hope that when you arrive in hell, you find this waiting for you:”

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Ryan: Did you cry at any point during that?

Rob: No. You did a great job of preparing me for what to expect during labor. I’m basically a pro at this parenting thing:

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Ryan: On a scale of Jodie saying yes to going to the junior prom to getting your socks wet on a log flume, how excited were you to see balls?

Rob: Good idea to reference two things that no one who reads my blog will understand. For the uninformed, I went to the junior prom with Ryan’s now wife. She loved me at the time. I also once got my socks wet at Great Adventure. I was pissed because my moron friends thought it would be a good idea to ride the log flume at the end of the day. I told them, right off the bat, that it would be stupid to ride the log flume because then we would be wet for the whole ride home. No one likes being wet and cold, including my son, who cries every time he has a cold wet diaper. That’s my boy!

So to answer your question, I was very excited to see the balls. I was especially happy when the doctor said, “it’s definitely a boy.” One of my biggest fears about not finding out was that the data would be inconclusive at the time of birth.

Ryan: What’s the first thing you said to Owen?

Rob: Wow, I wish I remembered this. I think I said, “Hi Owen! You have daddy’s hair!”

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Ryan: have you been mad at him yet?

Rob: I mean, he did make me miss that tee time. Also, every day when I get home, we go through the same routine. I hold him for a few minutes and we have a blissful moment of love. Then he pees on my shirt. Then I change him. Then he immediately pees again. Then I change him. Then he starts crying. I sway and make idiotic noises to soothe him, but nothing works. Then he shits on me. Then I change him. Then I finally sit down and he gets this big smile on his face. I’m pretty sure it’s his way of saying, “that was fun, right pop?” Then he shits on me again. Then I change him. Then I hand him to Anne and he doesn’t go to the bathroom again until she hands him back to me. It’s not that I’m mad at him, but I know he’s doing it just to fuck with me.

Ryan: Has he been mad at you?

Rob: I think I crushed one of his balls once when I was changing his diaper. He didn’t like that very much.

Ryan: What’s the best thing about him so far?

Rob: When he falls asleep on my chest and snuggles in extra close while we watch golf together.

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Ryan: what’s the worst?

Rob: That he can’t talk yet. The hardest thing so far is that I know he’s trying to communicate with me, but I don’t understand. Just try to imagine how mad Anne would get if we had this conversation:

Anne: Rob, I’m cold. Can you please turn the AC off.

Rob: Um…. Do you want to take your sweater off?

Anne: No, I’m cold. Please turn the AC off.

Rob: Milk? Do you want some milk? If so, I’ll go get your mom and have her bring it to you.

Anne: Is it fucking cold in here, or is it just me?

Rob: [sticks finger in her mouth] Is that what you want?

Anne: The AC. Off. Turn it off now.

Rob: [smells Anne’s ass] Did you poop?

Anne: This is really pissing me off.

Rob: [pulls Anne’s underwear aside and peeks] Any pee in there?

Anne: if you don’t turn the AC off right now, I will murder you.

Rob: Let me get your mom. I think it’s her turn.

Anne: I don’t want my mom! I’m just cold, you asshole.

[Anne takes the baby, Rob walks out of the room decides its cold, turns the AC off because he’s cold]

Anne: Thank you.

Rob: See, I knew you just wanted your mom.

That’s what it’s like when Owen cries. I have no clue what he wants, but I know he’s trying to tell me. It’s so stressful to not be able to give him exactly what he wants at that exact moment to make the crying stop.

Ryan: What’s the nicest thing someone said to you after the birth?

Rob: “He looks just like Anne.”

Ryan: What’s the best advice you’ve gotten since the birth?

Rob: “Whatever you do, don’t blog about your child. Respect his privacy and let him decide on his own whether his images or stories should enter into the public domain.”

Ryan: Did you stay in the north end zone?

Rob: Nope. I saw everything. The hospital didn’t do much in the way of delineating the end zones. I didn’t have much choice in the matter. And, frankly, I’m glad I got to witness everything. It’s unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I have a whole new love and respect for Anne, and think I’m not forbidden from ever getting mad at her again. When the delivery was finished, Anne said to the doctor, “things really seemed to get easier when you started sawing me open.” As a witness to everything, I can assure you there was no saw.

I feel like the luckiest guy in the world to be married to such an amazing woman. One who can endure 16 hours of pain, stress, and sawing, deliver the most amazing baby of all time, and remain so god damn beautiful throughout. I think all women can learn a valuable lesson from this: Even when you’re in the throes of labor, there’s always time for a quick blowout.

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My irrational fears about imminent parenthood

I haven’t written in a while because I am consumed with irrational fears about parenthood.  For instance, every day for the last 18 days, I have started the day by asking Anne if she’s in labor.  She never is.

Anne promises that she’ll tell me as soon as she knows, but I’m worried that she’ll keep it to herself for a few minutes because she’s not sure if it’s really happening.  Then, during those minutes, the baby will come out, and grow up, learn the violin, go off to college, get an amazing job, win the masters, become disgustingly rich, and not give me any of the money because I missed it all.  If Anne just had the decency to tell me that she was in labor, then I’d be driving a Benz right now.

See what I mean?  Totally irrational (but kind of legitimate, right?).  Also, as I played out that scenario in my head, I totally pictured the kid as a girl.  Does that mean it’s a girl?  That’s not a super scientific way of figuring out gender, but is it accurate?  60% of the baby pool responses say no.

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While I’m at it, here’s a summary of the responses:

Birthdate:  Responses ranged from 8/3/13 (gasp!) to 9/1/13 (Insert Anne gasp here).  The most popular response was 8/20/13, two days late.

Baby weight:  Responses ranged from 6 lbs 7 oz to 9 lbs 8oz., submitted by Kerry.  Kerry, you obviously studied my baby pictures, but Anne thinks you’re a god damn motherfucking bitch right now.  Ryan’s response of >19 lbs is disqualified for public health and safety reasons.

Will Rob pass out?  More than 50% of responses say “no.”  Love you guys.

You all think that I will maintain a healthy weight at the time of birth.  Except for a few readers, who shall remain nameless.  Like Robert Harms, the prick who said I would weight 201.4 lbs at birth and that dickhead, Ryan, who thinks I’ll balloon up to 265.

To no one’s surprise, way more of you like Anne better than you like me.  Why don’t you follow her blog then?  Exactly.  Because she doesn’t have one.  If she did, I’d like it more than this one too.  Anne’s the best.

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And finally, here are some of the best responses to the “Please use this space to provide any well wishes or parenting advice.”

“I hope your kid has massive balls, but only if it’s a boy.”  – Guess who.

“You’ll be a great, overbearing and lovably obsessive father. Your child will grow up with numerous complexes created by you.”

“Don’t read a newspaper or write your blog whilst Anne is actually in labour.”  I’m just including this one because of whilst.  What a stupid word.

“Rob: Reminders: Good tempo, slow take away, head down, stay on plane and finish your swing. Wait, what was this about again? Good luck Anne!”  – Someone who gets me.

“I don’t have kids, but my cat is ‘kind of’ a kid. I guess my advice is, keep it off the back of the sofa and teach it where to poop as early as possible.”  – Weird cat lady.

“Your humor makes the work day bearable.” – Probably my “test” submission.

“Rob – Don’t be a jackass! Anne – You are awesome! ” – Anne’s dad.

“And just so you know, I like Anne better because something tells me she is tougher about this whole situation than you.”  – Typical reader of my blog.

” Rob, don’t be a douche.”

“This poor, poor (Lucky!) child.”

“if you do the exact opposite of my parents, I may be able to guar.an.tee your kid will be at least 14 before smoking pot”

Those were actually real responses, not like the edited responses I gave in all of the interview with a parent blogs.  It’s nothing compared to your pictures of how you think the baby will look:

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Anyway, here are the things that are really freaking me out right now:

1 – I haven’t figured out how to install the car seat, nor do I believe that it’s something that’s possible to figure out.
2 – I haven’t assembled the crib or any other furniture in the nursery.
3 – I don’t know how to change a diaper.
4 – I am a little behind on sleep and keep thinking I’ll catch up on the weekend, but then I remember 100 things I forgot to do last weekend.
5 – I want to play a few more rounds of golf, which I do every weekend when I”m supposed to be doing all that other stuff.
6 – I’m scared of the animalistic sounds anne might make in the hospital.  Special thanks to the reader that shared this terrifying video of what it’s going to be like:
7 – I’m scared of hospitals
8 – I dislike spit up tremendously
9 – I think the kid might look like me
10 – I think the kid might not look like me
11 – I think I might fuck up the spelling of the name, like the parents of baseball player jhonny peralta
12 – Anne and I moved into a new home and now I am obsessed with HGTV and I’m worried that Pinterest will be next.  What do you think of these drapes, by the way?
Modern interior. 3D render. Living-room. Exclusive design.

 

The Official Rob (and Anne) Complains About Things Baby Pool

Welcome to the first annual Rob (and Anne) Complains About Things (other than their baby) Baby Pool.

A drawing launching a baby pool for my blog

CLICK HERE to submit your entry to the baby pool.  It only takes a minute to enter, but by doing so, you will receive 15 seconds of entertainment.

If you like to read the “fine print” then the rest of this post is just for you!

The Rules are as follows:

  1. One entry per person (no purchase necessary).
  2. The winner will be the person who submits the best entry form.  Because the answers to some of the questions will not be finalized for many many years, this will be a somewhat arbitrary process.  In other words, the person who does the best on picking the gender/DOB/weight/height/Apgar score/Rob Pass out/name will win.  In the event of a tie, all prize money will be donated to charity (Baby’s college fund).
  3. People who have provided interviews to this blog about parenting are all already winners in my mind!  But if they do win the contest, their prizes will be as follows:
    1. If Andy wins, the prize will be one pair of Hank and Jojo socks.
    2. If Ryan wins, the prize will be a weekly guest spot on my blog.
    3. If Suburban Mom wins, the prize will be extra blog traffic for my blog.  She wins!
  4. Anne is not allowed to enter.  Not for any specific reason, but it would really crush my spirits if she did better than I did in this pool.
  5. These rules don’t matter because, as you’re about to see, the prizes are all really shitty.  If you still want to enter, here’s what you could win:  

First Prize:

  • Have the baby named after you (redeemable only if the winning entry has the same name as we were going to pick for the kid anyway).
  • A custom stick figure drawing.
  • An autographed photo of me passed out in the delivery room.  If I don’t pass out, an autographed photo of placenta.
  • A blog post all about you.
  • Three unused Rob Complains About Things Stamps (cash value $1.38)

Second Prize:

  • A slightly shittier custom stick figure drawing.
  • An autographed photo of me doing yoga.
  • A blog post all about someone else but mentioning you.
  • Two unused Rob Complains About Things Stamps (cash value $0.92)

Third Prize:

  • Yeah, right.  Like I’m going to give a prize to someone who couldn’t even make the top two.  You suck!
  • $3 cash
  • One unused Rob Complains About Things Stamp

Last Place:

  • You will be mocked relentlessly by me.  Unless I finish last, in which case the scores will be manipulated in such a way as to make it seem like someone else finished last.

Good luck to all participants.  I am ineligible for any prizes (except first or second prize), but I will submit an entry to crush you all with my inside information.

Thanks for participating.  Here’s the link again in case I f*cked up the one I posted at the beginning:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1d_cPSTVFTNRR4CijYDsD3nNlojriX6UL1oX-zXviuXU/viewform