When I was pregnant with my first child, my bible was the “What You Can Expect” books. I learned all sorts of tricks and tips on what to expect at my daughter’s first doctor’s appointment, when I could start introducing solids, and how to babyproof my home. No one feels like an expert when they bring a newborn home, but I’d done a lot of reading to prepare for this new chapter of parenthood, so I figured I was as ready as I’d ever be.

Yeah. There’s no such thing.

Those parenting books offer a lot of great advice. But there are a few lessons they skipped when it comes to preparing parents for the next 18-plus years of parenthood. Don’t worry, though, I’m here to fill you in.

Before you have kids, here are ten things you can do to prepare:

1. There’s nothing like that precious newborn baby smell. But why wait for baby? Start by soaking your favorite shirt in a gallon of milk, and then drying it in the dryer. Now wear it for the next week without showering. I’m telling you, they should bottle this scent.

2. To get ready for nighttime in those first few months (or years), my suggestion is to lock your cat in your bathroom with your neighbor’s bully cat right before bedtime, and then fall asleep to the melodious sounds.

3. Make a list of all your favorite meals you’ve ever eaten. Then write down all the ways you can recreate those meals into kid-friendly gourmet meals. Then cross all those meals out and write down “Macaroni & Cheese.” That will be your food for the next 12 years.

4. Will your child play sports? Spend a Saturday at a soccer field shouting “Get the ball” in between eating chilled orange slices.

5. If you’re planning on putting your kids in music lessons and considering which instrument they’ll play, think about how that instrument will sound playing “Three Blind Mice.” On repeat. For three hours. Choose accordingly.

6. Prepare for your child’s first flu. First, set a few pillows and blankets on the couch and make a cozy bed. Then play a soothing cartoon on the television. Keep a pot next to the couch in case of emergency. Next, open the bathroom door and toilet for easy access, and make sure nothing is in the path between your child and the commode. Then, make a smoothie using all the leftovers in your fridge. Finally, practice shouting “NO NO NO NO!” while running through the house, pouring the smoothie on the couch, carpet, and walls. Make sure none of it lands in the pot by the couch or in the toilet.

7. When decorating your child’s room, it’s important to think about how they’ll grow into it. Pink wallpaper with giraffes may be cute for a baby, but your child will grow out of it fast. I suggest piling dirty laundry and random school papers on the floor, a style most kids seem to appreciate.

8. Practice saying odd things like, “Back up so I can wipe myself,” or “Stop licking the window,” or “Get that out of your nose” or “I’m not talking to you until you’re wearing underwear.”

9. Prepare for your child’s curious years by teaching your partner something new. Have your partner ask “Why?” every ten seconds.

10. Prepare for your child’s teenage years by teaching your cat something new. Watch as it ignores you.

What are some of the surprising things you’ve encountered in parenthood? Share them in the comments

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Crissi Langwell is a Petaluma local, blended family mom to three young adults, and author of books with genres that include romance, women’s fiction, young adult, and magical realism. Visit Crissi’s author website at crissilangwell.com.

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