Signs of the Times

Having a kid changes your outlook on the future.

Having a kid changes your outlook on the future.

By Susan Anspach  •  Illustration by Matt Mignanelli

Illustration by Matt Mignanelli.

This time last year, I wrote a “City Sprawl” column with fake horoscopes for everyone for the year ahead, and I remember I thought that was cute. There was one in there about someone losing his dog, another about someone chancing upon what he thought was a stray and taking it in as his own. Ever breezy, last year, and self-assured, I was brim-packed with top-notch, tongue-in-cheek witticisms like that.

Yes, well. The joke is on me. What actually happened this last year is that I had a baby—not so much a surprise, unto itself. What I couldn’t see coming were the daily heaps of humble pie I’ve had force-fed to me every day since. Midnight feeding, slice of pie. Urine-drenched crib sheet, slice of pie. Sobbing fits at the pediatrician’s (mine, not his), slice of pie. (The only people not surprised to hear this are other parents, those silent angels among us; God bless every one.) Here’s how deluded I was about what I had coming: I told an employer I would need a week off of work, and that I hated to have to cut out at all, but alas, my hospital didn’t have a WiFi connection.

Eight weeks later, what was cute to me last year isn’t cute to me now. That’s terrible, joking that someone would lose his dog. My hope for 2014 is we all find kinship in our own dogs, should we have them, and rejoice in the dogs of others. Would that you see a dog and the dog not purge half-digested breast milk onto your collarbone and your hair; would that be your relationship with dogkind, on the whole.

Dogs aren’t the point. Being cute’s not the point. Horoscopes aren’t the point because I can’t tell the future, by and large; no one can. I can hope for it, though. Where I am now—at the mercy of an at-times vicious-tempered 2-month-old—I don’t have wisdom, or foresight. I’m bone-dry on all manner of wit. I have hope—for the temper, the crib sheets, for the employer whose restraint in not having laughed me out of her office is nothing short of a marvel.

Here’s to your next year. Here’s to your dog’s year. I wish you both only pies that are fruit filled and literal.

Sleep an uninterrupted three hours tonight, Aries, and may no hunger cries stir you. Stitch together the 20-minute scraps as they come, but rejoice in the three. The three are the trifecta upon which tomorrow’s work is to be done, and if that work is to include swaddling and an unironic dependence on a product whose official name, by copyright, is the Pee-Pee Teepee, you’re going to need it.

May the lunar tides quicken your laundry cycles, brave bull. May they strengthen them to remove the most stubborn of stains, the sketchy yellow ones that have been festering on the bottom of your hamper the last six weeks. Should you be an apartment-dwelling hoofed animal, my hope is for your own in-unit washing and drying appliances—at the very least, a clean Laundromat open 24 hours.

My wish for you, Gemini, is you spend no time concerned whether your loved ones have regained their birth weights. Maybe your loved one is a 10-day-old newborn. Maybe he’s a 45-year-old man. Both of them should probably weigh more than 6-and-a-half pounds.

Where do you want to be today, Cancer? It’s OK if it’s the peak of Machu Picchu. Your local drugstore is fine, too. I hope that you get there, but if you don’t, that’s all right. If you don’t make it any further than your couch in your underwear, that’s one trip to the couch in your underwear you hadn’t made before. When strapped to a small human who spends most waking hours trying to put your face in his mouth, small goals are still goals. Celebrate them.

Time’s precious, Leo. Don’t squander it waging Maternity Wars. Accept the good that comes from breastfeeding and formula; vaccines and the decision, if it’s yours, not to vaccinate. Embrace Jupiter, planet of abundance, as your brush off the mommy blogs and alluded judgments therein. Shun every parent of the opinion that her Facebook account makes her an expert.

Banish the term colic from your mind. Never fear it; never read Internet articles of its horrors. Once you know it, you can never unknow it, or live outside the scope of its dread. Go a full year without considering it once. If you do nothing else in 2014, you can count that time a success.

Exercise generosity this year, and enjoy it in return. Except when it comes to your bed. Your bed is all yours, and you’re to guard it tooth and nail, against everyone—infants, dogkind, your own self in a moment of weakness for infants or dogkind. I’m not messing around. Everyone back off the bed.

No matter how many times you swore it wouldn’t, feel no shame when the baby talk passes your lips. You can read him The New Yorker in Spanish tomorrow, if today’s subject matter firmly resists deviation from a vocabulary dripping with binkies and babas.

The 21st century has tarnished the human connection. Get to know your neighbors this year. Get to know them at night. Maybe one of them works the graveyard shift; maybe one has a street-facing computer and sheer curtains. You’d be surprised by the things you can learn pacing your block with a stroller at four o’clock in the morning in an effort to get your infant to sleep.
Enjoy dreams unpopulated by Loraxes singing rounds of nursery rhymes. If an elephant with exceptional audio sensitivity appears to you, speaking only in verse, run for it in the direction of the nearest tall dream building. If there’s the option to throw yourself from its roof, now is the time to take that leap.

Your planet’s rising, Aquarius, on the kids section in restaurants. Having spurned it before, you seek this place now. You know its hardships (suspect booster-seat hygiene) and its triumphs (complimentary crayons, kids-eat-free days of the week). Know the people here to be your friends. Catch their eyes, and find sympathy there. Do what you can to spare the carpet, and tip generously.

Take the feedings, the crib sheets, the fits as they come—because this is one place I can tell the future: If an infant’s in your stars, they, too, are coming. So are the binkies, the babas, and the Loraxes, who laugh in the face of your advanced English degree. This is your new learning curve: The 4 a.m. strolls. The yellow stains that won’t budge for detergent or bleach. The days you really don’t make it past the couch in your underwear. Take comfort in knowing I’ve had days I don’t either, and here’s what the future holds: We’ll both have them again. But we’ll also both have days we’re not wearing drool on our collars. Mornings we wake up to find the crib bedding dry. We will have nights when we both sleep again—and when, in our dreams, if we take careful aim, we can squash a few singsonging elephants on our way down.

@CitySprawlNVMag pokes around sometimes on Twitter, and promises never to post any baby pics there.

(December 2013)