In the last nearly eight years, I’d like to think I’ve learned a bit about parenting – and about myself in the process. I thought I’d share just a few of the things I’ve discovered along the way…
All that STUFF you thought you needed (or, that everyone ELSE thought you needed) for your baby? You didn’t need it. All babies really need is milk and love. The rest is just gravy (Um, vegetarian gravy, of course. Duh.). That said, all that stuff DOES make for a darned good yard sale down the line.
Patience is a virtue. It’s also incredibly hard to come by at times. You need to keep practicing it – ALL. THE. TIME. And you need to have ways to access it 24/7 - because neither kids’ feet nor their mouths stop moving until they are asleep (and even then, it’s not a guarantee), and they expect – and DESERVE – peaceful, creative responses and guidance to their (endless) questions and boundary pushing. On the upside, I’ve found my greatly developed sense of patience has extended into my relationships OUTSIDE of parenting. Win – win.
Parenting doesn’t “get easier” as time goes by, like everyone tries to tell you when you have a new baby. Yes, baby eventually stops waking you at night (easier), but then starts getting up by himself, and learns how to unlock the gate to downstairs – silently (not easier). Toddler stop wearing diapers (easier), and then wants to use Every. Single. Public. Toilet. Everywhere. (not easier) Preschooler, who used to be okay with “simple explanations” for where babies come from – like, “Mommies have eggs & Daddies fertilize the eggs, and Mommies’ eggs grow into babies in their wombs” (easier) – now, as a 2nd grader, would like to know: “okay, but HOW EXACTLY do Daddies fertilize the eggs???” (Um… NOT. EASIER.) It gets more complex, and more challenging as it goes along. And, continuing with potty training for a moment...
Potty learning isn’t an instantaneous process, no matter what the books tell you. The diapers don’t suddenly get put away, and middle-of-the-night sheet changes become a distant memory; even if you used elimination communication or your kid “got it” right away. No matter what the process, it’s a long process, and you WILL hear “Mom! Can you wipe me!?!” echoing through your rooms for quite some time after the last diaper is gone. Just… don’t put the wipes away just yet.
You are always “on”, AND it isn’t all about you. This may be the biggest change that came with parenting: realizing that life isn’t just about me anymore, or even about me and my partner (who can take care of himself). When you’re a parent, another person suddenly arrives, completely, entirely, dependent on you – for sustenance, shelter, clothing, guidance, education, discipline, entertainment, love. And when they need you, they NEED you – like NOW. When you’re sick, you’re on. When you’re tired, you’re on. When you’ve worked a whole day at the office and would love to just come home and put your feet up, you’re on. And every decision from here on out NO LONGER just involves what you (or your partner) would like to do or need – there is always another person to consider. Which, by the way is NOTHING like owning a pet (those people who tell you having a pet is good preparation for a baby? I can’t remember the last time I had to sleep sitting up with a sick cat in my lap who has thrown up every half hour through the night and gone through every single piece of clean linen – towels, sheets, dishcloths – in the house, only to finally fall asleep and wake up with the next cat sick with the same thing, followed by being sick yourself… yeah. Pets aren’t kids.). You’re on and never off, never ever, not for the next 20 years or so (at which point, I’m told, you’re still not off – you’re just in pause mode – waiting for the phone to ring).
People will judge you. And you will judge yourself. In the store, on the internet, in books, in magazines, your friends, your family, doctors, strangers – everyone. Everyone will have a say, an opinion, and often, a criticism. So you have to learn to take everything you hear with a grain of salt, but mostly, TRUST YOURSELF - because YOU are your child’s best advocate; you know your own child – and your own family – BEST.
Parenting gets more fun as it goes on. Yes, this may seem to contradict what I just said about not getting easier; but it’s not. It’s just… the prize that comes with a greater challenge. As the conversations with older kids become more challenging, they also become more interesting! You don’t have to read The Hungry Caterpillar forty times anymore, you can actually read Harry Potter together – and you ALL enjoy it! You get to share and relive the movies of your childhood – Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, The Dark Crystal, E.T., with your kids. You don’t have to haul the stroller around anymore – they can WALK… AND they LIKE it! In fact, you can start back up doing the things you may have put to the side when they were born – hiking, painting, gardening – and they participate WITH you. It’s amazing fun to share your passions with your kids when they can really get into it! And, my personal favorite fun-boost that has come with age? TRAVEL! It is SO. MUCH. FUN. Travelling and exploring with kids who are old enough to appreciate and understand where they’re going, what they’re looking at, and who don’t need to nap any longer (and who can carry their own backpacks – WIN!), is like the pinnacle of parenting. I LOVE travelling with our kids & know it will only get better and better with age!
(Travelling with our kids - now, doesn't that look FUN!)
Love is endless. You have boundless love for your children. It comes from somewhere so deep and bottomless, that it keeps flowing, multiplying, and surrounding all of your children – no matter how many you have. No matter how many crumbs you clean out of your keyboard, no matter how much pee on the bed or juice on the carpet you have to clean. You will love and love. It’s one of the most amazing things to me – when I feel like I’m at the bottom of my barrel – my patience low, I’m underslept, out of energy, uncreative, children bickering on and off all day, and I haven’t had a moment to myself… somewhere, the warmth of love comes over me when I look at the curl across my son’s forehead or hear my daughter reading a book to us. I can forgive myself and them – love keeps us going, builds us up, brings us closer together. Above everything, the ability to love deeply and without condition is probably the best and most lasting thing I’ve learned as a parent. All you need is love, and with kids – they take it and give it willingly. It’s amazing.
So… what have YOU learned as a parent?