A few weeks ago, the kids and I fell down the rabbit hole called nostalgia. We spent two whole evenings perusing all the digital photos we had amassed since Adam was born waaaaay back in 2002. It is a fun collection of random photos of all styles and quality but together was a great reminder of so much of those early parenting moments and it triggered a lot of memories.
I have pretty much enjoyed all the ages and stages of my parenting journey so far. I love being a mother and can’t imagine a life without my kids, however I do miss things like sleep, privacy and spontaneity. And as I watched all those soon to be moms wander about TJ’s registering for EVERYTHING they could, I started to think about which stages are tougher than others.
First…YOU DON’T NEED ALL THAT STUFF!
Seriously. You don’t. The Finnish put their babies in boxes and apparently they all turn out just fine. Just because the stores sell all that stuff, doesn’t mean you need it. The baby needs a place to sleep, a decent stroller, and a good car seat and an endless supply of diapers (cloth or other) and easily washable receiving blankets. I would also recommend a good baby carrier…we loved our Ergo.
Second….DON’T CONFUSE THE STUFF FOR PARENTING
Like a marriage is WAY more than a fun wedding, buying cute stuff does not make you prepared for parenting. In fact there isn’t much that can prepare you for parenting. No matter how you ‘get’ a child, the moment they put them in your arms, the reality sinks in. I remember looking at the doctors happily discharging me and Adam (cept he was just the baby for like a month as we blanked on a name) and thinking “Are they yanking my chain? They can’t seriously think I can take this thing home and like keep it alive!”
That first night was a long scary night of Patrick and myself staring at each other (and my mom) thinking “What the fuck did we do?”
And that is first time parenting. You basically have a crisis of personality – who are you? what is a parent? what am I doing? and god when will I sleep again!!!?? And during this mental crisis you have to remember to keep the baby alive. It can be a rough time. It can be a fun time. Babies are fun.
Lack of confidence, fear of failure and messed up expectations can make the early years tough and hence why our memories become so selective and our uteruses clench with joyous need when we spy a cute newborn who belongs to someone else.
I have discovered the cure for this.
It is called ‘tween.’
Third…WAIT TILL THEY CAN TALK BACK
You better bone up on your negotiation skills before you hit this stage. When governments sit down to write peace accords, just bring in a parent….BOOM issues solved. Don’t forget your multi-tasking and organization skills. Also don’t forget your psychic ability to find all lost things and as the hormones kick in be able to switch your approach to fend of thunderous over reactions before the charming middle schooler hulks out and rips out your throat.
We here have boys and girls. I haven’t noticed much difference in the ‘difficulty’ levels between the genders. They are – in my opinion – equally exhausting.
And remember all that stuff you thought you needed? Don’t start with it because it just grows and evolves with the kids. I am looking right now at socks on my couch, class Valentines and swim goggles on my coffee table, Lego on the dining table, a 6 yr old on an iPad and a 13 yr old on a computer while texting his friends on his smart phone at the same time. Oh and an empty laundry basket in my living room. Not sure about that one. That is just in my of sight. I dont’ want to talk about the rest. We had FOUR tween girls over after school today. It was loud and they take up a lot of space.
You know what is harder than making sure a baby is warm, fed and loved? Seeing your kids turn into people. Seeing them find their way through stumbles, falls and heart break as they figure out where they fit. There is only so much you can say and do to help them navigate this time. You want to hold them and keep them safe and let nothing hurt them physically or emotionally. Sometimes all you can do is stay silent and hope
that they know that no matter what, they can come back to you and you won’t judge…you will just be. You will just be a parent to them. Whatever that is….for a child of any age it is just someone who loves them unconditionally.
Fourth…IT NEVER ENDS
I am 46 and my mom has told ME that she never stops worrying or fussing or wanting to rush in and ‘help.’ Knowing that she is always there for me has been the cornerstone of my parental education. Being there for your kids is more important than stuff. We spoil our kids with a lot of stuff and because of that we sometimes have to deal with self-entitled little brats. BUT. The one thing we know we have done right is that they all know, no matter what, that we are here for them and we love them.
We have had our ups and downs and will continue to have our ups and downs. But it is a fantastic journey of self discovery. Parenting makes you strong.
Now pardon me, I have to go and do some home reading before bed.