Germ-enforced laziness led me to dig out some of my half-finished scrapbooking projects in the hope of getting some motivation to work on them. Mission: unsuccessful. (Sigh.) However, flipping through several years’ worth of pictures is bringing back a wave of nostalgia, particularly as I open up the Maiden’s baby book. “Once upon a time there lived a man and a woman. One day, they learned they were having a baby…”
Wow. Looking at those pregnancy pictures takes me back not just a few years, but a whole lifetime. It’s almost hard to relate to the 2005-era Man and myself. It’s like they are different people than the two exhausted parents who now crash immobile on the couch after begging, cajoling, and threatening the Maiden into bed at 9:30 p.m.
I wish I could speak to those two beaming parents-to-be. They are so– shiny. Sparkly. Non-tired. And adorable in their naivety. If only they knew what they were in for! If I could go back in time four years, what would I tell them?
Dear Parents-to-Be, circa fall 2005:
I see you there with that pregnancy test in your hand. In your eyes there’s a mix of pride, excitement, and sheer terror. You feel the same, and yet different, and you are: the course of your lives has been changed for eternity. You’ve just begun to dip your toes in the great ocean of parenthood, just beginning to take those first few steps in those unfamiliar waters. You will soon discover how you can fall in love with someone tinier than your fingernail, someone you’ve never seen. And that love will only grow. And so will you both: you will laugh and love with greater intensity than you’ve ever done before.
Your heart will swell with emotions. You will laugh and love, but you will also cry. Cry when you hear your daughter’s first wail as she’s held in the doctor’s arms in the delivery room. When you first put her to your breast. When she takes her firsts: smile, laugh, word, step. When she throws tantrums, and then hugs you. When she tells you you’re the best mommy and daddy in the world. When she tells you she hates you. When she weeps with joy after you return home from a brief shopping trip.
Time will become a mystery. Some days, you’ll look at your talkative, independent child, and shake your head and ask yourself where the time has gone. On other days, every minute til bedtime will feel like an eternity.
Everything you’ve ever believed about child-raising, every opinion you’ve formed and every parenting theory you’ve chosen, will be stood on its head. You say you’ll never be one of those parents who does this, or that. But you will. You will learn how to hold on, and at the same time, how to let go. And you will learn that parenting is organic; it grows with you and your child, always changing, always branching, always budding in new directions.
You will get advice from everyone. Some advice will annoy you. Some amuse you. Some scare you. You will learn to accept all advice with grace, and then proceed to do what you think is best.
Your relationships will be transformed. With each other. With your parents. Even with your friends. In fact, when you hang out with your friends, you will no longer discuss the latest movies, political issues, or decorating trends. Your conversations will revolve around sordid matters, like poop. I am serious. You will spend hours comparing notes on the size, quantity, color, consistency, and smell of your offsprings’ offerings. And you won’t have a clue how weird you sound, because to you, it is the most fascinating topic in the world.
And that is the amazement and wonder of it all. What will consume you in a few years is beyond your comprehension right now, when your thoughts are about nurseries, and pink or blue, and what was that twinge you felt just now?. How can I explain something that cannot be fathomed? How can I really describe the joy, awe, and pain that are parenting?
There really is no way to tell you. As the years turn, you will understand, a little more each day. We’re still learning now. Parenting isn’t an act, it’s a journey, one with no road map. Take each day as it comes, and let love be your guide. There will be joy and there will be pain, but each experience will etch itself into the labyrinthine maze of your hearts. In a few years, you’ll look back and realize how far you’ve come…and how far you still can go.
–Parents of a Preschooler, circa 2009