I’ve been a mother for almost four and a half years now. So I’ve had some time to reflect on life, as I now know it; on parenting; and how perspectives can change in an instant, once you become responsible for another person’s life.
What I’ve realized, after a lot of commiserating with other new parents, is that we are all being challenged. Whether it’s trying to convince your child to start using the potty or to eat their vegetables, we are all simply doing our best…just trying to figure it all out. And, so far, this is what I’ve figured out:
1. Plan for your plans to be broken.
Be prepared. Or just don’t make any plans, ever…because kids get sick…and they get sick often. In many instances they’ll wait until you are all dressed up and ready for a night out to come down with a fever.
Aside from wrapping them up and keeping them home from school all week long prior to an upcoming event (something I’ve seriously contemplated), their dirty fingers will find a way into their eyes or into their mouths. There’s really nothing you can do, because in spite of the frequent hand washing, one day you’ll find yourself in a panic – 30 minutes before your scheduled Saturday afternoon birthday party, standing in front of a table covered with 40 cupcakes and food, that you got up to prepare at 4 o’clock in the morning – when you’ve just realized your child, the birthday boy, has pink eye.
2. A warm, cozy bed always beats standing in the cold to get into a bar…
…well, that’s what I tell myself, especially when my children are probably going to be waking me up at 6:30 in the morning. Gone are the days when my Saturday night would just be starting at 10:30 pm (and even that was too early to show up at a club). These days, I’m often settled in my warm bed and getting ready to watch the 11 o’clock news. It’s with mixed feelings, some nostalgia and some relief, when I see the local news stories showing images of people on the streets – perhaps a story about the annual Canadian National Exhibition or a story about Leafs’ fans partying in the streets after a long-awaited win.
3. Your child acts like the devil incarnate while awake and looks like a sweet angel while asleep.
It must be nature’s way of preventing parents from running away at night. All the anger and frustration your children may stir up in you, simply disappears when you see them sleeping peacefully.
“Our boys…they’re really sweet, aren’t they?” my husband says with a smile (30 minutes after the chaos, that is our usual bedtime routine – subsides). “Yeah, they’re sweet,” I say with a tired and irritated voice.
4. Speeches given by parents-of-the-bride and groom take on new meaning.
“It seems like just yesterday…” That’s how the speeches often start. When you heard these speeches before, you would clap and think, “Nice speech…the stories were kind of funny.”
Now, they’ve taken on new meaning. You realize that you are living the “yesterday” in the speech you will eventually tell and you start to cry…but, mostly because you will be old.
5. Your child’s first four years often feel like a race, one that you eventually wish they never finished.
You can’t wait until they start solids…until they walk…’till they speak…use the potty…read…We want them to grow up so fast. And, they do just that. Then you realize that you were so caught up in the rush of “growing” them, that you didn’t enjoy them just being….a baby. Enjoy the coos…just because they sound so sweet. And, not because you think she’s talking.
6. You realize that you may have given your mom a grey hair or two. But, you’ll never admit it.
You were fearless. Invincible! “Don’t worry, mom.” Those words were so easy to say, and really had no meaning. Now you know that as a parent, you just can’t stop worrying. Whether it’s your child’s first fever; first day of school; or first love, you worry. You
will even worry about what “could” happen. I call it “preemptive worrying”….you know, just in case.
“So let me get this straight,” my husband said. “You’re worried that “K” may play hockey and that he may get a concussion.” “K” is 2 years old. He doesn’t know how to skate.
7. Aside from the necessities of life, when you buy something for your child, you are really buying it for yourself.
I almost bought a children’s easel because it was on sale and because of course, my children wanted it. Ok, they didn’t ask for it. But – they paint and draw all the time!
“You don’t have to buy an easel, mama. We have too many toys,” said the weird kid in the back seat of my car. If only you knew my disappointment.
8. Ironing – it just ain’t happening.
When you’ve got young children, sometimes you’ve just gotta embrace the chaos. Life’s not going to be perfect, and your house will get messy. The dishes will not get done right away. There will be toys scattered all over the floor.
And, ironing the clothes just out of the dryer…well, that’s not gonna happen….that’s what closet doors are for.
If you are able to get the laundry washed, ironed, folded and/or hung in the closets, while still feeding your baby, cleaning up messes and everything else, then congratulations to you! Otherwise, here’s a tip for those of you who haven’t figured it out yet: hang up your wrinkled clothes and iron when needed.
9. Giving a mother unsolicited advice is like sticking your hand in a lion’s cage. Yes, it’s possible to get away unscathed, but we all know better, right?
It doesn’t matter how helpful you think you are being, never give a mother of young children, advice. If you do, you will be invariably attacking: a) her ability to be a mother; b) her intelligence; and c) her love for her child. Want some advice on this matter? Just ask my husband what he thinks…the scratches on his arms are almost gone.
10. Storage – the answer to all your problems!
(Warning: more unsolicited advice to follow) If you ever feel like you aren’t in control because your baby decides your sleep schedule; your baby has initiated a few food restrictions and doesn’t like the cheese you are eating; your baby has too many things and it’s too much work to go out; or, your baby doesn’t want you to take a long shower, take comfort in what you can control – your mess!
I have to admit, I’ve become a little obsessed with storage – baskets, buckets, cupboards and shelves – for all the toys, clothes, books and home supplies. Truthfully though, as I write this, my home is still quite messy because I’m in the middle of organizing a bunch of areas – the kitchen, the front coat closet…hmmm, should I get more containers?