Someone close to me is expecting twins. Having "finished" our family (and by that I mean my husband says no more, but no permanent measures have been taken), I enjoy talking to her about her pregnancy and listening to her plans, and reliving those months of wonder and anticipation. She is wise, and acknowledges that she will change her mind about what she needs and wants a dozen times. However, she still has no idea what she's in for. Do any of us? Ever?
Even now that I am a seasoned mom, I have no idea. In fact, sometimes I look at my 4 year old who talks (incessantly) and runs and climbs and uses the toilet and I wonder how the heck that happened. If I somehow give off the vibe that it is due to my parenting know-how and expertise, it's total crap. Here's what I have learned from years of parenting:
1) I was a way better parent before I had kids -- It's easy to be patient and creative and energetic and fun when you've had a full night sleep. It's easier when you know those kids are going home and you can recoup in your quiet house that stays tidy after you clean it. Don't judge. Because Karma will treat you to a full-blown temper tantrum in the store from your own child one day. Then you'll realize that maybe it has nothing to do with a lack of discipline at home and everything to do with the fact that the only time you could buy groceries for dinner was at 4 pm after picking up your hungry, tired toddler from daycare.
2) If they seem too good to be true, they are. Don't trust them! -- Recently, while home on Spring Break, we got sick. After a few days of patiently dealing with whiny, grumpy, snotty children, while hacking and sneezing myself, I was ready to throw in the towel. Then one afternoon while my youngest was napping, my oldest (the aforementioned 4 year old) turned his angelic gaze on me and said, "Mommy, I'm okay watching TV. You're not feeling well, why don't you have a nap?" Tears filled my eyes as I pondered this compassionate, loving child we'd raised. I laid down. Ten minutes later I heard our garage door open and shut. When I got up to check, he'd taken advantage of this moment to "borrow" his dad's fishing gear and take it to the front yard to fish with. They are evil geniuses, and will tell you what they know you want to hear. Seriously.
3) You will find yourself saying things you'd never dreamed you'd be saying. -- Most recently: "No, those aren't mosquito bites those are your nipples... I don't know why they're itchy."
4) You will stoop to new lows you never thought possible to avoid toddler meltdowns. -- My proud parenting moment? My son saw candy corn on the counter and wanted some. This was my reply: "Oh no, honey, that's not candy. It's soap. You can't eat it, you wash with it."
My husband's reply? "You're probably going to hell for that lie. You know that, right?"
5) You will stoop to new lows you never thought possible to prove a point. -- My husband watched "Deadliest Catch" without fail. My son got out of bed one night in time to see someone getting his arm stitched up by the skipper. "What happened?" he asked wide-eyed.
"He didn't listen to his mommy and got hurt." I replied.
"He didn't yisten to his mommy? He should've yistened to his mommy."
"Yes, he should've, because mommies keep you safe."
Point made. Lessoned learned.
6) You will become waaay more sensitive to things you didn't even think about before. -- Teenagers using bad language in front of your child. People walking by in the park, as their cigarette smoke wafts past your stroller. Someone telling you you have the cutest little girl, when your baby boy is dressed completely in blue and even has his little hair spiked. That Tim Horton's commercial when the dad secretly watches his son's hockey games. Country songs on the radio about kids growing up and aprents growing old. Diaper commercials with sleeping babies. Willow Tree figurines.
7) You will discover things about yourself you never knew. -- So many amazing things: You can operate on two hours sleep. You can keep your head and act effectively when your child is bleeding. You can clean up vomit without vomiting yourself. You can turn into a tigress to defend your cubs. You can make dinner, tidy up, nurse a baby and make a dental appointment all at the same time. You can handle cotton balls being spread from one end of your living room to the other when you look in your child's eyes and see their delight at "making snow for you." You can climb into a lukewarm, poopy tub to wash diarrhea off your screaming, sick toddler before you've even had your morning coffee. You may not think so, but you can and you will. Most importantly, you will do it without even thinking twice about it. You won't even be amazed at yourself afterwards. You should be, though, because you're awesome.
8) Lastly, and hopefully this goes without saying, you will discover new depths of love. -- Your joy blazes a little brighter in your little one's grin. Your day gets a little better with every hug. You can hear "I love you" a million times from that little mouth and love it just a bit more each time. You know every look, every inflection of their voice, and fall for them a little harder each day. No one's child is smarter, or funnier, or cuter. Every kiss good night is beautiful and a little sad, as it's one day closer to a day when home won't be their home anymore; when their room won't be just down the hall; and you won't be the one they run to when they're hurt. But hopefully...
Hopefully... you've taught them enough about love to be the one someone else runs to for comfort.
Hopefully... they'll find someone who sees what you see in them, and loves them as fiercely for it.
And then, maybe, one day they will discover that they were a way better parent before they had kids.
And if there's any justice in the world, they will find themselves in a living room full of "snow," wiping a snotty nose, while dinner is cooking, and the baby is crying, thinking of you and wondering how you did it.