In which I reflect on life as a parent-to-be.
There are some things, I can say with certainty, that you cannot know until you are a parent. This is a certainty that I don’t share very often, because a) it can come off as arrogant, and b) since you can’t know them until you become a parent, telling people is useless at best. These are not things like the overwhelming enormity of loving my children. This is the only place that I have felt that emotion, but I would never claim that others could not have that experience in other ways. No. The experiences I’m getting at are the basis of the destruction of all the little assumptions we make about how we will parent our children. The premise is that we are the only side of the equation. This (and I’ve only ever seen it learned through parenting) is a false premise. The truth is, our kid’s temperament, personality, and health shape how we parent as much as our own temperaments, personalities, health and baggage.
Many parents-to-be get that this is true, at least on a basic level, but I’ve never seen anyone who really understood it until they had a kid. I remember thinking it’ll be fine, I’ll be flexible! I had no idea how flexible I would be, how hard it would be, and how effortlessly I would be able to reexamine the essentials and adapt. I didn’t know how essential it would be to have a community of new parents to share those experiences with, both to give me permission to let the baby cry for five minutes while I ate a tub of ice cream, and to support in their need to drink a glass of wine on the kitchen floor.
I recently read a social media post from a friend about bedtimes. She’s pregnant with her first and has provided significant help raising a child. The take-home was that the way the older child was raised resulted in a child who has never fought bedtime. I mulled a response for a long time. Some kids are just easier with sleep, don’t expect yours to be! Or some variant thereof. Then I started thinking about it. She’s got a good heart. She’s got a good brain. She will figure out what works for her and her baby and what doesn’t. And if she comes looking for support and commiseration that her baby just won’t sleep unless she’s on my chest with one hand under her butt and the other on her ear while I’m standing in the bathroom under the fan? I’ll be here to listen and nod. And maybe take her a chocolate cake.