Certainty

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. 

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7 thoughts on “Certainty

  1. We all do our best parenting before we become parents, as they say. Nearly every preconceived notion about how I would parent has been thrown out the window for the way I DO parent. I worked as a nanny for many years and not even that prepared me for what was to come. Not really.

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    • It’s so true. I didn’t nanny, but did care for small children a lot pre-parenting (I was the person who was always ready to hold the baby, or provide stand-in childcare at the drop of a hat). These things helped me feel like I wasn’t going to *break* the babies when they were born, but nothing prepares you for being a 24 hour a day care giver for another human being, except being that care giver. There are a few things we’ve stuck with. We don’t spank. We don’t give them beer. We limit television, but really that’s more because the fights about television with Darwin are WAY WORSE than having a break from her talking to us constantly, not some idealistic thing we have stuck with 😀 Other than that, it’s amazing how we have learned to go with the flow of each kid!

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  2. Oh, it’s so very true, isn’t it? It’s almost as if we conceive of the concept of parenting and how it will go long before the reality of the new human life is thrust upon us at 3am under the fan in the bathroom. Even now, I find I still have to adjust my parenting from child to child, still (!), five babies in! The uniqueness of humans will never cease to amaze me.

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    • It is so good to hear that this is something that continues with every child. As we come closer to a decision about expanding or maintaining our current solar system, I keep reminding myself that what we have known to this point may be completely irrelevant to what could come next. Both terrifying and exhilarating!

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      • I’d say the structure is the same, the details are different. Like you said, same solar system, all orbit the sun, have same basic properties, but are wildly different individually. 😉 It’s quite the discovery, but it’s worth it.

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  3. So true. One thing I never foresaw was the element HEALTH plays. I was always SURE we would have happy, healthy strong kids who slept in their own beds, loved eating, crawled at 9 months, walked at 12, hahaha. Low and behold our serious reflux baby caused us to throw all of our principles out the window. She sleeps with us so that she can breastfeed as much as possible through the night. She eats meat (almost exclusively). She is TINY. Life has a way of sending what you least expect!!

    One thing I have to constantly remind myself is that everyone has a struggle. Nobody parents the way they anticipated and has a flawless, dream-like experience. Even with a kid without visible or tangible challenges, it can still feel like you’ve been derailed.

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    • Yes! Everyone has their own struggles, even if it appears that we’re on an even keel. Our minister once said something along those lines, and added that she’d be one to know, because the unique (or at least unusual) position a minister holds in a community allows them to be aware that *we are all struggling in some way*.

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