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OP/ED: It's best we never saw it coming

Christine
By Christine
May 11th, 2012

My friends and I were visiting over coffee not too long ago and, as usual, the topic of parenting came up. As we chatted and exchanged funny stories, the conversation shifted into our experiences of being pregnant with our first children. Not the morning sickness and physical stuff, but the emotional experience of preparing for motherhood. We talked about all of the dreams and goals that we had for our children, how we tried to ‘prepare’ ourselves, and of the very unrealistic expectations we had about raising children.

We all have children now ranging from ages two to 12 and we had lots of fun reminiscing about our pre-parent stage. The one thing we all had in common was the incredibly lofty ideas that we had about parenting. Now I wouldn’t say I am a ‘veteran parent’ by any means, but I do have two boys, ages four and seven, so I am slightly seasoned when it comes to the realities of parenthood.

One thing I can say for sure is that we first-time parents didn’t have a clue what was coming. Okay, perhaps I shouldn’t generalize; MOST of us didn’t have a clue. There are a small percentage of people who know what raising children will actually be like. But for the vast majority of us, you might as well have run us over with a steam engine.

 It takes me right back to when I was 22 and pregnant with my first son … I was so thrilled about this beautiful little life growing inside me and I had a very clear vision of what kind of parent I was going to be: what I was going to allow or not allow; how I was going to discipline; the mistakes that other parents make that I never would. (HA!)  Looking back, I can remember a few of the gems about which I was most adamant and would eagerly share with the other moms at pre-natal group:

·        I’ll never be the type of parent that says, “Because I said so.” I will always take the time to explain to my child why they can’t have or do something;

·         I’ll never  bribe or threaten my child to get them to do something;

·         I’ll never  give in to a tantrum just because I’m tired or overwhelmed;

·         I’ll never yell, and will, instead, remain calm;

·         And my personal favorite, I’ll never do or say those mean things that my parents did.

Now, perhaps there are a few of you  who have been able to check off everything listed above, but I failed miserably within the first two years. I was so unaware of what parenthood held in store for me. I had no idea how protective I would feel, how much love my heart could possibly hold, or how much there is to worry about.

I also had no idea that somewhere deep inside me is a cranky old hag who just wants sleep.

 I remember one lovely day, going into Safeway with my three-year-old and my newborn baby. I was exhausted, had spit-up on my shirt, and looked like I had just rolled out of bed. The baby was fussy, so I was hoping to be in and out quickly.

Yeah, right.

Immediately the three-year-old starts asking for stuff.  I reassure him that we will have a yummy snack as soon as we get home and that Mommy just needs to grab a few things. The baby is fussing louder now, so I am doing the bounce-and-shush technique while trying to grab my groceries.

Someone stops to coo at the baby and congratulate me on my little bundle when we hear a sudden “SPLAT!”.  I turn to see my oldest standing in a puddle of yogurt; he had decided to help me pick some out and dropped it.

Awesome.

I tell my son that we are not getting any yogurt today and hurry off to find a store clerk to tell them about the mess.

“BUT I WANT YOGUUUURT!”, my son screams as he throws himself to the floor.

I crouch down and explain that I know he is sad, but we will have yogurt later and if he is a REALLY GOOD BOY, I will buy him a treat at the checkout. The baby starts crying loudly, and I start sweating.

Okay, forget finding the clerk to tell them about the mess, the baby is hungry; I’ll just make a bee-line for the bread aisle. Bounce and shush, bounce and shush, baby still screaming, older kid whining.

I am fully flustered now, exhausted, and close to tears. I grab some bread.

“Mommy, can I have a cookie?”.

“NO!” I snap.

“WHYYYYY?????” my son whines.

“Because I said so, now hurry up or you can’t have your treat!”.

And cue the tantrum. We make it to the till, both children screaming, and the cashier starts scanning my groceries. My son, seeing the buffet of candy treats right at his eye level, starts getting louder. I quickly grab a bag of Skittles and rip it open and give him a couple to shut him up. I just need one of them to stop crying. We pay and make it out to the car, where I proceed to burst into tears.

Needless to say, the excursion was not quite what I had envisioned  four years earlier as I was approaching parenthood.

In those few moments, I had broken every single one of those no-nos I was so sure I would never commit. If I could have gone back in time and slapped my clueless self, I would have.

Now, I know that we all have moments like those, and luckily they are balanced with first smiles, sticky-fingered hugs, and all the other moments that we wouldn’t trade for anything. 

But again, I think that most new parents have no concept of the whirlwind  about to hit them, the good and the not-so-good. The love, pride, joy, frustration, and exhaustion that come with raising a child are feelings that you just cannot prepare for.  

And I will always find enjoyment in listening to an expectant parent plan out their future. I will smile and nod supportively while thinking to myself, “Honey, come and talk to me in four years!”

Categories: Op/Ed

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