Two years ago, every single cliche came to life the moment I laid eyes on my son. Or perhaps it was a few moments after that initial instant. Much like a new ship is christened with champagne, this new mom was sprayed with another yellow liquid.
Growing up, I never once fantasized about my wedding. I also never dreamed of starting my own family. It isn’t that I didn’t want those things. It’s just that I was too busy daydreaming in other ways.
When my husband and I decided to grow our family (finally, my mother would want me to use the word finally here), it wasn’t anything like I imagined. I hated being pregnant. I made myself miserable stressing about money. We finally did figure out how to fund an unpaid leave, but it really took some financial creativity.
I might have hated most seconds of my pregnancy, but the utter opposite is how I feel about parenthood. I’m exhausted, I’m impatient, and I’m overjoyed to have spent the past two years on this labor of love.
For everything I hope to teach my son, I know he’s teaching me so much more. Here are some of the very favorite lessons I’ve learned since becoming a mom two years ago:
1. It’s Never Really About Money
Raising a child is certainly about money. It does cost money. But when the Internet quibbles about the true costs, cutting costs, and overlooked costs, I can’t help but realize this: what we’re really talking about time.
If I had to tell my son anything, it would be this:
I will never have enough time with you, sweet boy. In the absence of unlimited time, the next best thing is making the most of our limited time together. Sometimes that means spending, a lot of times that means saving. But when you hear me talk about money, it sounds like dollars and cents. What it really translates to is more time with you.
2. I’ve Forgotten So Much
The other day, my baby spent an entire evening belly-laughing over the word “noodles”. It wasn’t that he’d never heard the word before, but something about it struck him as comedic gold. I would say it, he would fall over laughing. My husband would shout it out, and HP would laugh some more. Finally, HP would try to pronounce the word, and he would just ball up on the ground shuddering.
I forgot how to laugh that hard over nothing.
I forgot that words can be funny.
I’ve forgotten so many things that my son reminds me of. Things like:
- I actually hated sleepovers growing up because I need my sleep. (Here’s to you chai lattes.)
- Underdogs on the swings feel like sheer magic.
- When my dad throws a ball skyway, it feels like it’ll never come down.
- Kisses really do make pain subside.
- Imagination needs room to grow.
- Books are incredible, and sometimes you have to make up the words.
- Car rides can actually be adventures.
- Asking questions is more fun than getting answers.
3. The Thanks Come…Eventually
“No, Mama. No” is my son’s favorite phrase right now. For someone who didn’t talk for just shy of two years, he’s learned things remarkably quickly. The other night, he looked me dead in the eye and said, “Go away, Mama.” It was punctuated with a little shove. He flopped down next to husband, and I retreated.
It was heartbreaking. Of course, he didn’t mean anything by it. Or maybe he did. Maybe he really did just want time with his daddy.
That was just one moment in a sea of many. There are temper tantrums, there are mean words, and there are mid-street meltdowns that hurt. That feel so utterly ungrateful. That just don’t make sense.
He’s so generous with his bold proclamations of “ANK YOU!” in supermarkets, at play places, and out in the world adventuring. Sometimes, it’s hard not to be jealous of that gratitude.
But then there are moments of thanks. Learn to spot them, and you see them more and more. The mornings when he squeezes my fingers tight, the nights when he nestles in my arm, jabbing his nail underneath my thumbnail. The times when he jumps into my arms and presses a slobbery mouth to my chin or cheek or even eye.
In those moments, I wonder if he’s part puppy, but I never question how much he loves me.
4. I Don’t Have to Do It Alone
There’s nothing about parenting that I do on my own.
A lot of times, especially when my husband was coaching after work every day, I felt like I was entirely deserted. I worked all day and had HP all evening and night.
It was fun, but it was also trying. Halfway home from the park, he’d stall out walking and insist to be carried, leaving me to kick and shove his stroller while holding him in my arms as best as I could. Or the time when he simply refused to get up from the grass, and I scooped him up along with a handful of dog poo. Then, there were the times when he was absolutely inconsolable and angry and out-of-sorts no matter how I cajoled, cooed, or out-and-out bribed him.
Every single day for the first 18 months of his life from 4 to 5 p.m. like clockwork.
Or black magic.
I felt alone, but I actually had two of the most important things: I had my son, and I had our village. Not only have friends and family been incredibly kind and willing to lend a hand, a heart, or an ear. But this entire online community I’ve surrounded myself with has been so supportive, so patient, and so brutally honest–especially when a half dozen or so of us all had babies around the same time.
Every time, I feel like I’m going it alone, I remember I’m not.
5. I Could Never Quit
Parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There are days and weeks where I’m absolutely convinced that I’ve failed. They say not to take work personally, but when you’re a mom, that advice feels almost insulting.
Of course, it’s personal.
I made this human. He played the bongos on my bladder for months. The maternal infant microbiome is equal parts beautiful and disgusting. He is me.
So, yeah, it’s personal.
But whenever I get discouraged, I’m reminded of two things: I can’t quit, and I’d never want to. Parenting doesn’t come with a job description because it’s indescribable. The hours are long, the days are short, the pay is terrible. There are mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological challenges that you can’t even fathom, especially if you haven’t ever had to convince a toddler to please, please, please, please set down the glass jar s l o w l y as he darts down the grocery store aisle.
It is the hardest job that I’ll ever have, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.