By STEPHANIE PRICE
Ah, the memories. I was becoming a mother for the first time. So swollen with excitement, pride, a little fear and, probably, the effects of a few too many “I’m allowed — I’m pregnant” cinnamon rolls.
Seriously, I couldn’t wait to see my baby. I had everything ready. Oh, and I had everything figured out, too. I knew how the birth would go, what my son would look like and how he would act and — most importantly — how perfectly perfect my husband and I would be as parents.
When the birth was a 180 from what I expected, I should have gotten the clue. Alas, I bumbled on another couple of years — until about the time I became pregnant with my second baby — sure I knew how everything at least SHOULD be going and trying really hard to make it so.
Oh gracious. I did not have everything figured out. I had a lot of great theories, for sure, but that’s about it. One can PLAN to parent, but one doesn’t really parent until one PARENTS. When we talk about parenting issues in my childbirth classes, I tell people that parenting is at least half “winging it.”
(The other half, I’m sure, is developing tolerance for bodily fluids, but I often neglect to mention that to giddy young couples who will fawn over the first few poopy diapers.)
As a first-time parent, it is OK to not have it all figured out. In fact, I’d say it’s necessary to realize you DON’T know it all.
I have thought recently about what advice I would give — now, nine years and three more children later — to the me who thought she did know it all. New parents will take some of it, leave the rest, make their own mistakes and author their own advice for the old THEM one day.
Here it is in categories:
Wish I would have purchased: Easy, easy answer — a king-sized bed. Wish we’d bought one, though it likely would be touching three walls in our present, er, “cozy” bedroom. Even if you are not a mindful “co-sleeping” family, who can deny a snuggle with your littles is a pleasure on a rainy day? And if you ARE a mindful co-sleeping family, then the king-sized bed is just logic. You need more space. The smallest people in the house, by the way, take up the most room in bed.
Wish I would have done more of: Playing, just playing. My husband is good at this, and the “let’s-get-something-DONE” in me often hates it. “Play?! Who has time to play? We have things to DO.” Sigh. I guarantee you that is true: There are things to do. I guarantee you, too, your children will not remember the things that got done. They will remember, though, that you played “freeze tag” with them or giggled over a game of cards. Absolutely improv, I tried this one night last month. Just started dancing around the kitchen then spent the evening playing. Amazing how much fun everyone had and how great I felt, too.
Wish I would have done less of: Worrying. If you start thinking about all the awful things that COULD happen to your children, you are likely to end up with big brain troubles. It’s maddening. Worry, a wise man once told me, is just a delusion of control anyway. Sure, we can make smart decisions about safety and health, but we do not, ultimately, have control over what happens to our children.
My worry probably had me saying “No” more than I needed to. That’s at least true with the first one. By the fourth child, you’re fine with them having a picnic on the roof if they want to.
What I didn’t need: Most baby and toddler gear — swing, crib, walker, toddler potty, whatever. Honestly, I didn’t have much of that stuff anyway — one of my theories that proved right — and I did not miss it. I have to say I chuckle at special “swaddle” blankets or sippy cups or the “Pee Pee TeePee” — have you seen those? We just never needed any of it and found our regular, ’round-the-house stuff was more than sufficient.
What I did need: People with whom to fellowship. I cringe when I see new mothers, particularly, isolated at home with small ones. Parenting thrusts you into this new, strange world, and it’s a world that can be really scary if you’re navigating it alone. I needed people to encourage me, to correct me, to help share the load, and I had them. I do not buy the “village” raising my children idea, but it is true we need each other.
It is best, though, if the people you’re around can help you develop and trust your own parenting instincts. Sure, it’s necessary to seek and accept advice, but it’s more important to develop confidence in that innate ability to know what your children need. Guess you’d call people who can help you do that parenting doulas?
So super-duper-obvious cliché, I know, but your children will be grown before you know it. Last piece of advice: Do not waste one day.
Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, doula, midwife’s assistant and student nurse pursuing a minor in complementary health from Elkhart. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”