Like many of you, my kids started school this week and, like many of you I’m sure, my first post-drop off bathroom break was marked by a long stare into the mirror wondering just how (when?) I became a (don’t say it out loud: a mid-thirties) Dad of a first grader and a fourth grader.
My thoughts on this realization vary. The sentimental: snapping another first day pic on the front steps of our porch and noticing how they’re once again wearing complementary clothes. The bittersweet: Gabriel not needing/wanting me to hug and kiss him goodbye with his peers watching. The amazed: God, they’re both still alive…and under my care no less.
It’s this amazement I look back on, now firmly believing that one need not be a Super Nanny or have plowed through all the What to Expect books to be a fair to middling parent. As proof, I could point to the evening when Gabriel was 15 months and helping me make meatballs. After rolling a couple of balls he proudly licked his fingers of residual raw pork. And there was the dinner of linguini di’mare I made one night before we watched a violent not-for-kids movie. I guessed that I must’ve skipped over the What to Expect chapter on toddlers and shellfish as I watched Gabriel’s face turn splotchy red and swell. That’s not even scratching the surface.
One of the things you notice traveling to, say, Latin America or even parts of Europe is how much we fuss and worry over our kids and how little parents in those parts of the world do. You notice how little, in fact, kids in those parts of the world cry. My kids don’t cry much and, thankfully, it has nothing to do with any herculean parenting on my part.
So, if the start of the school signals anything maybe it should signal that, no matter what the shows, articles, classes and books suggest, we don’t have to be perfect parents to raise kids that we, and maybe a few others, think are perfect.
With that in mind, here’s an article from Relevant on what one mother wishes she’d known when she first had kids.
When people ask my son Grayson’s age—one year—I tell them and quickly follow up with, “I kept him alive for a whole year!” This remark generally receives a polite smile, but the truth is, I’m serious. It is no small wonder to me that I kept this baby boy safe and healthy for an entire year—and what’s more is he seems to actually be happy. This is miraculous stuff in the book of a new mom.
When I think back to life a year ago, it is no surprise that this accomplishment seems so magnificent. I remember the day my husband and I left the hospital with our two-day-old son. We were utterly in love, terrified and exhausted, all in equal measure. The doctor signed her name on a few papers, watched us nervously snap Grayson into his carseat and sent us on our way like it was no big deal, like we actually had a clue what we were doing. She even had the audacity to joke and say, “We’ll see you soon for number two!”
Navigating the first few months of parenthood is not for the faint of heart. It is wonderful and awe-inspiring to behold the life you created and at the same time, endless sleepless nights and newborn cries are exhausting and frustrating in ways you could never anticipate. So, as I look back on this inaugural year of parenting, there are a few things I wish I could go back in time and tell myself, nuggets of truth to cling to as the chaos unfolded.
1) It’s OK to Cry.
A new baby is wonderful and terrifying: wonderfully terrifying. Life as you knew it has suddenly and drastically changed and regardless of how prepared you thought you were, you quickly realize you had no idea what you were getting into with this parenting gig. So, go ahead and cry—cry over how in love you are with this tiny life, cry over how much you miss when it was just you and your husband, cry over how tired you are, cry because there’s no butter in the fridge. Just cry. And most importantly, don’t apologize. The tears will dry up eventually, your hormones will subside and your sanity will return, but in the meantime crying is the best free therapy around so let the tears flow.
LONG BEFORE THE DAYS OF INFANT VIDEO AND BREATHING MONITORS, CARSEATS AND TEMPERATURE-REGULATED BABY BATHS, BABIES LIVED, SURVIVED AND EVEN THRIVED.
2) Babies are hard to break.
Newborns are impossibly small and vulnerable creatures, and the desire to protect them from all of life’s dangers can be all-consuming. Many a mother has spent sleepless nights mulling over potential dangers that can befall their new baby. Allow me to share with you an amazing truth: Babies are really hard to break. Vulnerable? Yes. Fragile? No.
Long before the days of infant video and breathing monitors, carseats and temperature-regulated baby baths, babies lived, survived and even thrived. Our current culture would have you believe that a baby is best kept in a plastic bubble where no harm can befall them, but the truth is babies are tough little cookies. So, try to let it go if the cat playfully paws at your little bundle, let nieces and nephews give hugs that are a bit too tight and take a deep breathe—the baby will be fine.
3) Google is not your friend.
I know this one is hard to believe. Google is your friend for so many other aspects of life. But when it comes to motherhood, the search engine of all things parenting on the World Wide Web is just not on your side. When Grayson was a newborn the internet convinced me I’d ruined any chance of successfully nursing because he took a pacifier, and when he was two months old, Google diagnosed him with Tourette Syndrome. I spent hours pouring over different philosophies on sleep training, introducing solid foods, and teething, only to come away more confused and agonized over what was best for my son.
The desire for advice and knowledge can be overwhelming as you navigate the new and choppy waters of parenthood but at a certain point, you have to learn to trust your gut. But the beauty of it is that 99% of the time, your maternal instinct is dead-on and trumps any bit of knowledge the web can throw at you. So, put down your computer, pick up your baby and let your instincts get to work.
Click here to read the rest.