We live in a world that glorifies parenthood. Nearly every commercial on television or in magazines – seems to show cute little babies with perfectly happy and content moms and dads who seem to be living ‘the dream.’ For many people having a family, is the fundamental goal in their life – and they dream about the life they will have when the pitter-patter of little feet hit the hardwood floors in your perfect house surrounded by the stark white picket fence. In other words, the fairy tale of parenthood is sold. For one thing, if people knew the truth – fewer folks would choose to alter their lives so dramatically by having children. And secondly, procreation is in our DNA.
That being said, there are a millions of unexpected ways in which raising children will change your life. Some obvious. Some incredibly bountiful. Some exceeding your expectations. And others, well – not so much! All those years of watching your nieces or nephews or baby-sitting, or changing your friends newborn diaper, or taking your young cousins to the park – WILL NEVER PREPARE YOU for the realities of parenthood. Even if you baby sit kids for a week, spend your teen years working at a youth camp, or have a host of younger siblings – the realities of parenthood will not hit you until you actually become one. And there is not a book, or a video, or a sitcom, or a movie, or a television show, or even a shred of advice from other people that can prepare you for how you feel during the following moments.
The first time your child runs a fever, you will learn the real meaning behind worry. If your child gets sick for any length of time – you will understand why Xanax was invented. All these years the common cold, or the occasional virus seemed to come and go and you thought, “No big deal!” And now suddenly you have a child in your home who is sick and you are pacing the halls night and day, feeling completely powerless to do anything about it.
In fact, becoming a parent makes you realize just how LITTLE control you actually have.
Let someone else hurt your child’s feelings, and you will understand why so many parents get in trouble for jumping fences at the ballpark to yell at an umpire, or relationships between family members and friends can quickly become extinct when a child is involved. There is no pain in the world, like the pain you will feel when your child is emotionally hurt.
See your child hit their first homerun at a baseball game, or score a touchdown, or get an award at school, or dance on stage at his or her first recital – and be prepared to feel such an overwhelming feeling of pride, that you will be brought to tears. We, as adults, spend our later youth and early adult years trying to build our own successes. And while we relish in them for a while – it doesn’t compare to how it feels to see your kid succeed.
Think you’re tired before kids? Just wait until the kids actually come. Not only do they dictate your sleep schedule – but they also will wear you out and exhaust you during their waking hours with their constant needs. The older they get, the more talking, whining, crying, fighting, bickering and noise they make – which makes peaceful moments only available between the hours of 2am and 4am, when the little beasts are actually sleeping. Of course, few parents can stay awake during those hours because they are so darn tired. Parenthood makes you realize just how little sleep you can get and still survive (notice I didn’t say thrive).
Remember all those things you used to say that started with the infamous words, “When I have kids, I will NEVER….?” Well, prepare to eat crow. And lots of it. You will be surprised what you will do when your child throws a tantrum in the Wal-Mart aisle, or spits in your face, or pinches their baby sister, or won’t go to sleep in their own bed. All those preconceived notions of how to parent – will be thrown out the window by the time your child is 2.
As adults, there are plenty of people that we cannot stand. In fact, there might be a laundry list of people that you don’t like at all. Well, be prepared to add your own children to that list. The problem is – you will always love them more than you hate them, which gives them the constant upper hand in the relationship. And sadly, there is not a damn thing you can do about it. No matter how awful your child is – you forgave them the moment they were born. There wont be another person on the face of the earth who will push your buttons and drive you to the brink of insanity – that you will actually choose to love, forgive, and hug in the aftermath.
Becoming a parent teaches you about patience. Don’t believe it? Try working a puzzle with a hard headed 4 year old who won’t let you help him or her, after working on it for 2 hours, when it’s so obvious to you where the last two pieces go. Or spend an hour building a block tower with a child, only to have them barrel it down with a bouncy ball the moment you put the last block on top. Or, spend hundreds of dollars making your child’s room nice – only to walk in and see sharpie marker stick figures drawn on the wall. Or, reach that age when your normally agreeable child becomes incredibly disagreeable. With everything. Yea, patience. You will get lots of practice in patience once you become a parent.
Remember that break-up in high school when your heart was blown to smithereens. Just wait until your child walks into school on the first day without you, or leaves for college. While bittersweet, you will know what a heartbreak really is; because so much of your heart is actually connected to that little human, you call your child. And as they naturally gravitate away, they take a part of you with them.
Last but certainly not least! All those years you thought you knew love. Thought you felt love. Thought you loved your spouse, your family, your dog. Nothing, and there is honestly NOTHING that compares to the all-encompassing feeling of love that you feel the minute you see your child, or hear them cry, or watch them smile for the first time. Nothing. It is in this moment, you realize just how vulnerable parenthood has made you!