My oldest child is about to turn ten years old. And beyond the feeling that time is flying and the statements about how fast he is growing up, I’m marking the occasion to not only celebrate my son, but to celebrate myself. I’ve survived, rather I’m surviving, this thing called parenthood. I’m not the first to say it and won’t be the last, because many of us already know that parenthood really is the hardest job, with the greatest reward. So at a decade into this role, here’s what I know, the good, the bad and the ugly…
1. My child has sucked every last ounce of energy, humor, intelligence, and composure out of me at times (actually most of the time), but in return I have been filled up many times over with a love so strong, so fierce and so unconditional that nothing can compare to it.
2. I expect the unexpected. Always. Yet I’m still surprised every time. As a parent I know that I am always just one stomach virus away from a vacation being rescheduled, or one unlucky fall away from an ER visit derailing our day. And I also know that even with insurance, the price of an emergency room co-pay is about the same cost as that new pair of snow boots he just outgrew, or soccer registration fee.
3. The milestones in the books are amazing, but so are the ones that no one writes about. Nothing can compare to the moment when I first saw my child’s face, but a close second might be the moment when a few years later that child spontaneously told me that he loves me. And when I felt butterflies in my stomach as I watched him ride a two-wheeler for the first time, or saw his first real report card, those were big moments too! Its all so wonderful, and it all just keeps coming.
4. The three hours between 4:00 and 7:00 pm feel longer than the ten hours it takes to fly across the ocean…sitting in the middle seat of the back row of a plane…right next to the restrooms….and with the seat in front of me reclined onto my lap. And here’s the kicker, sometimes (ok, often times) I’d rather be on that plane!
5. Speaking of which, I now know what an amazing sense of imagination I have. Not only am I able to play doll babies, trains and construction with the best of them, but during that particular 4:00 to 7:00 timeframe I can imagine myself in the most exotic of locations. In fact, I’ve even looked up flights on the internet and made real calls to the 1-800 number on the direct mail piece and had conversations with actual travels agents! I’ve heard all about the heated pools and massage packages for a completely fictitious trip that I have no intention of taking…and all while my child hangs on my leg begging for another cracker!
6. Modesty has been redefined. As if the process of pregnancy and child birth didn’t do it, then certainly the experience of trying to take a shower or use the restroom with a toddler in the house did. Having my preschooler see me pump breast milk for his little sister and then remark on which side is “winning in the milk race” was humbling! As was having my child ask if those were Mommy’s diapers when she found a stash of maxi-pads. Phoning my husband at work and begging him to come home because I was pregnant and constipated and just needed some time in the bathroom without a toddler was a proud moment. Oh, and there was the time I was pregnant and had morning sickness on myself…while driving….while my two horrified children shot me bewildered looks from the backseat of the mini-van. Ok, its time to wrap the modesty topic up before I gross you out any more. But I know that you know just how many more stories there are to tell on this topic.
7. There are few things more luxurious than a trip to Costco alone. Are you kidding me? Its a land where things are well-organized and neatly-stacked. The only thing better is being forced to lay down in a soft dentist chair while you get a cavity filled because no one asks you to get up and fetch them a glass of water and you don’t even have to talk to anyone.
8. Sometimes my voice makes a sound at a particular pitch that I didn’t know was possible before having kids. And when I say certain phrases, I sound an awfully lot like my mother. Recognizing this makes me both cringe, and feel tremendous appreciation at the same time.
9. My children are their own unique people. As much as I like to control things around here, everything happens on its own time, from when and how they were conceived to when and how they learned to read. I’m not completely in charge, and neither are they. There are no followers, and no leaders. I can guide, nurture, and coach and they can decide, control and take action. But then we all need to step back and be proud of the unique path where they each land.
10. At about 10:00 every night I start to miss them and peak in and if they are sleeping soundly, all of the frustrations of the day slip away. As I’m filled up with an amazing gratitude, I process all that my children have taught me. And I realize that a decade in, my children are raising me just as much as I’m raising them.
And we all still have a lot to learn.