“I’m your Venus, I’m your fire. At your desire…”
I was singing “Venus” by Bananarama at the top of my lungs in the car (don’t judge—you know you do it too) when my son piped up from the backseat.
“Why are you singing a song about penises?”
I stopped singing.
“‘I’m your penis, I’m your fire. At your desire,’ is that what the song is saying, Mommy? Because that does not seem appropriate.”
Children: They wreak havoc on our lives, turning what used to be normal upside down and shaking it with their grimy little hands. Sometimes it feels like they are literally trying to kill us—or at the very least, commit us—and then they make up for all of it at once by saying or doing something absolutely unexpected.
Motherhood is chock-full of the unexpected. I now tell my friends who are new mothers to throw out every baby book they acquired during pregnancy. Burn them. They are of no use to you now. There is no way to know what to expect, because children, and people in general, are full of surprises.
There is simply no way to prepare.
The first time I gave birth, someone handed me a baby. It took a while for it to sink in that he was mine. I stared down at a tiny human who was somehow completely like me and also nothing like me, and realized that everything I thought I knew was wrong and none of the knowledge I had worked so hard to amass during pregnancy applied anymore.
This actually worked out perfectly since I was too tired to remember it anyway. I threw it all out and started over.
That’s parenthood in a nutshell.
Parenting is a job so complex that experts have been trying to guide us in it for decades, and yet still none of us have it figured out—including the experts. They waffle back and forth on co-sleeping and breastfeeding and what is safe to eat and drink during pregnancy. If you can imagine it, there’s been an “expert” study done on it.
Throw it out.
We are to love our children, provide for their basic needs, and follow our instincts. Those things look vastly different for each family, because we are all different. Trying to force your situation into a neatly labeled box because someone else told you that’s what is best is only asking for disappointment and guilt. It’s hard to set aside your own expectations and allow yourself to be fluid enough to bend, to be open to seeing your child for the unique person that he is, and to adjust accordingly. But motherhood is as much about refining yourself as it is about refining your children.
There comes a point when you realize that you are the expert.
After explaining to my son that the song was about Venus, the goddess of love, and not about penises, I realized once again how lucky I am to have the kind of kid who yells unexpectedly from the backseat. Not once was that topic addressed in any of my parenting books.
“I don’t want my penis to catch fire!” he shouted.
“That would be terrible!” I yelled back.
There is really no guide for moments like this. And that’s OK. The best part about being a parent is not knowing what’s next.