Feb 19 , 2019
The first and possibly most important thing for any soon to be a parent to realize is that you are not ready and you never will be. I don’t care how many books, blogs and studies you have read or how many great parents, doctors, and child psychologists you have interviewed before the birth of your child. You are not ready.
Now, don’t let that scare you. Well, it can scare you a bit. A little fear in the face of the awesome responsibility of parenthood is a good and healthy thing. The fact that no one is really ready, and yet we have been doing it for many, many centuries and millennia by now shows that we are also pretty good at making it up as we go along.
Almost every person is hard-wired to be a parent and all of those in-born instincts will come to the surface and help you get through those tough first few weeks. Still, it will wind up testing you in unexpected ways.
And even the things you do expect like sleepless nights, dirty diapers, projectile vomit, and more, the actual experience is different than what you picture in your head.
Now, I don’t want to scare you off here. Being a parent is awesome, but it is awesome in a way that is difficult to explain. Even as I type this, there is a deep seated joy in my soul at the thought of being a parent. There are no words to convey it.
And yet, it is important to acknowledge that the joy I speak of comes with a lot of work and responsibility. Too many people will only talk about the great things without acknowledging how demanding the task of parenting can be.
If that is all a person hears, then after the third night of two-hour’s sleep and sticking your hand straight into the weird yellow goo that has filled the diaper, he could be forgiven for thinking he had been made a fool of.
So, all of that said, what should you expect?
The first two to four weeks with your first child will likely be the hardest of your life. I distinctly remember thinking around two weeks in that I might never shower or eat a cooked meal ever again.
Fortunately there were friends and family who helped out by bringing lots of prepared food over. The point is that children, especially babies tend to cry and as a first-time parent, you are going to want to find the problem and solve it as quickly as possible. It is simply human nature to be protective of your first child.
As that first little bundle of joy becomes an ever larger bundle and learns to craw and then walk. When that happens, I hope you already have locks installed on your cupboard doors. Children are curious, especially about whatever might be hiding under all the pots and pans and they will throw them all over the kitchen to find out.
Also, don’t think that you can safely set a cup of coffee (your new best friend) on an end table for the next few years. My children have all gone through a phase where they could not abide anything being set on a flat surface. Unless that flat surface is the floor. Everything belongs on the floor.
And of course there are the things that no one could predict. My first child had some trouble nursing so we had to bring her to the hospital just a couple days after leaving to have her weighed. For the sake of accuracy, we had to weigh her naked.
While transferring her from the changing table to the scale, she decided it was the perfect time to empty her tiny bowels all over my white t-shirt. Well, only a fairly small oval on the shirt.
Fortunately, I had taken my own advice and so was not terribly surprised at something random like that happening. And my wife, the doc, and I were able to have a laugh over it.
That is going to be one of the single biggest factors to being a good parent, having a sense of humor. If you can’t laugh at yourself, at your kids and the crazy things you all do, it’s going to be a rough road. Just remember that nothing any of you have done is new.
Lots of parents have gotten pooped on, kids will always empty your purse all over the floor (including any embarrassing contents and probably in front of friends or family), and at least one will find a favorite colorful expletive that they will shout at the top of their lungs in the store.
Don’t worry. Those people laughing at you are probably laughing because they have had the same things happen to them. Best to laugh along.
As for social life, that will take a back seat for a while. There just isn’t going to be time for that. Even if you are fortunate enough to live near some grandparents, even the most willing are not going to want to babysit every weekend.
You aren’t going to make the hockey game every week or see every movie on opening weekend, or go out dancing very often.
For the most part, this is hardest to adjust too with the first child. After all, only one child is still one that needs to be taken care of. And contrary to popular belief, this is harder the older you are when you have that first child. The longer you go without having one, the more set in your ways you become and the bigger culture shock parenthood will be.
Once you accept the fact that you don’t get to be the life of every party anymore and focus on just being a good parent, this won’t bother you much. And it won’t even be an issue once you have more children.
I honestly think that many parents have very few children because they think that every child will be just as much of a life style altering experience. The truth is that it isn’t. Once you get the hang of taking care of one, a second is really just a little bit more of what you are already used to.
Now, I think after all of that I need to repeat that I don’t want to scare you off. I just want you to know that it isn’t all going to be sunshine and rainbows. But there are a lot of those too.
Particularly when you have more than one child. One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is a brother or sister. And trust me, while you will need to play referee from time to time, there is no denying how great it is to watch them grow together.
There is a great deal of joy in watching your child grow and discover the world. A simple giggle during a piggy-back ride or wide-eyed look of awe at some new toy, or even the first touch of grass is worth a thousand diaper changes.
And what I usually say in reply to those who talk about how much work it is and how much you lose is that no TV, car, hockey game, or dancing lesson will every run to me and hug me when I come home from work.
Only a child will do that. Only a child will look at you with perfectly innocent eyes and say, “I love you.”
By Robert Young