I seem to have misplaced my Guide to Being a Parent book. May I borrow yours?
Every single day, all day, for the last four years, I’ve wished that instead of useless math classes, there would have been a class that prepared me to be a Mom. I remember thinking, as I slogged through geometry or algebra homework, “When am I actually going to use this?” And lo and behold, I’ve yet to resurrect the junk from the spare corner of my brain where all that useless knowledge is stored.
But an actual how to be a parent class would be so, so welcome at this point.
Not a baby safety class they give at the hospital (which are hugely helpful, and I recommend). Those hospital classes throw a whole lot of information about labor and delivery at you, but leave you hanging somewhere around the second month.
I wish they had a real, actual, “Holy crap, I’m a parent. How do I make sure I don’t royally screw this up?!” sort of class.
It’s not like CPR where you practice on unfeeling dummies. Whatever words come out of your mouth when you find legos jammed in the DVD player or crayon on the wall … those stick. Those mannerisms and expressions you’ve been using your whole life? They sound a whole lot different parroted back at you from a two-foot clone.
I feel like I was prepared for the baby stage four years ago. I could change a diaper, sure. I’d sampled my fair share of baby food after having my wisdom teeth taken out. And the clothes – so cute! Closet stocked, teeny tiny hangers adorned.
But was I ready, fully ready, to actually be a parent when that bundle of joy’s gurgles and coos turned into questions and attitude?
Not even close.
As soon as I feel like I’m on top of one stage, the floor spins and it shifts to a whole new realm I’m not ready for.
“We were sleeping through the night, what the hell happened? Hello, teeth.”
And no one tells you that parenting is the one thing everyone wishes they had more experience with before they have to practice on their own kids.
Six months slid into nine. A year deposited us into the Terrible Twos, which in fact are not so bad. It was the Treacherous, Scream Into a Pillow Threes that taught me that parenting is going to be the longest class of my life.
I know it will be filled with love. And it will be the most rewarding, life-changing, challenging class I take. But I also know, as I sit with my toddler at the threshold of four and this little person is taking shape right in front of me, that the only grade I’m getting is whether my kid still wants to come home when she’s 18 and not legally bound to me anymore.
I go to bed every night and rehash every argument, timeout and craft project. I worry that I’m too strict or not teaching my girls the right lessons. I worry my girls don’t know I love them so much it hurts. I wake up in the wee hours of the morning to nurse my other daughter, who’s closing in on 1 year. And as I nestle her in the crook of my arm, I think about the mom I want to be. The things I want to do that day. And some days I come close. But if I’m honest, most days I fall short. Most days I want to be one of those Moms covered in paint, working on craft projects they post on Pinterest, or teaching my girls to read and write. But as the baby finishes nursing and we leave the dark, cozy retreat of my bed, I find that there’s a mountain of laundry that needs washing, a tantrum three seconds away from erupting at the breakfast table and a house that looks as though Fisher Price has vomited red, yellow and blue musical toys all over it.
And my afternoon of playing and connecting and just being there with my girls? Kinda gone the minute my older daughter announces she’s “kinda sure the baby ate Princess Anna’s necklace.”
(Cue frantic call to pediatrician. Ready myself for a week of sifting through baby turds to find said necklace and return it to the kingdom of Arendelle.)
I thought once I had my girls, I’d get my Mom card. My parenting guide. But I’m finding it’s not simple. It’s messy. It’s fun. But it’s hard. It takes every ounce of creativity, intelligence, energy, strength and anything else I’ve got.
And I’m opening my door, so to speak, in the hopes that maybe there’s another Mom out there who some days feels lost like I do. And maybe another who just needs to read a funny story from another Mom who’s knee deep in Magic Clip princesses and wondering why most of her conversations revolve around poop and boogers these days.
I’ll be sharing stories about my life and my family. I’ll seek out free outings and fun activities for the younger set. I’ll share my baby food and toddler-proof recipes. If I figure out how to clean the entire house on the days that both girls nap and get dinner started, well, I’ll share that too.
My disclaimer: I haven’t figured this all out yet. So agree with me, disagree with me, but use the comments section to share your voice.And sooner or later, we’ll get the hang of this whole parenting thing.