1. That as your children grow, you’ll miss the person they were.
Where is that 3-year-old who crawled onto my lap to read books and covered the driveway with chalk art? Where is the 10-year-old who quietly drew for hours every night? Where is the goofy 14-year-old who told me hilarious stories about his day, every day? They’re gone, forever.
2. That it’s often hard to remember you’re parenting the child you have, not the child you were.
And that’s okay, as long as you recognize it and stop it immediately. Also, when you mess it up, you won’t lose face by apologizing to your little one — they already know when you’re bullshitting, so acknowledging that you made a mistake is cathartic for both of you.
3. That for the most part, raising a child simply involves a lot of really boring tasks.
Those moments of exhilaration or despair are real, but few and far between. There’s no such thing as ‘quality time’, only ‘quantity time’ in which those extraordinary moments sometimes occur. I don’t care about anyone who would ‘take a bullet for their children’ because we would all do that. What I care a lot about are the parents who simply show up every day. And the next day. And the next. Tying shoelaces, singing the fucking ‘Little Green Frog’ song 50 times, keeping a running mental account of food intake to decide if the next meal should be heavy on the protein or fats or fiber, and smiling when their kids walk in the room even when they would kill for five minutes alone. Yep, these are the people who deserve an award for perseverance.
4. That living with a toddler is like having a really messy, stoner roommate.
One minute you’ll be enjoying each other’s company, playing cards, watching funny cats on YouTube, just hanging out — then you’ll go to the bathroom and see toothpaste smeared all over the hand towel and sink. You’ll stand in the doorway and yell, ‘dude, you’ve got toothpaste everywhere, clean up after you brush your teeth.’ Your new roommate will come chuckling down the hall all, ‘sorry, dude, I dropped my toothbrush after I put toothpaste on it, and I just forgot.’ And you’ll both laugh because that’s a good enough excuse, but the next day the same thing will happen. And the next. And the next.
Some days your ~roomie~ tries to weasel his way out of responsibilities, and those days just suck because there you are standing over your roommate like ‘jeez, dude, just get a job, you can’t freeload forever and by the way, I’m not picking up all the stuff you leave in the living room anymore and dude, you should probably stop eating on the couch because it’s kinda getting gross’ and you both just scowl at each other.
5. That children shape and teach you just as much as you shape and teach them.
You don’t just have children — children have you. They have you in the palm of their little hands, to shape and to teach just as much as the other way around. They’re not the only ones who are growing. I think every parent eventually has that first moment when they think they’re teaching a child something, and the child seems to be resisting (as they do), then there’s a pause, and then they discover that the kid’s right. From that moment on, your whole perspective on the parent/child relationship is going to be very different.
6. That being a good parent isn’t just something that “comes naturally” but is something that actually requires a lot of thinking and research.
That being a good parent in modern society isn’t something that comes naturally or easily but requires thinking, research, planning, attention, and effort. That best practices for parenting change over time, such as whether SIDS is better prevented by putting babies to sleep on their stomachs (old way) or their backs (new way). That you will encounter all kinds of advice, good and bad, right and wrong, about everything to do with your kids, and you will have to figure out many things for yourself even though people have been rearing children since the human race evolved.
7. That’s it’s actually really hard to just “sleep when the baby sleeps.”
Some people (many if you’re in the US) will tell you to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps.’ What they won’t tell you is how hard that is to actually do, because when your baby looks tired and seems like they’re about to fall asleep or if they’re already deep asleep, they may wake up five minutes later. Or three hours later. And you don’t know which is which. At one point my daughter fell asleep while I was feeding her side-lying in my bed. It was 2 p.m. and I thought she would nap for five minutes, so I got up and left her there. Three hours later, she was still deep asleep and my husband and I were both exhausted because we had no way of getting our own nap in without waking her. My husband and I didn’t know if to laugh or cry. I think we did both.
8. And that sleep deprivation is serious and can turn you into a totally different person.
Sleep deprivation will weaken your immune system, make you angry about anything, and test your relationship with your partner on a level you would never have imagined before. It will decrease your performance at work. It will haunt your social life. I can’t stress it more.
9. That there’s no single right way to parent because every child is different.
They all come with their own distinct personalities, needs, and temperaments, so no book you read or person you listen to (no matter how wise they are) is going to have the right method for every child. If you have more than one kid, you’re going to have to come up with different parenting strategies and methods for each child, because the situation will be entirely different, because the child will be different.
10. That the needs of children and adults are actually pretty much the exact same.
Adults are tall children. We have the same basic needs and often the same basic problems. If we don’t get enough food, sleep, or have healthy relationships, we get tired, cranky, and angry. It can range from mild grumpiness to full on monstrous rage, complete with yelling, fighting, or even physical violence. But most adults don’t realize they are tall children. Many struggle with controlling their emotions throughout the day, but flat out reject the idea it has anything to do with their poor sleep, poor diet, and poor relationship situations.
11. That it will take time to get your story-telling skills up to scratch.
Nobody told me that it is very difficult to grasp reading out loud to someone again — doing it in grade school was a long forgotten memory when I had kids. When my Jack was born, I was rocking him at night and we had this stack of baby books. I remember picking one up and reading it to myself, in my own head before I realized I was supposed to be reading to him. It was the oddest feeling and perhaps that was the moment when I knew that it wasn’t all about me anymore. I had to teach this boy how to speak, how to articulate, how to enunciate, how to follow a story, how to put two words and more.
12. That you can never have too much patience.
I used to think I was more patient than any of my relatives, and I thought that would be an advantage when raising a kid. It is useful but it’s still not enough patience, because it gets worn so thin by overexposure.
13. That having kids will totally lower your standard of living.
From time to time I look around my messy, surroundings, and I think, ‘yep, I’m trash now.’ I’ve just come to accept it, as walls became scribbled on, furniture breaks, and food spills. People who I looked down on before for being messy and unkempt with three kids, I understand now because I’ve devolved to that point with just one kid.
14. That it’s impossible to predict what kind of kid you’re going to have.
Our daughter is now 16 months old and I am constantly surprised at the range of personalities between babies even at this young age. Sienna is very active and curious and talkative. She runs and wiggles and gets into trouble. Her cousin is the same age, but is mellow and laid back. Some kids sleep well, others have trouble. Some are colicky, others are quiet. Be aware that when someone tells you something about having kids, that their advice might be completely true but still not apply to you. It’s impossible to predict.
Image Credit: Bustle
15. That you’ll experience emotions that are more intense than ever before.
Nobody told me how much my emotional range would expand. That in just the first year, I would have feelings I’d never even imagined myself capable of — good and bad. That your little baby can make you feel lower than low, exhausted, upset, inept, and angry, then the next minute you can feel like everything on Earth is smiling on you.
16. That your kids might replace your partner as the person you love the most.
Though you love your partner the most, as soon as your kids will come in your life, they get the position of ‘person you love the most’. You will have never loved anyone so much and it will definitely teach you unconditional love. For whatever you’ll do for them, you won’t desire anything in return.
17. That your child might be exactly like your partner and nothing like you.
After conceiving, carrying, and delivering our baby, when she finally arrived, I expected her to be…well, like me! When I first laid eyes on her my thought process went: ‘thank goodness we are all alive’, then ‘I need sleep’, and then, ‘wow, she looks a lot like Jay’. My daughter is her own person but I also do see her father. Like him, she enjoys traveling, sleeps with one foot peeking out of the blanket, and has strong hands.
18. That what you do will always be more important than what you say.
You can tell them how you think they should approach a problem, a person, a situation and they will appear to listen, but what you do is far, far more relevant to them. They will model themselves on your actual behavior, right down to the flaws and things you’d probably prefer to change. But in the end, if you are tolerant and open-minded, they will be too.
19. That it’s important to ask your children questions and listen when they answer.
Hear what they are saying! At times my kid’s thought process was so different from what I thought, so I listened and asked questions. If I found I was wrong, I apologized. If I understood what they were saying, and still felt they were wrong, I said so. Most of the time, it was a gray area between the two scenarios. Doing this made it easier for them to come to me as they grew older with problems and when they simply needed someone to talk to.
20. That you basically learn how to see into the future.
I can spot an accident waiting to happen three seconds before my child grabs the scissors from her sister and I can see potential road hazards most people wouldn’t notice when my girls are riding scooters.
21. That you basically become a human shield.
This one is pretty strange but ever since my daughter was born, the number of injuries I’ve suffered increased dramatically. It’s not because she distracts me, it’s because my brain has decided that my own wellbeing is now irrelevant if there’s even the slightest possibility that she will get hurt. If I see the kid about to fall and perhaps get a minor bruise, I jump like a lunatic to stop it from being a possibility. I have gotten at least one nasty cut and a bunch of serious head bumps (mostly walls, sometimes shelves) which have almost knocked me out, to keep her from the a range of accidents, some as mild as her dropping ice cold water on herself.
22. That your children just may become your greatest achievement.
It gave me great joy as my children became two well-adjusted independent adults who care about others. That is my greatest achievement in life.
23. That your kids will grow up faster than you ever expected.
I did not expect to be so aware of how fast it goes. There is this constant sense of loss, like you can’t hold them long at all.
24. And that you will never sleep soundly again, even when your children are adults.
Some part of you is always alert because your child may need you all of a sudden — even when they are adults with their own lives.