Last week, I told you that you were being lied to - that the job of raising kids doesn't get easier as they get older. I got some great feedback on that piece (thank you!), and it turns out that most of you agree with me. It also turns out that I'm not the only one who was lied to when my kids were younger (I really shouldn't use that word, though. I've always taught my kids that a lie is a malicious intent to deceive, and I don't think that's what other parents do at all when they tell us it gets easier; I just don't think they are being very precise with their language.). It got me thinking, though, about all the things that we are not told when our kids are young. When my kids were around the age they are in this picture (that would be 8, 7, 5, and 5), I had begun telling parents with younger kids some of the things that I had already learned. But, oh! How much I still had to learn! Here's what I had learned to this point, however. For reference, I was 34 at this point in time (2009). N.B. - I know not all things apply to all people, and I know some of what I say may sound heretical. I'm okay saying it if it resonates with just one person. I would have appreciated hearing it myself.
- You might not fall in love with your baby immediately. That's okay. Your body has just been through a tremendous shock. That love will come. If it doesn't, talk to your doctor; you are most likely suffering from postpartum depression and help is available.
- Time will likely cease to have all meaning for a little while. It's normal. It may not feel like it, but life *will* return to normal. You have to give it time.
- Babies cry. It's how they communicate their every need. I'm not getting into any debates about whether you should let them cry, but just know that they do cry. It doesn't mean they're broken (but do make sure you know why they're crying). It means they're normal.
- When you have babies (and when you're a stay-at-home mom of littles), the minutes and the hours crawl by, but the days, weeks, and months fly by. When people tell you to treasure these times because they'll be over before you know it - THAT ONE IS TRUE! I remember writing in my journal about the feeling of despair regarding endlessly nursing twins, but about feeling almost nostalgic at the same time knowing that it would end. True story: one day after church, we went to IHOP. The kids were probably about the ages you see above. There was another family from church there. They had four teenagers, two boys and two girls. The dad told us, "One day soon, you'll be us." That happened all too soon. It feels like that happened yesterday, in fact. Now when I see families with littles at church, I think the same thing about them. Enjoy those waddling little toddlers! Enjoy the easy "why" questions. Enjoy reading the same picture books over and over again. The things that used to seem so monotonous to me (I'm not a great "little kid" parent; if you know me in real life, you know that I don't talk to little kids like little kids - it's both a good and a bad thing.) now seem like a beloved memory that I would do anything to go back and visit in person.
- A child's innocence is even more precious than you think. You know it's precious. It's more precious than you think. Yes, I said it twice. I'll say it again. A child's innocence is more precious than you think. If you have teens, you know why I'm saying it again and again. If your children are still little, guard than innocence, guard that innocence, guard that innocence! When you think you're doing everything you can, do more. Even the best kids are curious. Even the most obedient kids are still kids. They will find ways to circumvent your rules, your webguards, and everything else you think you've done to protect their innocence. I'm jumping ahead a tiny bit to my teen parent knowledge now (but I'm not jumping ahead by much), but the parents who say "not my kid," I promise some of you - it's your kid. I know your kids and I know you (and I would be po'ed if you were saying this to me, so I get that you're ticked and defensive), and it's your kid. In this day and age, there should be no such thing as trusting your children and letting them have privacy. Privacy to write in their journals? Okay. Privacy to text their friends? Nope. Privacy to cruise the Internet? No way. I wholeheartedly recommend Accountable2You. Click on the link to read my review, but I can tell you that when my free subscription ended, I never bought anything so fast in my life. I've made the mistake of trusting, and I will never make that mistake again. Children can be broken. And the guilt of having broken a child through neglect or inactivity or trust is crippling.
- Children will hurt you like you have never been hurt before. You think it will hurt when your toddler says she hates you (which my first never did, but she did say she wanted to go live at her Aunt's house - that one always has known how to push my buttons! Her aunt is everything I'm not - organized, clutter-free, sweet, and calm.), but just wait for what your tween girl can hurl your way. Then, when your teen doesn't even deign to speak to you at all, you'll be wishing for the days of the tween's uninformed opinions about you.
- Children will love you like you've never been loved before. And that's the most important thing to take away from this post. A child's love when they are small is so pure. The trust in their eyes when they look at you, the bouquets of picked wildflowers that sit in cups on windowsills until they are dead and brown because you can't bear to throw them away, the bins of drawings of stick figure families with mommies with long hair and daddies with no hair (okay, that one is particular to my family!), the rib-crushing hugs from teenage sons who are taller than you, the careful manicures from teenage daughters who know all the latest nail trends - it's all so incredibly precious. And it's all over way too soon. The feelings are all so intense, on all sides. Parenthood is the job where, if you do it right, you're raising your kids *not* to need you - to be able to leave you, when all you want to do is to hold on tightly to them; to make sure that nothing will ever hurt them or take them away from you. What an eternal conundrum! No wonder there is conflict amidst so very much love!
Post-Script: I know there are those of you reading this who are thinking, "I don't have any of those problems with my children. My teens are trustworthy, we never argue, my toddlers don't hate me, and my days are ordered and perfect." To y'all, I say - you're blessed. Thank the Almighty for your blessings and pray for the rest of us. I think the rest of us make up the majority of the Bell curve.