The other day I received an e-mail about “The Biggest Surprises of Being a Parent” from Babycenter and it got me to thinking, parenting is surprising. There were some things I was expecting that never happened, and things that I thought were impossible that came to fruition. So I started coming up with my own list, enjoy.
– Being a parent is easier than I thought. Now this mostly comes down to my irrational expectations of having to take care of a child, but being a parent is the most enjoyable thing I’ve ever done. There are, of course, trying times and sometimes you just want to pull your hair out, but I can think back to some of the few restless nights when Parker was first born and being tired and frustrated at night, but waking up the next morning not even remembering it.
– Routines are key. All the baby books talk about ‘getting your child in a routine’, and for a while, you think you do, but when your baby is really in a routine, you know it. We know when he’s going to wake up, his moods during different times of the day, when he wants to nap, when he wants to eat, when he’ll break down, and when he’ll want to go to bed. We know what activity is going to make him the happiest at what time of day. Routine has made his and our lives so much more enjoyable.
– I sleep a lot more than I thought I would. In fact, I sleep more now than when I wasn’t a parent. We put Parker to bed at 8 p.m., so instead of staying up until 10 or 11, we just go lay down, too. Sure, we may read or talk for an hour, but if Parker decides to wake up a 4 a.m. (which he very rarely will), it’s a lot easier to get up too when you’ve slept for 8 hours. Plus, on the even more rare occassion that Parker takes a while to get to sleep, if it takes an hour for him to finally settle down, it’s still only 9 o’clock.
– A baby can lift your mood in a second. No matter how I feel during any given day, seeing my son makes me forget about it. Being his parent, his happiness and needs trump everything else.
– Parenting challenges one to be better and work harder. As he grows, I grow. He was simple as a newborn, he slept, ate, and slept. He moved into infancy and started wanting more interaction and stimulation. He’s now starting to figure out what he likes and doesn’t like, what works, and doesn’t work. And it’s only going to increase as he gets older. But in a way, you grow with your child. I think about when Parker is a toddler and how he’ll say “No” and start making his own decisions. It’s scary because you think about how you’ll have to handle a child that makes messes, and gets bratty. But it’s a growth process. Every day he grows, I need to grow. It’s not unlike school. Sure, as you go higher in grades, the material becomes tougher, you have to balance more independently, but you’ve prepared yourself because you’ve grown with each year. As a second grader, algebra sounded impossible. As an 8th grader, it was just the next math course.
– And finally, parenting is surprising. You seriously learn something new every day. For everything you teach your child, he or she teaches you something. If parenting is more stressful than fun, in my opinion, there’s something wrong. If your child can’t bring a smile to your face, even after a terrible day, then I’m sorry.
Be ready to adapt, be ready to have fun, be ready to be frustrated. Be ready to be surprised.