I haven’t been a parent for long – just over seven years. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about parenting – before I became a dad and since having become one. It’s not like there is an exhaustive A to Z guide to being a parent – if there were such a list, I firmly believe we’d have less alcoholics roaming our streets and running our PTA meetings. This is the one that I came up with – and had some fun with while trying to support it with examples from my experience and smiling along the way. Looking forward to your comments with some great additions!
A – Alzheimer’s. I’m not kidding you. Some days, I’m convinced I have it. Here are the names in my family, starting with my wife: Aimie, Abigail, Amalie, Andon. Even on the rarest of days when I get the names right, I’m still stammering. I feel like I could play the lead in “The King’s Speech 2″. Be careful when you name your kids.
B – Bottles. There are all kinds. Small, tall, plastic, glass. Different types of shapes and materials and shapes for the nipples. Drop-in liners. Let me just tell you what’s really going to happen, regardless of what choices you make. You won’t be able to find a bottle when you need one most. When you finally find that elusive bottle, it will never EVER have the right stuff in it. Maybe it had the right stuff at one point, but it’s now soured or fermented and you will, in fact, throw up while cleaning that bottle. And finally, valiant hero of the bottle, I assure you of this. The little person will dislodge it from their mouth, and it will leak its contents all over your baby’s fresh clean clothing and soak him or her to the bone.
C – Creativity. You will need it. You’ll need it to cope with being a first time parent. You’ll need it when answering questions that you don’t know the answers to. You’ll need it when juggling more than one child, especially if you have more than two – because suddenly you, the parents, have become outnumbered. And you’ll want to show your kids how important creativity is. Watching your kids playing, pretending something is happening, is a hundred times more gratifying than watching them in front of the TV.
D – Diapers. They are a reality. They are so nicely folded into their bundles and smell nice, only to become the scourge of your day, filled (often WAY beyond the brim) with more pee, mustard-like poo and some day, real person poo. Then you have to change that diaper and dispose of it. I’ve yet to meet someone who truthfully says they enjoy changing diapers. I try to do it with joy in my heart, reminding myself that in a few short years, I’ll be wearing them again.
E – Energy. It comes in all forms. A child’s ability to not wear out is directly proportional to how tired you are. Just remember this – nature’s complete disregard toward your coffee and Red Bull consumption dictates that your kids have more energy than you do. Ever.
F – Fear. I experienced fear like no other when my wife was in labour for the first time. I suddenly realized what I had got myself into. That fear was unfounded, but very real. I also felt fear that paralyzed me the first time one of my children was lost, and I had no idea where they were. (She was sleeping soundly in our closet, under our blankets – we found her after running up and down the street in a panic.) And I’ve seen fear in my children. You will experience their fears with them – first encounters with big dogs, swimming pools, loud noises, first day of school or daycare, pain, failure, meeting new people – these are all things that can scare them. Be there for them and with them and they’ll remember that.
G – Guidance. Get it from other parents. Get it from books. Get it from wherever. Just be comfortable with it before you use it. And most importantly – be prepared to give that guidance. Guide your kids. Don’t stifle their spirit and don’t over-shelter them. Guide their decisions, their growth and encourage them. Let them make mistakes and experience failure – it will benefit them in real life. And guide them through those failures too.
H – Humour. I have too many examples to start listing them, but you will find humour around every corner when you’re a parent. If you allow it, almost every experience with your children will give you cause to smile – whether it’s right when it’s happening or when you laugh about it hours, days or even years later. Let it happen – you’ll need those laughs to get you through the darker days. And let your kids smile and laugh as often as they want to. They’ll find enough reason later in life to stop smiling as often – let them be kids as long as they can.
I – Illness. Try as you may, you can’t always prevent it. You’re going to have to spend nights without sleep, assuring your kid that throwing up is not going to kill them. You’re going to have to spend afternoons and weekends at the Medi-Centre. You’re going to have to pick them up from school when they get sick. And you’re going to have to discern when they are truly sick or putting in an Oscar-worthy performance. It goes like this: “I’m sick this morning.” ”Oh no, honey – what’s going on?!” ”Oh, my stomach is hurting very badly.” ”Oh gosh, do you need to throw up or go to the bathroom?” ”No, I think if I lie really still in my bed, it will feel better.” ”OK sweetie, well we will call the doctor and make an appointment.” ”Oh no, you don’t have to do that, Dad.” ”Wait a second, don’t you have a math test today?” ”Oh, I don’t remember, Dad – I’m too sick to remember that stuff.” ”Get dressed – you’re going to school.”
J – Jealousy. We heard the stories, we tried to heed the warnings, but nothing can prepare you for the potential onslaught of jealousy that a child can produce. Our oldest child was very jealous when the second one arrived, to the point of hitting the two-day old baby in the face until her nose bled. Also, our kids are able to well up with jealousy over the most ridiculous things. ”That boy has an orange lollipop. Why can’t I have one??” ”Because we just bought you an outfit, a toy and a red lollipop.” ”Waaaaahhhhh!!!!”
K – Kisses. These are so important. Give your kids kisses as often as you can. And gladly accept them back. For the time will come when your kid won’t accept your kisses, nor dole them out nearly as willingly and you will regret every kiss you didn’t give or take. And while you’re at it, kiss your co-parent and thank them for everything they’ve done. It goes a long way.
L – Laundry. I don’t care how much laundry you did before you had kids, you’ll be doing three times as much afterwards. And for many, many years. The water shortage in the world isn’t caused from global warming. Not even close. It’s all the parents washing their kids’ clothes around the globe.
M – Marvel. Another one that comes in all shapes. Remember to put aside the immediate, daily concerns of being a parent and marvel. Marvel at the miracle of the baby growing in that belly. Marvel at the softness of the skin and the smell of the baby’s hair. Marvel as they first grasp things – physically and mentally. Marvel at the first steps. Marvel at the simplicity of their lives and learn from them. Marvel at how great a parent you are, whether you really think so or not. And marvel at the awesome responsibility that you have undertaken and don’t take it too lightly.
Tom Sedens is the husband to his dream girl, the co-founder of 3 kids that make his world go round, blogger at wildsau.ca, and a grateful soul for a life full of blessings.