Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Parenting evolves all the time

Parenting the newborn: So in love. So f*cking tired.

Parenting evolves all the time. When children are babies, a physical kind of parenting is required. Every ounce of physical strength—-especially under the duress of sleep deprivation-—is demanded. Lifting, diapering, wiping, burping, feeding, waking up when the rest of the world is sleeping, feeding some more, diapering again, burping, cleaning spit-up, wiping poop off of your hand, cursing at dawn because now you resent that everyone else is asleep, lifting, diapering, burping, feeding and repeating this a thousand more times.

Parenting the infant: Never a dull moment.

As the parent of a baby, you must have stamina or it will be the end of you. Most survive the first year thanks to adrenaline and heightened feelings of love and adoration for said baby. 
Parenting the toddler: How can you be so cute and drive me so crazy at the same time?

When those babies grow into toddlers, parenting evolves into a mental one. Granted, there’s still a lot of physical labor to be had: lifting 26 instead of six lbs and potty training, for example. But temper tantrums and nuclear meltdowns for no good reason (a toddler’s specialty) require a parent to have steel nerves. Take for instance, my 3-year-old daughter, who dissolved into a puddle of hot tears within a span of five seconds this morning when she realized the dress she was wearing was yellow and not pink and had pink flowers on it instead of red cherries. 

Trying to reason with her was no use. She had already made up her mind that the dress was unacceptable, even though just 10 minutes earlier she seemed elated to put it on. She screamed and stiffened her body, refusing to get in the car seat. “This is bullsh*t,” I said quietly in my head. “You’re the child and I’m the parent. I gave you three dress choices this morning and you picked this one. It’s time to go to school. You’re going to be late.” I kissed her on the cheek and wiped her tears. “I love you, have a wonderful day at school,” I said to her. “You’re mean to me Mommy,” she whimpered. See what I mean? Gotta have nerves of steel.

Parenting the (little) kid: The world is his oyster.

Someone once told me that as kids get older, the load lightens. I took this to mean shedding the actual physical load—-when 15-lb boxes of diapers and strollers and baby swings and high chairs and potty seats and breastfeeding pillows and portable cribs get handed down or donated to Goodwill. Yes, there’s no longer the need for multiple sippy cups or shopping cart covers, but the load doesn’t necessarily lighten. It gets heavier on the emotions.

Parenting the (little bigger) kid: Budding talents, blossoming interests, everyday wonder.

When toddlers grow into kids, parenting becomes more emotional. At this point, you’ve had several years to get to know your child. There’s conversation. Shared laughter. Memory making. Relationship building. Parenting becomes extremely exciting as your child reveals his interests and dislikes, his passions and talents. Every day, every week, something new blossoms: a strong curiosity in geography and multiplication; a budding talent at drawing and playing basketball; an ease in finding and making friends; a soft spot for stuffed animals; a developing sensitivity for the world around him. You are constantly in awe of this adorable human being and amazed and delighted by whatever amazes and delights him. Good feelings run high and you feel so lucky to have been chosen as his parent.

Parenting the grade-schooler: Where has my baby gone?

As wonderful as those emotional highs are, sometimes the lows are quick to follow with a sucker punch to those softened steel nerves. Especially on those afternoons when dirty socks are strewn all over the house, even after you’ve asked for the millionth time to Please put your smelly socks in the hamper. Or those weekday mornings when he’s playing games on his iPad in his pajamas and un-brushed teeth when you’ve asked a gazillion times to Please make sure you’ve brushed, gotten dressed and eaten breakfast BEFORE jumping on the iPad. Or when the whining and complaining gets SO ANNOYING you feel like poking your eyes out. Or when you catch him riding his bike outside when you've asked him to finish his homework first. You're tired of sounding like a broken record and your emotions run the gamut between vexation, desperation and just plain going cuckoo.

But this other emotional thing happens. Something so gut-wrenching and panic-inducing it seizes your heart. You realize your baby-now-big-kid is growing so fast, at a lightning’s pace right before your eyes and you must face the fact that time will not be on your side forever. When your kids are small, the years are short and the days are long. But as they enter grade school, the years AND days are short. Before you know it, he’ll be in middle school, then a teenager who’d rather hang out with his friends than you. Then poof! Out of the house and flying away to fulfill his own dreams.

Parenting the two greatest treasures a woman could ask for: Priceless.

I’m getting ahead of myself here. My kids are only seven and three. But let’s just say wisdom is whispering in my ear and she’s telling me, “Soak it up even though some days you feel like you’re gonna drown. Because one day, the day you are ill-prepared, you won’t be their #1 anymore.”

Parenting evolves all the time. And I don't wanna miss anything.