Friday, March 28, 2008

Mothering with my ears open

When you're expecting your first child, you get caught up in the idea of a new little life. A soft baby to bundle up and hold. A tiny human who will look into your eyes. You plan to give this child only the best. You know it's not all going to be sunshine and roses, but you know the good will far outweigh the bad, and ohmygoodness, isn't your baby going to be the cutest person who ever graced the planet? Surely that cuteness will make up for any of those vague stories you've heard about not sleeping or diaper explosions or constant crying.

One of my friends, who has two children of her own, dared put a damper on my swirly mama-to-be giddiness when I was still pregnant with Fly. She even tried to talk to me about the hardships of motherhood at my baby shower. At my baby shower! We were supposed to be celebrating Fly, not worrying about things that hadn't happened yet. I told her I would be fine and actually wished she would leave the party a little early. It was a subtle alternative to putting my hands over my ears and singing to myself so I didn't have to hear any negative things she was trying to tell me.

But slowly since then, I realized some of the things she has warned me about are right. People laugh about how new parents don't get any sleep, but there's nothing funny when you're suffering the hazardous effects of sleep deprivation. Nothing can really prepare you for when the tiny, helpless creature you know is related to you cries for hours nonstop. People weren't meant to listen to other people suffering (or at least sound as though they're suffering) for long periods of time. It wears you down. That baby grows into a toddler with a strong will who protests almost everything including things he previously enjoyed, and seeing him throw himself on the floor and writhe, screaming, for the 12th time in one day has a way of warping your mind. If I'm not careful, I can get a negative tunnel vision with Fly's scrunched-up, red face at the end of that tunnel.

Maybe I would have been more receptive to my friend's warnings about some of the down sides of parenting if she had had better timing (at a baby shower? seriously?) or if she had approached me in a different way, maybe set the scene first. I realize now she was only trying to be helpful, in her own way.

The truth about motherhood is that there are amazing, even rapturous, moments with your child that make being a parent so enjoyable, and those times will be cherished memories. But your child is a small person with a lot of learning and growing to do, and sometimes learning and growing are a painful process. Children can exasperate you, make you call up every bit of strength in your emotional reserves, sometimes even make you want to hand them off to someone else so you can take a break from them for a while. I think it's how they figure out how the world works, all part of their learning process. The responsibility for shaping another person can be overwhelming, but eventually, I think, it's also rewarding.

What do you wish a friend had told you about parenting, before you became a parent? You can write your own post this weekend as part of a Parent Bloggers Network blog blast.

I know my "parenting education" is far from over, and sometimes I still want to put my hands over my ears when friends tell me what's ahead: stories of maple syrup poured on the carpeting, poo scrubbed on walls and the crib, hitting siblings, boys thinking they don't have to listen to women, fake IDs and sneaking out of the house at night. I'm just going to take this motherhood thing one stage at a time. But now I know better to listen.

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10 Comments:

Anonymous Much More Than A Mom said...

At your shower? That's ridiculous! I listen, but I take everything with a grain of salt. I wish...someone would have told me that my nipple had more than one hole in it. The sprinkler effect was freaky! ;-)

2:16 PM  
Blogger amanda said...

what a beautiful post friend :)

thanks for helping me keep my ears open...

2:53 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

I wish someone had told me that he'd be a smaller version of me-- stubbornness and all! OK. I have one more thing, but I'm saving it for my own post. ;-)

3:01 PM  
Blogger Bloggy Mama said...

Totally great post. I try to just keep me mouth shut - but I think I have a hard time, sometimes ;)

6:41 PM  
Blogger Guinevere Meadow said...

When Lance was newborn, he would scream and cry and scream...until Hubby got home, then he would be fine.

I wish someone had told me that it didn't mean my baby didn't love me! I seriously had a hard time with that for awhile. He would only go to sleep for Hubby too. Pretty big blow to my new-Mommy ego!

I also wish I had known how jealous I would become of Hubby's life-- how only 2 1/2 hours of his day were any different than they were before, whereas every waking (and sleeping) moment of MY day would be utterly changed.

8:56 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

It is hard and exhausting. And wonderful. Great post.

9:55 PM  
Anonymous chelle said...

I think it is funny when people are like ... COME ON tell it how it REALLY is ... and I smile and exclaim that it is wonderful :) Wonderfully challenging, stressful, tearful ... and joyful, rewarding and loving.

Never diss at a shower ... can you imagine the same at a bridal shower ... "Girl he is going fart and it is going to be BAD" heheh

4:11 PM  
Anonymous chelle said...

I think it is funny when people are like ... COME ON tell it how it REALLY is ... and I smile and exclaim that it is wonderful :) Wonderfully challenging, stressful, tearful ... and joyful, rewarding and loving.

Never diss at a shower ... can you imagine the same at a bridal shower ... "Girl he is going fart and it is going to be BAD" heheh

4:11 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

I didn't believe much of what I heard when I was pregnant, either. I don't think you can prepare anybody. It's one of those things you need to experience to believe. ;)

(At your baby shower though? Bad timing.)

1:25 PM  
Blogger Mamacita Tina said...

People tell you such things, but until you live through them, you just nod your head like you're listening.

5:26 PM  

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