Every day brings on a new challenge for me as a parent and a realization that, unlike what I thought as a child, my parents weren’t just willfully ignorant and clueless but that parenthood is one never-ending learning curve.
For me, chief among my current challenges is trying to reason with a willful little girl who doesn’t necessarily want to follow my agenda. When I picked her up to change her diaper recently, she started shouting, “No, no!”
As she started to get angry, she asked, “I’m going to bite you now?” The question, posed in the middle of her tantrum, made my anger dissolve and I started laughing. That made my daughter laugh and she began a mock lunch. “I’m biting your shoulder. Um-um-um!” The incident made me realize that you can’t take yourself or your child too seriously, and the ability to laugh goes a long way to getting through struggles.
Motherhood has been a blessing, but it’s also taught me a few hard lessons from observing others and through my own experience, such as:
1. Genetics (and/or karma) is a kick in the butt. If you are a little boy who paints tiny dots on your skin after eating a banana and then tricks your parents into believing you have a banana allergy, then be forewarned: you will probably give birth to a picky tyke who won’t eat anything other than bread, processed/salty goods and cheese.
2. Kids have amazing, creative insights into life: my daughter was trying to fly my head all weekend, tugging my hair and saying, “It’s a kite!” While a little irritating to my self-esteem (does my hair look that bad?) I had to give her credit for the unique comparison.
3. Parenthood brings on a strain of disease that is incurable: a blind, protective instinct that sometimes ignores evidence that’s right in front of your eyes in favour of irrational emotion. Your child could lay a drop-kick on another kid and even while you’re punishing him/her, you think the other child is an ugly toad who was giving your kid dirty looks and completely deserved to be brought down a peg or two.
4. When your child is screaming for a doll in the middle of the store, there is always a well-meaning stranger who will tell you that they’re worse as teenagers (Note: This is the last thing us new parents want to hear! We want to know it gets easier all the time, even if that’s a bald-faced lie).
5. That kids are just as capable of loving and supporting parents as it is the other way around. While my little energizer bunny powered around the living room, I was totally exhausted and had to lay down. “You need a blankie, mommy?” is the last thing I remember hearing before waking up on the floor and finding my shoulders covered by a fuzzy Winnie the Pooh blanket.
Some of my other friends also shared their insights with me on what they’ve learned.
6. There is a direct correlation between nap success and parental sanity.
7. The notion that children will someday sleep through the night is a myth, like Santa Claus, told to you by your parents so they can get what they want. With Santa, it was to get you to be good. With sleeping through the night, it is to get grandchildren. (I can attest that the trick is to learn to ignore your infant’s crying at night as often as necessary. It’s cruel but it works).
8. It’s important to find each child’s uniqueness and embrace it and learn from it – even when that child is trying to flush your old cabbage patch doll down the toilet.
9. It hurts a lot to make your kids make mistakes but it teaches them in a way your words never could. They learn they can pick themselves up, recover from failure and try again.
There are many more lessons we’ve all learned along the way, but the most important one, I think, is that no matter what aggravations or worries you face with and for your child, there’s no way to stop your heart from melting and to realize that it’s all worthwhile when your little one lays his or her arms around your neck and says, “We’re best friends,” or even worse for your watery eyes and bleeding heart, “Mommy, I love you.”