Before I had children, so many people told me that it is simply impossible to prepare yourself for parenthood. You can think you know what parenting will be, you can read all the websites, all the books, watch all the videos, attend all the seminars, but you still will have no idea.
Everyone knows being a parent is hard work. You can expect to never sleep again, that your house and everything you own will probably get broken and/or covered in a fine film of something brown, you can prepare for never being able to defecate or wash your orifices without an audience, and accept that you may not be able to fart without having it declared loudly in the middle of a public place like in isle four of the supermarket.
You can assume you may have to develop a palate for being able to enjoy eating something that is slightly soggy on the edges and not caring in the slightest that someone else’s saliva made it soggy. Not to mention that saliva came from a mouth that you saw with your own two eyes eat a booger, a bit of cat food and something of indeterminate origin, but it was brown and probably the same thing that is now covering all of your possessions with a fine film.
You may not as yet have ever experienced a love that would make all of the things that you prepare for seem like tiny insignificant sacrifices. But you know you will, at some stage, experience it when your baby comes along. People will tell you this, you may not as yet fathom it completely, but people will try to prepare you.
What no one told me about that love though, what no one can possibly begin to prepare you for is that sometimes that love is so overwhelmingly heavy. No one told me that something so beautiful sometimes has a flip side.
No one told me that when I was handed my baby and I was gifted with that beautiful indescribable love that I would also be introduced to the notion of the worst possible thing that could ever happen. People can try to prepare you with words like selfless and altruistic to describe being a parent. But no one told me that I would now be prepared to endure all of the things I had considered would be the worst possible thing to ever happen in my life before I had children, in order to not have to endure what I knew now to be the worst possible thing.
People can prepare you that you will have no idea what you are doing, that you will simply learn as you go along. People can tell you to be kind to yourself, that all parents make mistakes and it would be OK. People can attempt to explain to you the responsibility of having a child, and you can try your best to fathom it with the experiences and put it into the words you comprehend.
No one told me though that I would be handed this impossibly pure and perfect human being that I would love like nothing I had ever loved before and it may feel like every wrong move I made would seem like I was putting a dent in that beautiful shiny perfection, and that sometimes those feelings can be so overwhelming that it becomes hard to endure.
I thought I understood the concept of overprotective, worrisome mothers. I had hoped I wouldn’t over react when my child inevitably got a fever or perhaps a broken limb. These things happen in life. What I didn’t know then, was that these protective worrisome mothers were simply reacting to a glimpse of the worst possible thing that could ever happen.
When your child gets a fever, sometimes these emotions are so overwhelming that seeing the fever rationally is difficult.
One of the perils of parenting I wasn’t expecting was just how awful I would feel when my child was ill. Something as simple as a common cold would render me heartbroken. When my child was stricken with fever, pale and listless on the couch unable to do anything much other than sip water and watch episode after episode of Ruby and Max, left me fraught with anxiety. I would curl up on the couch with them to watch the show. I admit, I was judging Ruby and Max’s parents for their parenting, I know I shouldn’t but WHERE ARE THEY?? I wanted to scoop up little Ruby, and put Max in a time out for being a selfish little turd. HAVE YOU SEEN THAT SHOW?!? *Punches keyboard
At any rate, the show isn’t really important. What is important is that I would curse myself that I ever wished that my child would just sit still quietly for a minute. I would give anything to have them back to their usual chipper little selves. I would stare at their flushed little cheeks, willing them to please get up and break my stuff. Sometimes I just couldn’t help my mind wandering to the what ifs. What if it isn’t simply a fever, what if they become more ill, what if. I have been guilty of checking to see that my child is breathing every 10 minutes around the clock.
We talk about these parents, we give a name to them like helicopter parents, over protective parents, cosseting parents, lawn mower parents. These seemingly derogatory terms are given to parents who, as far as I can see, are simply having a more difficult time adjusting to the flip side of all of this love. What you don’t see is that sometimes these parents are facing all of that love, overwhelmed at the mere hint of the worst possible thing that could ever happen.
What would be more beneficial for these parents, speaking from experience, is to acknowledge their feelings. To reassure them that it really does get easier. Try your best to give language to the things no one ever tells you about.
While nothing can ever quite prepare you for having a child, we can all be kinder to the way some of us adjust to that change.
Did you find the flip side of all that love as difficult to adjust to as I did?
You’re doing okay.