I’m feeling a little nostalgic lately. Going through baby clothes tends to have that effect on me. So, as Nora turns from a baby into a toddler,* I’m reflecting on the big lessons I learned during her first year.
*As much as I’d like to deny it, I can’t — she’s not really a baby anymore!
The learning curve as a new parent is huge. I thought I learned a ton during my first year as a lawyer, but this has been even more dramatic. I’ve boiled it down to a Top 10 list, and I’m betting most of these items will look familiar to those of you who are parents!
1. Everything changes. Babies grow and change so fast, it’s unbelievable. In the beginning, when you figure out some magic thing that always works to comfort your baby, it’s golden… and it lasts for a week, tops. Then you have to figure something else out. It gets a little better as time goes on, but the constant change is hard to wrap your mind around. You just have to go with the flow and keep changing, too.
2. It’s not that gross when it’s your kid. This could apply to any number of things: spit-up, poop, chewed food… I could go on. It’s still gross when someone else’s kid does it, but not yours. Okay, maybe it’s just not as gross, because sometimes it is a little icky. I cannot rationally explain why this is, but it’s a fact. It must be a biological thing.
3. They really are born with their own little personalities. It is amazing how early you can start to see the person your baby will grow into. I’ve said it before, but right from the first few weeks, the hubby and I both knew Nora was going to be stubborn and independent. The toddler years are bearing that out so far!
4. There are 3 things you can’t make a child do: eat, sleep, or be quiet. This one is courtesy of my friend Emma, who is wise in the ways of motherhood. It’s true. No matter how much you beg, plead, cajole, trick, ignore, or bribe, you cannot make your child eat. They have to want to, at least a little bit. Same thing with sleeping or being quiet — it just doesn’t happen. You just have to do what you can and then let it go.
5. You couldn’t have imagined how much you’d love them. It took me a few months to really feel the full force of my love for Nora. I loved her from the moment she was born, but it did take me a little while to fall head-over-heels in love with her. But, I did, and it’s a love people often try to describe, but I think it’s impossible to really understand until you are a parent.
6. You also couldn’t have imagined how much they’d annoy the crap out of you sometimes. It’s not all puppies and rainbows. Sometimes kids are a pain — it’s just a fact. Sometimes they’re whiny or stubborn and nothing you do helps, and you get frustrated with them. It happens to everyone. I ran across this post the other day, which I think describes it perfectly. Some days, it’s just about making it through until bedtime. That doesn’t make you a bad parent, and it doesn’t mean you love them any less. It’s just part of the deal. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about that.
7. You couldn’t have imagined how much your life would change. No matter how much (or how little) planning you did, you simply cannot imagine the magnitude of the change this tiny person will bring to your life. Everything is different. Your world revolves around a constantly changing, moody, adorable little person with entirely unreasonable expectations. But you’d never want it any other way.
8. Bumps and bruises go with the gig. Especially once you have a mobile child, a few injuries are unavoidable. That’s just how the learning process works. Of course, you try to prevent bad things from happening, but I think it’s important to give your child some room to explore on his own. That means his noggin might get bonked sometimes. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad parent. Not that that will stop you from feeling guilty.
9. Just because you have a good kid doesn’t mean you’re a good parent. I have an easy baby. She sleeps well, eats like a champ, (usually) travels well, and is almost always pleasant and good-natured. However, that’s just luck of the draw, with a little bit of genetics thrown in. I think you can make marginal improvements based on your parenting style, but, when all is said and done, they pretty much are who they are. I try not to take credit for Nora’s good behavior for fear that I’ll end up with a hellion if we have another child.
10. Kids are smarter than you think. Nora has had my number for a good while now… it just took me a long time to figure it out. She knows just how to manipulate me, and it’s hard not to play right into her hands, the tricky little one. Sometimes you have to view your child as… not the enemy, exactly, but rather a skilled adversary in a long game of chess. You always have to be on the lookout for a trap. Presumably it only gets worse as they get older.
The thing about parenting is, anyone can do it. It’s all based on instincts. No matter how much ink has been spilled on a particular subject, sometimes you have to lay down the parenting books and just go with your gut. Of course, that made the learning curve all the more frustrating for a Very Type A personality like me… but I survived it. Well, at least the first year of it! I’m sure there are plenty more adventures to come.