3: To Me, Before I Had a Kid...
Okay, there are SOOOOO many things I’d like to mention to you – I don’t think you’ll really believe me. I mean, you have fairly reasonable expectations of parenthood, for being completely clueless. But you just would not believe. It’s okay. We’re all like that before we have a kid. It’s just how it is. But if I could let you know a few things and if I thought you might take them to heart, this is what I’d say:
1. The changes keep coming. It starts out quickly…the sheer shock of having a baby in your home for which you are wholly responsible (!) and then the way she changes her needs every few weeks, then every few months for the first two years. You’ll forget a change is coming and wonder why All The Things aren’t working…and lo, she is going through another developmental change. So go easy with yourself (and with her daddyman). You’ll feel a little more like a mother each day and a little more settled, but nothing really ever settles. It’s okay, little sensitive mama. You’ll make it.
2. Learn not to second-guess yourself. It takes up so much mental energy wondering all day if you did this right or handled that correctly. Make a decision – feed her now or skip the snack, put her to bed early or not, ‘yes’ she can jump on the couch or no jumping – but then let it be. You love her and you love Father God, so make the best decision you know how and trust Him with the outcome.
3. When she’s old enough to have an opinion and some preferences, say yes as much as you can and when you say no, mean it.
4. Bladder control. You don’t even know how long you can hold it. You’ll realize at 3pm that you haven’t gone to the bathroom all day because there was so much to be done or you just kept so busy with a child. This is just a fun fact for you.
5. Having a newborn is easier than you think. It’s the sleep deprivation that makes it feel hard. That and the screaming and crying and her not being able to tell you what she needs. But other than that, it’s fairly simple.
6. Having a crawler is easier than you think. It’s just the teething that makes it feel hard. That and how she gets into everything and your living room is no longer safe and she eats random things off the floor and her sleeping rhythms are insane. But other than that, easy-peasy.
7. Having a toddler is easier than you think. It’s just your own mental exhaustion from having to repeat yourself sixty-seven times a day that makes it seem hard. That and how she is clearly an extrovert to your introversion, a busy woman to your slower pace, and how she has all the feelings you have with less-to-no impulse control. Other than that, toddlers are simple.
8. Be flexible with her routine, so you can be flexible with your life later.
9. Inconsistency with her routine will make your life crazy later – stick to a schedule.
10. You know how you feel so strongly about introducing her to lots of foods and lots of variety? Good call. It makes her a good eater later, but don’t get The Big Head about it.
11. Steward your energy. Figure out what things are family priorities, personal priorities, financial priorities and structure your life to honor those. Don’t do what other people do because it appears to work for them. Do what works for your crew. They are the ones you are loving and serving. And take a deep breath about it. Go for grace, not getting it right every time.
12. Just, give up the idea of sleeping, really. Because “sleeping in” is a fluid term and homegirl, it just is not.going.to.happen.
13. Here’s a thing you’re not going to believe: you will adore her. What with everyone telling you how hard parenting is, you have some vague expectation of that. Well and good. But you are going to get butterflies just looking at her and you’ll think everything she does is all marvelous and the deep intensity of your heart for her will just blow your mind. IT IS AWESOME.
Being a mom is so cool. And it damn well should be – you waited three years for this beastie and you bled out four babes in the waiting and that little guard you have around your heart? It will MELT to a puddle as God works in His redeeming way to nurture your mama heart into the softest space for the beastie girl. It’s okay to weep with the sheer thrill of it.
I know you may not believe this all right now. It’s okay. But just be comforted: it’s going to be amazing. Worth the wait and the agony and the loss. And God, in His tenderness, will use this to mature you, to refine you, to burn away the stodgy bits and make you more in His likeness. And you’ll know Him and need Him and hear Him in profound ways.
Take heart. And hang on for the ride.
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