Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Answering a tough Question about parenthood....

This Holiday season I've had the opportunity to reunite with family and friends who I haven't seen in over a year + i.e.: they haven't seen me since I entered the world of motherhood. (dun dun dun) And so with each encounter comes the question that most childless people ask, "So what's the biggest surprise you've learned or realized since becoming a parent?" um....? is usually my response. I guess I should say something super awesome and mind blowing that will inspire even the biggest pessimist to join in on the fun and procreate to their heart's content...?!

But truthfully I can't think straight most of the time... I'm lucky if I remember to drink enough water during the day, so answering a question like that feels like really hard math, under pressure hard math, like stop this bomb before it explodes pressure.  So far I've copped out by responding with, "um, well it's been surprising how little time you have!?" SOOOoooo freaking cliche, and I always scramble and add something like- "but she's really great and makes everything worth it!". I sound like those parents I met when I was pregnant who would look at you and say, "Enjoy it NOW, because once the baby is born, say goodbye to your life!" Who the hell wants to hear that!? But more importantly that's not how I've viewed parenthood. The husbo and I decided that having children would granted be a sacrifice, but that it wouldn't limited us and we would fold this new family member into our lives, adapting and evolving our lives to accommodate this new little one.  After all, as one friend mentioned to me, you are only a parent of small children for a very short amount of time. Thus- enjoy it as much as you can AND also know there is a light at the end of the tunnel (i.e.- teenagers! wha, wha!).

But the truth of the matter is, in some ways it is no longer "your life" it is your child's life because now they come first, they are the number one priority. This is now their childhood of which you are in charge of helping to shape their experiences and memories that they will hopefully happily quote and reflect upon when they are grown adults. I feel like modern technology, the ease of life- the constant connection and availability to our own personal shit has made us weak to take on the task of being a parent. Of understanding the sacrifice that needs to take place... The husbo and I have talked about the concept of "me time" many a time. Although it should never be completely forgotten, at the end of the day (literally when the baby is in bed and you have free time) that free time is still such a luxury to most of the world, so get over yourself, it is enough time. ; )

But let's get back to really answering this question. (pardon my stream of consciousness rantings)

You see it can't be summed up with one answer, which is why I am often left speechless. I wish I had the ability to let you download- in some movie montage of fast clips of light, sound, emotion, dare I add smell... the feeling the complex essence of this new endeavor. But instead just bear with me if you like...

I am now a member of this new sect, I wouldn't call it a group, since that signifies a sense of community. This is not to say that there isn't a mom or parent community, but it can be rather isolating and mostly because you are just so focused on your own journey, on staying afloat, that it's hard to even process let alone remember what just happened this morning or harder yet last week, or worse when she was 6 months old... so when a dear friend asks you to remember back to any 6 month mile stones you draw a blank. You promised yourself you wouldn't but there it is a foggy hot mess.

Because think of it this way- I am now a parent. I'm still wrapping my head around being pregnant, around the birth, around everything... but you don't really have time to sit back and process much. There is this new person in your life that you are completely in charge of, this person is not a peer, they are constantly changing and growing, no other time in your life until now have you had someone so new to you, so dependent... someone who will be so different this time next year. Your siblings, your spouse all slowly change over time but there is a comfort in that you are changing together at a similar pace... but not so with this little one. The baby that you know and love right now will be so different in 4 years, let alone 10 (shit). So there's that mind fuck. The way I love is being tested in a sense, more is being asked of it... I'm going to love this baby through it all.

THEN there is the constant analyzing that takes place every single second of the day, a routine that even the most chill of parents finds themselves in (I hope I'm not alone in this!). At times it can be very subtle while at other times it's a constant flow of questions that demand an answer. "What should she eat for lunch? Do I have a back up if for some strange reason she hates pasta today? why is she acting this way? Do I have a toy or better yet a piece of trash for her to play with so I can rinse out her cloth diaper with out her literally pulling down my elastic pj pants? Should I buy a pair of suspenders!?" and on and on. Your are constantly analyzing the choreography of parenting, navigating the smallest detail to foresee and avoid an iceberg. This is why when you see a parent be they a seasoned veteran, or a newbie don't ask too many questions of them because they are asking enough questions of themselves all dam day.

However the right questions are: May I help!? no, scratch that, our pride will say no. So instead just come up and do something for us... and this brings me to another point I've been musing about. Having a baby is a lot like loosing a family member (hear me out!) At the beginning everyone stops by brings flowers, food, helps out in some form, and then slowly as the weeks tick by people stop calling or emailing, the food has run out and your house is a war zone. And like with grief, it's the 6 month or year mark that also needs to be recognized... because unlike grief having a baby gets harder as they get older, more mobile, more demanding... and I'm not going to call. I'm not. I wish I could but I would call and have what to say!? Friend: "So what did you do today?" Me: "Not much, when I went to clean out a dirty diaper by dumping it in the toilet, I hadn't calculated the physics of the turd and it dropped from such a height that is splashed out dirty toilet bowl water all over my hand and pants."

See no one wants to hear that! That's not good "tweet" material... that and at night when she is asleep I've become possessive of my free time. This will change but for now this is the way it is... and some days I just sit there and do nothing, while other nights I run around like I'm trying out for the game show Super Market sweep! (remember that!?).

On top of all the nitty gritty there is the bigger picture stuff that your mind is now blown wide open to... since becoming a parent I have a greater perspective on generations, on history. Essentially I feel more connected to those that lived in the 17th century, for example. Because there is a universal-bonding element- thing about parenthood that connects you with life, with man...dare I say I feel more? I'm more in tune...? in a tripping out in your friend's basement sort of way... which perhaps is why the movies Tree of Life and Cave of Forgotten Dreams have resonated with me so...

And yet as magical and mind blowing as this journey is... I still feel that it's not for everyone, without judgment I sincerely think not everyone has to have this experience...

So in summary of my midnight ranting...

perhaps the best answer to the question - What's the biggest surprise since becoming a parent?

"I feel more connected to my fellow man, to those that came before and to those that will follow."


"That if not executed properly a poop when dropped from a certain height will splash toilet bowl water on your hand, so make sure there aint no "yellow mellow" happening before said turd is dumped in the toilet."

and please don't ask a new parent this question, I will try and do the same.

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