When I was about 8 months pregnant a friend of mind decided to enlighten me about how my life would be once the baby was born. Why he waited until I was that far along in my pregnancy to share this invaluable wisdom, I will never know. But one day, there he was sitting in a chair in my office, with this oh-so-serious look on his face. He started the conversation with a single statement: “Having a child will change every facet of your life”.
My immediate reaction was to respond with “I know”.
This was evidently a mistake, since he acted as if I had said the most uneducated, ignorant statement he had ever heard, and said “NO, you DON’T know.” He followed this up with a repeat of the previous epic statement, painfully drawn out with each word emphasized to the point that he was almost spelling them “Having…a…child…WILL…CHANGE…EVERY…FACET…OF…YOUR…LIFE.” As I sat there staring at him, wondering what brought on this urge to enlighten me, (not to mention wondering briefly if he had completely lost his mind, since he’s been on the verge for a long time), it occurred to me that he was right. Of course, I had thought about this before, hence my spontaneous ‘I know’ response. How could having a baby not change everything? After all, I’d already had to stock my house with at least a year’s worth of diapers in every size available, a whole new teeny wardrobe complete with sizes all the way from Preemie to 3T, a crib, rocking chair, changing table, dresser, baby monitors and even a miniature bathtub, not to mention toys, books, blankets of every kind, strollers, car seats, diaper bags, burp clothes, and a whole myriad of baby bath products. I’m sure the list can go on and on. I’d already visited daycare after daycare (since I am a working mom) and interrogated every teacher and employee I could get my claws into, asking them intimate, personal questions that no one should have to answer unless they are in confession or being tortured. I’d already read ahead in my parenting books (extra credit, you know) and was prepared for many of those childhood maladies you hope your kids will never get but know someday they will All for one tiny little bundle, the arrival of which was already scaring me to death. Of COURSE things will change.
But until he said something that day, and followed it up with an example, I never really thought of the practical applications of an addition to our family. His example was perfectly suited to bring that side of parenthood to light. I just didn’t really realize how accurate it was until I experienced it myself. He told of him and his wife, prior to the birth of their son. Before the little tyke was born, any night of the week he and his wife may have wanted to go out to eat for the evening meal. As he explained it, life was simple. They wanted something to eat from a restaurant, so they got their coats, their keys, got in the car and off they went. Once their son came along, dinner out required a minimum of a week’s worth of planning, which may or may not have resulted in an actual dinner in a restaurant. They could not just decide to go and then go. Instead, they would decide to go, then change the baby’s diaper and probably his clothes, get the diaper bag ready making sure there were plenty of diapers, wipes, diaper rash ointment, toys, 2 sets of spare clothing, bibs, bottles/baby food/snacks (as the baby progressed in age, of course), thermometer, Tylenol and an extra blanket. Then one would go out and start the car (in wintertime) so it could get warm for the baby, while the other proceeded to bundle the baby up until he vaguely resembled a caterpillar’s cocoon with a nose and two little eyes peeping out, then strap him in his car seat, by which time he had soiled his diaper again, requiring an undoing of everything that had been done, and the whole process would start over. Many a night they ended up eating ramen noodles before bed, because they just never made it out to eat.
At the time I just laughed at his story, and although I comprehended somewhere in my psyche that he was 100% correct and that I should pay attention to what he was telling me, I went about life as usual waiting for my own baby to arrive. I realize now, after 4 years of being a mom, I should have taken his words of wisdom a little more seriously. I also realize that he was the only person that attempted to give me a down-to-earth viewpoint of what parenthood is really like. I now wish that someone had told me a lot more about the nitty gritty nuts and bolts of raising a child. Not to mention what it would do to me emotionally. So, in honor of the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday, here are some things I know now that I wish I knew then.
I wish I had known that every report I hear of every death, injury or disappearance of a child I don’t know would be cause for hours of tears, days of reflection, months of fear and years of worry.
I wish I had known that plastic food really does need to be refrigerated.
I wish I had known that my capacity for love went light years beyond what I ever could have imagined.
I wish I had known that grease stains appear in places that no grease has ever been.
I wish I had known that the gentle touch of a child’s hand on my skin could afford more calm, peace, relief and inner peace than any spa or therapy could ever provide.
I wish I had known that sandbox sand is actually a portable toy.
I wish I had known that adjustable waistbands are really the best invention anyone ever conjured.
I wish I had known that “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” by Dr. Demento is actually a children’s song.
I wish I had known that even in my most pathetic or livid states of mind, a look into my child’s eyes could make it all disappear.
I wish I had known that every day is an adventure, if I will only choose to view the world through my child’s eyes.
I’m sure I can go on and on.