Before I even considered having children I attempted to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for the prospect. What if my child became seriously ill? How would I cope with various injuries? The sex talk? A broken heart? Substance abuse? Teen pregnancy? Bullies? Lying? Stealing? Abduction? Animal cruelty? Adolescence? Some of my scenarios were probable others were ridiculous but I wanted to make sure I’d explored every potential situation good, bad, and ugly. I prepared conversations in advance, beautiful elegant lectures and cunning rebuttals for every possible argument. Now that I have my own child, I barely get a word in edgewise and even when a planned scenario does occur it still feels completely spontaneous and overwhelming. Sometimes I walk away from a discussion slapping my forehead. Why did I respond that way when I have such wisdom to share? I am not really an idiot am I?
Some things I learned from having a child
Babies do not sleep. Maybe some babies do but my daughter was not one of them. While you might have been able to go without sleep for extended periods, you did not have to do so while being highly alert and pumped full of hormones that lets face it make you extremely emotional. Isadora did not sleep through the night until she was three and I was not one of those mom’s that rushed to the crib at the faintest sound.
Babies eat a lot. The doctor said she’d eat ½ a bottle or so every 30 minutes for 2 weeks. Try a full bottle every 15 minutes like clockwork for months, including nights. Chances are if you have one of those non sleeping babies they are supplying that energy with food.
Not every cry can be solved by following the eat, sleep, cuddle, change, adjust temperature protocol, sometimes they cry and you spend hours searching for a solution.
Which brings me to the next point you lose a lot of control when you have children. If you were super tidy prior, chances are for the next few years you will have to live in chaos. You will find revolting things in kid’s rooms. I am just now getting the hang of organizing for a child. Children want to save things, every scrap of paper, every broken toy it all has some deep mystical meaning to them. You have to be careful not to steamroll them and respect their personal space, even if their personal space is ruining your dream of a catalog worthy house. Or their fashion sense all but nullifies their cute wardrobe. Or that nice outfit is instantly ruined or rejected. Spent hours on a healthy kid friendly meal only to have them refuse to eat? Sometimes problems do not have an easy solution. Sometimes you cannot solve it. Sometimes you just have to hug your kid and let them cry it out. Sometimes your kid wants to dress like Punky Brewster (that was me) and there are worse things really.
Children talk A LOT (or not at all). You probably won’t complete a thought for years to come (which is very frustrating). Despite being extremely social and vocal beings children have a difficult time expressing their emotions with words. You have to teach them to identify and describe their emotions. If this is something you struggle with personally (and who doesn’t?) this could be a major challenge. Children act on their emotions when they cannot express them appropriately. Sometimes a child might throw an absolute fit over the smallest thing but be struggling emotionally with something far more serious. Isadora once went off on me for moving a container of yoghurt and after a long talk I found out she was being bullied at school! The other day she was getting mouthy and I found out a 9 year old had told her all boys are assholes so she better adjust her standards accordingly. Seriously a 9 year old?! That is another thing children at school are telling your child all kinds of things. You have to talk to your child in order to clarify this misinformation.
Even young children can feel too embarrassed to confide certain feelings. You might think a 5 year old who runs around naked singing and shouting has no shame, but actually they do have sensitive areas and they are not always obvious.
Speaking of this you will get embarrassed A LOT. Your child will bring up things about your at home persona that you do not want to share. They will have emotional fits in public and people will look at you accusingly. Let’s not even mention when they become aware of their bodies. They will tell on you but they will not give both sides of the story. You will likely get embarrassed by certain questions as well. Though they can be adorable laughing at your child’s emotional reactions can make them more guarded and less likely to seek you out when a problem arises.
Your child wants to make you proud. This means they will do things that they consider helpful or “grown up” so that you can see how mature they are becoming. Some of these adult things are dangerous. It can be very difficult as a parent to know when your child is ready for certain things but children want to help. Include them in decisions. Allow them to help you with chores. Give them simple tasks. Show them the proper use of items that they will have contact with or access too. If you don’t give them opportunities to demonstrate their skills they will do whatever it takes to win your praise.
On this same note children have a lot to teach. While they may seem and even be quite fickle, they are the guidebook. Parents always complain babies don’t come with instruction manuals. Yes they do. They tell you all the time what they need, they scream it in your face on a daily basis you just have to listen.
Children are perceptive to the point of being psychic. I knew children could sense tension in a household. I did not know, that my child would, on a regular basis, announce my unspoken thoughts/feelings. They are unbelievably empathetic, you can’t hide much from them. Be prepared for nearly daily interrogations of everything you do and say! Privacy? Hardly ever.
If you do something wrong or say something mean to your child you need to apologize and let your child know that you are at fault. Children blame themselves for your bad behavior/moods and they will carry that guilt with them for their entire lives. Children have to be allowed to be angry with adults as well and to express those feelings in a healthy way.
Children lie. I found this out a while ago, I thought you could bypass this by instilling honesty but apparently it is a relevant and unavoidable part of their development. It is a part of learning morals and boundaries and such. I was really upset by this at first but when you think about it we all filter and tell little white lies.
Children need to hear everyday that you love them, that their special, that their important really.
Rather than go on dates when the kids are away, I recommend staying in sometimes and chilling together. Having a conversation becomes extremely difficult, you get interrupted every few seconds and your child will want to be present whenever they see you hanging out with someone else. Which brings me to a controversial point while I do believe discretion is necessary being affectionate and playful with your spouse if you have one is important. Talking out problems is important. Kids have to see some of how relationships work. They have to learn how to fight fair. Knowing their parents love each other and support each other is important.
Your child will be a lot like you and not just in the good ways. This is helpful when I am trying to figure out what is bothering Isadora or when I am trying to give her advice on coping with nightmares. But this also forces me to evaluate myself everyday, even the aspects of myself I really dislike. She asks the most excruciating, gut-wrenching questions of me at times. I knew lots of kids growing up that smoked their parent’s cigarettes in secret from a very very young age. Kids copy you, so if you start to see a really troubling behavior or habit developing you are going to have to stop and take a hard look in the mirror.
Meal time is hard. Very very hard. I probably struggle with this more than anything else. Eating at the table helps. Not making a big deal helps. Not saying a word when the complaints start generally result in the desired behavior, eating the food. Not giving sweet beverages help. Not giving too much snacks before meal time helps. Letting them help with the cooking makes them more inclined to eat the meal.
Do not give your child adult portions and then expect them to clear the plate. Though my daughter still eats about 2 to 3 times more than most children (honestly she is very active) it is unreasonable to think she will always be that hungry. Children are very hungry around growth spurts but a few days after they just don’t feel much like eating so you have too keep that in the back of your mind. They eat less when sick as well but sometimes they don’t know they are getting sick. You can also let them choose dinner sometimes or the sides involved making sure one of those sides is a veggie. Don’t make them a second dinner unless really something went wrong with the first, like the first one got way too spicy or burnt or something.
You can’t divide food into kid and adult food too much are they will end up just eating processed garbage. I let Isadora have her hate foods like olives and avocados which I don’t give her. She also has a category of foods she doesn’t like but does not find repulsive, I give these periodically and in different ways until she acquires a taste for them. I eat a lot of Japanese food and I noticed the other day that even though she does not like beans usually she likes tofu and miso (she really loves miso). Sam’s mom wanted to take us to lunch I suggested Japanese she was doubtful but Isadora cleaned her plate. When we eat at McDonalds she never wants to eat her french fries. If it is unhealthy I don’t force the issue I mean why? So desserts are not a have to finish thing. Children eat what you eat unless you don’t give them the same thing. Yes they have to develop their palates but it takes about 15 times for them to adapt a new food, simple is best and patience is a must.
Routines are good but a militant schedule does not work. Keeping Isadora’s bedtime routine when we moved helped a lot. Talking to her previously helped a lot. Letting her see the new school and explore the neighborhood all good things. I did not promise she would maintain all her previous relationships because I did not know that for certain. I usually never let her watch television all day but when we were unpacking her room she got to watch movies. We also stopped and played family games as well. You have to be flexible and consider the situation.
That is all for now! I know I don’t usually right articles because I am too verbose but I wanted to today.