I remember being pregnant with both of my boys and wondering just how my much life was going to change. How I would manage to keep up, and how I could possibly care for this new little fragile person. I also wondered if I had what it takes to be a parent, and a good one. My stress level was pretty high for a while, just trying to sort out all of these questions in my mind. The anxiety and fear surrounding becoming a parent is real, and if you are a parent–or soon to be one–you know these emotions all too well.
Amazingly though, our lives came together, so much so that after our children arrived, we wondered how we ever lived without them! The late nights (or all-nighters), the numerous feedings and diaper changes, teething, crawling and walking, and of course those wonderful toddler fits are suddenly worth it when we look at their little faces and smiles. Then we realize that we have changed, right along with our quickly growing children.
Even as we look back at our previous lives,
you know the life you had before you became a parent, we can easily accept that we are no longer the same person. Our perspective has definitely changed and we can now even relate to the challenges our parents faced when raising us, who for so many years, we thought they were the most unreasonable people in the world, who knew nothing about life. You are now a whole new person, with some of the same characteristics of your non-parent self, but you have evolved to be the parent who worries about their children, always wears their seat belt, purchases the largest life insurance policy available, and cannot bear to watch the news when the headline is about a harmed child. You, my friend, are a parent.
We mature and grow through our life experiences, if we allow ourselves the opportunity. Parenting, like many other life events and experiences, is one that is life-changing. Regardless if your children are babies or young adults, you can remember the impact that parenting had on you. Not only did you change as a person, but you also engaged with a whole new set of skills and emotions that you never thought you had. Your patience has been tested over normal capacity, your compassion is overflowing, and you see life in vivid color. Even though people tried to tell you what parenting was like, it is impossible to understand how much you can love another human being, until you became a parent. And you love this little individual almost more than life itself, and feel like you couldn’t live without them.
Parenting is one piece of our life that comes with no preparation or manual. There is no real guidebook for being a parent, and I am not referring to the self-help parenting books out there. I am talking about the human nature and change involved with caring for another person. There is no license to acquire or a complicated test to master, instead you choose to become a parent, established by the standards within your home and your personal upbringing. This is what makes the growth process for parents so remarkable. You are learning what life is like to be a parent, while your child is learning about life at basic levels, as a child. You grow and change through it all, together.
Growing with your child is essential. Parenting an infant is much different then parenting a teenager. The skills you learned through each and every stage build upon each other and everyday requires an acceptance that you will learn something new. It is when we forget that as parents, we are also still learning, that we come into problems. Then we are caught in rigid thinking and parenting, and this stifles our growth and development, as well as for our children. Parenting is not a perfect role, instead it has many undefined characteristics and will vary in definition for every parent. But if we decide to stop growing and learning, then we project a confidence that we have it all figured out, that we are a perfect parent versus others. This, is just not true.
Of course, we have mastered some parenting skills along the way. We somehow learned how to function on fumes for sleep and we can finally manage parent-teacher school conferences. The ongoing process of learning and development as a parent does not minimize the accomplishments we have made along the way, those big and small. What this process does is allow us to reshape and redefine our parenting skills, just as we would for any other acquired skill in our lives. As long as we acknowledge that parenting is a life-long activity that ebbs and flows in time, the requirements will always vary, and that ongoing personal development is necessary…we will be fine.
But most of all, our kids will be fine too. Even though we are imperfect parents, and still learning.