P is for Parenting

Friday, June 24, 2016

Welcome the beautiful Donavan Thomas to my blog this morning. A new mama, she found a few free minutes in her life to write a blog post I think new moms or soon-to-be new moms can relate to. Colin is so lucky to have you and Kyle as his parents. I'm so excited to see him grow up!

P is for Parenting
By Donavan Thomas

Full disclosure: I’ve only been a parent for 388 days, as of today, so I’m by no means an expert!

It’s cliché but true – my life changed forever the day my son was born. But no matter how many
blogs and books I read, parents I talked to and prayers I said, I was totally unprepared for just how being a parent would really change things. So in the hopes of helping someone else, here are the biggest lessons I’ve learned about life as a parent in the last (almost) 13 months!

1. Sleep might not be the hardest thing.
Everyone talks about sleep when you have a baby. It’s the first question friends, family and the random lady in the grocery aisle ask. “How’s he sleeping?” So you think sleep will be your biggest battle as a new parent.

Except when it isn’t. My son has pretty much always been a great nighttime sleeper. He “slept through the night” – and not the 5 hours that the doctors say is technically sleeping through the night, but from 9pm-5am – at about 6 weeks. And sure, we had a few weeks of harried naps and nighttime waking as he’s grown, but even on the bad days he was still a better than average sleeper.

Before you go dismissing me as having an “easy” baby, know that my kid has his own set of issues, mainly with eating and food intolerances. But that has been an adventure that I was totally unprepared for, because I read a whole lot about sleep – that’s what everyone scares you about! But you don’t know what you’re going to get, so maybe wait and see what kind of kid you have, before you go crazy reading everything about babies.

2. Try to get good at two things: trust and multitasking.
Many of us struggle with trust. But guess what – when you feel like you know nothing and you need guidance, you better get good at it. Especially when it comes to doctors and caregivers. If you can’t trust your pediatrician and your kid’s teacher/nanny/babysitter, keep trying until you find someone who you can. If you feel you truly can’t trust anyone, you’re going to feel very responsible, and very alone.

Also, I never really struggled with efficiency – I don’t like to sit on things. But being a parent has taken my ability to get.shit.done to a new level. Run a conference call on the way to a doctor’s appointment with a sick, screaming kid? Done it. Hold the baby while drying my hair? Yep, been there. Order late birthday gifts while breastfeeding in a Wawa parking lot on a family road trip? Not proud of it, but I’ve done that too.

But living life as a crazy multi-tasker can cause issues, which leads me to my next lesson …

3. You must put down the phone.
Let me be as honest as possible. You could miss your kid’s life by holding your phone. It’s so easy today to be distracted by our phones, and sometimes we have to be – looking at a recipe while making dinner, responding to a work email in the parking lot because you left early, or looking at an address when going somewhere new. But if you spend your days (and nights!) engrossed in what’s happening on your phone, you’re going to miss a lot of things happening with the little human in your life. I’m terrified I’m about to miss my little guy’s first steps or first word because I was on Instagram or responding to an email. So I’ve just about given up my phone when I’m with him, at least I really try to. It’s not worth it to me.

There’s also way too much information available at our fingertips, and it can be overwhelming. I could write a whole post about that, but I highly recommend trying not to Google every question, ailment, symptom and developmental question you have. The Internet is a scary place – I say that from experience – and sometimes it’s better to let things play out, or to get information elsewhere. Which takes me to …

4. It truly takes a village, but your village may come from interesting places.
I knew how critical my friends and family would be as I raised my child. After all, they were the people I trusted most for everything else in life, so why not this? But I live 3 hours from my family and 3,000 miles from my husband’s, and most of my friends don’t have kids. So while everyone checked in on us, was curious about what was happening, and gave really great advice, I often felt like I was on a small island.

Over the last year, I’ve found support in so many places. Our pediatrician has been a huge source of comfort and guidance for me – I truly believe she’s my guardian angel. My coworkers who are also moms have reminded me on the tough days that it’s just a bad day and things will get better. My son’s teachers, who I trust to raise him as I would, are an extension of our family and our partners in parenting. My neighbor answers my kid questions at all hours, forgives the loud noises coming from our house and is always there to share a glass of wine on a long day. There have been strangers who have helped me return carts in parking lots while my hands were full, cleaned my child’s puke from the floor of an ER waiting room, and given me encouragement as I try to get a workout behind the stroller.

Sometimes, it’s the people you never thought you’d need to lean on that support you the most. So look for them in hidden places. (This is not meant to discount our family and friends, who have been absolutely invaluable to us!)

5. Your heart is bigger than you ever imagined.
When I was pregnant, I struggled to imagine how I could find room in my heart to love someone else the way I wanted my child to be loved. But the second I laid eyes on that little guy, I swear my heart grew five times. Even on the worst of days, when I feel like an utter failure as a parent, friend, employee, wife, daughter … his smile fixes it. I never expected to be absolutely smitten with my child, and I’m continually surprised by just how wonderful I think he is.

But truthfully, I’m surprised by how wonderful I think it all is. The spit-up, the poopy diapers, the early mornings, the ear infections, the teething, the drool – so much drool! – the worries … it’s all worth it. And I had to live it all to really believe that!

(Important note: I know that I’m incredibly fortunate to have had the experience of being a parent, and there are many who would give anything to have the same opportunity. My heart goes out to all of you.)
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