We talked about it as he was getting ready for bed. I explained that he was taking his sweet time coming out. Nine days past his due date, I was scheduled to go to the hospital. His dad and I had a last supper at the newly opened local Whole Foods. We arrived at the hospital around 11pm, checked in, got hooked up, and waited. Just over 15 hours later, he arrived.
After hearing only some of the details, my son announced that if he gets married and has a kid, he plans to be in a different room at the hospital during the birth. Apparently, it sounded gross (and I barely shared ANYTHING).
10 years. I remember parts of our whirlwind hospital stay. He was so tiny. I struggled with feeding him. We tried to soak in all the knowledge that the nurses shared. Then, somehow, they were packing us up with extra diapers and hospital blankets and wheeling me to the exit. We made it home, introduced the baby to the dog, and tried to figure out which end was up.
It amazes me how ego-centric I was at the beginning, thinking I knew best. What did I know? Like all new parents, we struggled through. I agonized about my return to work and stumbled there as well until I eventually found my way.
Three years later his sister joined the clan. We felt like baby pros by then. The struggle became keeping two kids with wildly different needs sated.
Ages and stages, right? The daycare years were expensive. But how easy it was to drop them together at one location and pick them up at the end of the day. During those years, we fought germs and took naps. We changed a lot of diapers and tried new foods. We played Candyland and had dance parties. We took wagon rides and enjoyed music class.
Then, the bus took him away that first day of kindergarten, and his sister raged at being left behind.
And on it goes. Bigger kids, bigger problems, I am told.
Here’s what I would tell 10-years-ago-me, if I could:
1. Cut yourself some slack. There is no “right” way to do this parenting thing. As long as your kids feel loved and heard and your house is not falling down, you should consider it a win.
2. Nice job picking a spouse. While you loved and appreciated him then, you could have no idea as to just how amazing of a dad he would become. He plays ball with them with seemingly unending patience. Together you tackle discipline and revel in the highs. He loves them differently than you, but just as deeply, and that is a gift.
3. Make your own community. If you are lucky enough to have a parent of your own able to step up and help you along this journey, cherish it. If you do not have such support, find your own tribe. No one should have to take this crazy ride on their own. And, as the kids age, and you realize you cannot be more than one place at once, it is imperative to have a core who can provide help when you are stuck, and a shoulder when you need it. And you will need it.
4. Be present as much as you can be. You just get one opportunity to raise good little people and they need you paying attention. You do the best you can. And then, you have the chance to try again the next day.