Some people know they want kids and they’ve always known they’ve wanted kids since before they could remember. Not all of us are like that. Some of us were scared shitless about what becoming parents would entail.
SHITLESS, some of us were. I’m talking colon-cleansing-from-the-stomach-flu fear of the unknown. Because the only “known” we had before kids was listening to parents complain. And hey, that’s fine, I get it! I complain too. It’s cathartic. Parenting is hard. And the complaints are legit.
But to a scared shitless non-parent who isn’t sure if they’re up for procreating, those complaints can reverberate off our skulls and pile on top of our shoulders like an avalanche of doubt and anxiety and make us second guess whether or not it’s worth it.
Which is a shame, really. Because if you’re second guessing whether or you’ll be able to manage a daunting task like parenting, it very likely means that you will be great at it. Or at the very least not be too horrible. Which in the parenting world is basically the same thing.
Here is a small sampling of some of the things I was afraid of before having kids.
My youngest came out of the womb in the midst of a tantrum. Even the postnatal nurse raised her eyebrows when she heard her scream as I held her, rocked her, fed her. She handed me a few extra bottles of “sensitive” formula without me asking. Over the past four years, her tantrums have slowly and steadily subsided. She is now of the age that she can have a conversation about at tantrum after one occurs. Here’s one example of a recent one we had:
“Do you know why I let you watch a movie on the way to daycare today?”
“Because the last couple of days you’ve been a very good listener and you’ve been acting like a big girl – no whining or screaming. You’ve been using your words.”
“What else?” she asks me.
“What else did I notice about you?”
“Yeah.” She nods and smiles. She’s used to me listing some of her strengths that I see.
“I notice that you’re strong and you can do hard things and you’re a reader and a nice sister and a nice daughter and a nice friend.”
“And a nice cat and a nice dog. BAHAHAHAHAHA!” she cracks herself up.
“And you’re funny,” I add.
“I’m hilarious.” She retorts.
“What does hilarious mean?” She wants to double check she’s used the word correctly.
I distinctly remember that only ONE person I know told me before I had kids that children are funny. ONE!!! And I remember being surprised since all I had heard up to that point were complaints. All I heard about was the tantrums. Never the conversations after. My kids make me laugh a thousand times a day.
THE TIME COMMITMENT
Before I had children, when I’d hear someone talk about the practices or the games they had to take their kids to, I’d cringe inside. When they told me they couldn’t attend a fun weekend excursion, I’d feel so sorry for them. UGH. What a pain in the ass! I worried about a time when I would be forced to sit on the sidelines, bored out of my mind, wishing I was somewhere more exciting.
But then I took my child to her first swim class. I watched her stick her tongue out in concentration every time she pulled with her arms. I watched her creep along the side of the pool, her shoulders shaking a bit out of fear, as she practiced crab walking along the edge. I watched her look at me, her mouth involuntarily turn down and I watched her hold back tears as she worked on floating on her back. She was afraid and she let it show for a minute. I watched her smile after she was done as she smacked a high five into her teacher’s palm.
I sat there enthralled, cheering her every step of the way, giving her a smile every time she looked in my direction. I watched her succeed and I felt victorious. It felt as if I had accomplished a great feat myself. Except watching her achieve felt even better.
When I didn’t have kids and I looked at what parents were doing . . . it looked really boring. They weren’t traveling the world, they weren’t taking salsa dancing or art classes for fun, they weren’t going out all night chatting with friends.
They seemed kind of lame.
Before having kids, I was afraid of being bored. I didn’t realize that having kids meant never being bored again. I didn’t know that when we drove down the street my child would say things like:
“Moon. Moon. Moonie. Where are you?! Mom, where’s the moon! Oh! There it is! It’s following us! Mom, it’s following us! Mom – I want to eat the moon. I want to eat it. Mumm Mummm Mummmm Mum Mum! The moon is in my belly. HAHAHAHA!!! Mom. Can we really eat the moon? I really want to eat it.”
No one warned me that I’d ALWAYS BE LOOKING AT THE MOON. And that it is really beautiful. Always. Some days it’s skinny, some days it’s plump. Waxing, waning – doesn’t matter. Always beautiful. And it’s not just the moon. It’s the stars and the trees and the rainbow tinged bubbles that are blown out of wands. These conversations happen about every possible topic that exists.
No one warned me that I’d notice everything in the entire world, all around me, from a fresh pair of eyes.
THE MESSY DIAPERS AND THE CHANGING OF PEE-SOAKED SHEETS
Even though I tell my kids to stay in their beds because they, and I – need to get good night’s sleep – I also secretly love the nights when one decides to come up to the side of my bed and tap me on the shoulder to wake me up so I can lift them onto the mattress and put my arm around their belly and rest my head above their chin, sniffing their cinnamon-scented head.
Even when it’s at 4 am and they don’t stop tossing and turning until 5 minutes before my alarm goes off.
Even if it’s because they peed through their pajamas and onto the sheets. Even if I need to help clean up, re-dress, reassure that it’s okay, and then set the washer to cleanse on high.
Changing and cleaning, when it comes to them, just means taking care of them. Is nurturing. Is so, so, SO much different than cleaning or washing my house, or my things, or sort of mess my husband makes. When it comes to my children, cleaning a shit-filled diaper is less gross than it is concerning. Does it look like she’s hydrated enough? Is it happening often enough? How long has she been sitting in this? Do I need to change her more often? Do I need to apply A&D – is she red? Is she uncomfortable?
No one warned me that when it came to my children, changing and cleaning would not be chores – they’d be me not hesitating for one moment when it comes to these tasks because I’d be making sure my children were safe and healthy and clean.
That said, I still remind my toddler not to pee on me when she’s sitting on my lap. Because being soaked in pee after your child knows better is really, really gross.
I’m still a bit afraid of the unknown. Of the big kid problems that I know loom around the corner.The teenage years. The asshole friends. I already wake up a 3 am in the middle of the night and worry about a time, 15 years from now, when my girls are college freshmen walking around a dark campus at night. I fret over things that scare me to death. The difference between now and before I had kids is that I know all of the fears and worries are worth it. A million times over.