Can You Prepare for Parenting?

Can You Prepare for ParentingYou read the books. Not just one, and not only about pregnancy and birth. You signed up for emails and apps that provide development updates at your fingertips. You checked the registry lists—all of them—and planned accordingly. You even read the “what you REALLY need” and “things you just don’t need” blog posts. You took the classes for the birth and talked to a few trusted sources who have been there, done that. You’ve even taken in more unsolicited advice than you’d like because…almost all unsolicited advice is more than you’d like. You are prepared, you think.

Just like you were prepared the first time you went to a new school, on your first date, off to college, into a committed relationship, on a first interview, to that first job, and more. Parenting is unlike any other endeavor. If you could prepare for major seasons of life I imagine there would be fewer letters to my younger self, what I wish I knew, tips for fill-in-the-blank, and other such thematic articles. There is knowing about something, and then there is actually breathing it in and out to your very core.

This isn’t to say one can’t understand until one has children. That’s too condescending. You’ve heard it. “One day when ____, then you’ll understand.” It’s not that simple. There are many parents who don’t have a clue on some things for any number of reasons and other childless people who have great wisdom in what being a parent might involve.

I knew patience. I grew it over years; parenting did not teach me patience unlike anything else so much as it affords me opportunities each day to learn it again in all its endurance. I knew love. I tended to love over all my years; parenting did not teach me love so much as specific love and selflessness.

Something I did not know until I became a parent, nor do I think I could have prepared for, involves the time of caregiving, the way it weaves into one’s soul. In this sense caregiving is not only to children but also to parents or others loved dependents. It’s life-altering and perspective-changing. I spend my time considering and doing things I’d never thought of, never even knew to.

This investment is partly pragmatic. Pulling out four sets of clothes for upcoming season was just a short afternoon task when it was just me and my one set of clothing. Or in the morning, when getting ready for one to get to work on time seems like a task, suddenly getting four bodies fed and ready, in the car, and off to school and childcare, then me on the road. Don’t forget the lunches! The change of clothes to replace those used yesterday! The sign-up sheet for the goods to bake! So much time and thought goes into making that process seamless, not to mention all the emotions of shuffling kids here and there as you leave them for work.

Then the time that gets to the intention of your parenting. You care and everything is new. What doctor to choose, what that rash might be, which stroller to buy, whether to preschool or not, which preschool, what sports and how many, when to speak and hold your tongue, when to give them space to fail and succeed, how much screen time, when to allow a phone, oh-my-gosh bullying or dating or developing ethics and principles, and so on. Everything takes thought and attention like those first days of being at college or starting my first “real” job, or planning a wedding—except a life hangs in the balance. Of course a wedding comes and goes—for a child the new just keeps coming. One age mastered and another age comes.

Turns out you constantly prepare for parenting. It is the real-deal, never-ending, choose-your-own adventure every day. Welcome.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 6 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Tags: development, infant, parenting, preschooler, social media, toddler

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