I have been doing this parenting thing for just about three years now, and as I go along I realize that a lot of what people said to me before I had kids, often ad nauseum, seems to have turned out to be untrue, an exaggeration, or an understatement.
The number of cliches I heard or suggestions I was offered, while well intentioned, have proven to be misguided. I was sure I could navigate and anticipate so much more than it turns out I was able to, mostly because I banked on or assumed that things would unfold in a certain way.
Well, turns out no one passed my kids, or my body, the memo. It also appears a lot of my friends didn’t get the memo either.
So I’ll happily debunk these myths. Or at least qualify them. Every new parent should be armed with the best preparation and coffee pots possible.
I have friends who never touched a cup of coffee a day in their life until they had kids. Now they own a Keurig, a Tassimo, a 14 cup machine, and are on a first name basis with the local Tim Hortons and Starbucks employees. Chances are, if you didn’t like coffee before, it’ll be your best friend soon.
I can not count the number of times I’ve heard this one. Yes, sleep will be different, no doubt. And in the early days, it will be scarce. But eventually these 5am happy toddlers will become teens who need to be dragged out of bed and then we’ll be frustrated by that. You WILL sleep again. Eventually.
I’m not saying you NEED to have wine. I am saying that after a long day entertaining and/or attempting to settle a child, it’s nice to have to have easy access to a tall glass of relaxation.
Some people leave the hospital after having their baby wearing their pre-pregnancy jeans. Most though, do not. My son is past the nine month mark and I’m still trying to kick these last pounds. I’ll be 35 this week and my mother says she is still trying to kick the last pounds from me.
Look at this comparison shot:
The nifty 70s outfit and the super safe-looking car seat might give it away, but in case it’s not otherwise obvious, the picture on the right is my daughter and the left is me. We share a face, even more so now as she gets older, but that kid is her dad through and through.
Except, sometimes, it is the best and cheapest one available.
Okay, this one is a toughie. The reality is that for a lot of people it just isn’t enough. Lots of women would stay home if only money would allow. But what I didn’t realize is that I, personally, was a better mommy for my daughter when I was back in the work force. I have quite a few friends who chose to go back to work early, and a few who never planned on taking more than six months in the first place, and didn’t regret it.
I acknowledge that people in the United States would kill for the chance to have the leave we are granted in this country, and I am grateful for it. I also acknowledge that not everyone wants to take advantage of it.
It is true, that for a lot of children, they just need to be shown how to sleep. What isn’t true, though, is that any kid can be sleep trained in three nights. Everyone told me that, and there was some truth to it for my kids, but for a lot of people I know it took a lot longer than that.
Last time I checked there wasn’t a one size fits all anything for any kid. Any method that doesn’t account for different personalities (read: ability to hold out and scream for HOURS) does parents a disservice and makes them think they’re doing something wrong, when in reality, their kids are just more persistent.
All I’ll say about this is that one of my friends said it best when she said that she was glad mother nature blinded her from seeing how scrawny and wrinkly her baby was until the point when her baby was finally adorable.
…or if you give cereal before bed…or if you put cereal in the nighttime bottle…I only have anecdotal evidence to back me up here, but it’s mostly untrue. It can work. But more often than not, it doesn’t change a thing.
I had no idea that some little kids only go once a week! My son went every four days. One thing is for certain, sadly but truly, the focus on your child’s digestive system is borderline obsessively insane in the early days. I used to call my husband on poo day to advise him of the dirty diaper’s arrival. I also ended each of those phone calls with “I used to be cool.”
If your baby is crying, just strap them in for a ride!” I honestly think the only place my child cried more than she did at home, is when I had the audacity to strap her into the car seat. It can work. But it is definitely not a miracle cure for all. Even though I was promised it was.
Funny, but before I had kids I had never heard anything but that. Along comes my kids and all of a sudden all of my friends with older kids were all ‘oh, but wait until the Trying Threes!’ And I can’t share what the Fours are called in polite company. I think, as you navigate each wonderful stage of development, that they all have their challenges. They are challenging in different ways, and some will be more challenging on some parents than on others, and some kids will navigate some stages better than others. I was a great obedient, studious teenager. But I’m pretty sure my parents could have done without me from ages 18-22.
Everyone told me before my kids were born that I’ll just figure it out. Learn as I go. Meanwhile, almost three years in, I am pretty much flying by the seat of my pants. I don’t find parenting intuitive. I find it a big long practice of trial and error.
For all of the cliches, and there are many, so far I have only found one to hold true.
This is, of course, not to be confused with ‘”enjoy it while you can,” because that is sometimes impossible when you have a screaming newborn or a tantruming toddler. But it is true that the older they get, the faster time seems to fly.
In the early days of being a parent, when I was stressed and at my wit’s end, a good friend said to me the days are long, but the years are short. And while those days, at the time, seemed to have gone on forever, likewise, they were a lifetime ago.
So despite not just magically knowing what I’m doing, I do know this: Through trial and error, a heck of a lot of wine, and plenty of commiseration from other mothers, I think my children and I are figuring it all out – together.
Leslie lives in Toronto with her husband, her 2 and a half year old daughter and 6 month old son. She is presently on maternity leave and enjoying the hectic and harried life with two young children.
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