Before I had children, I was naive. A child myself, I didn’t understand the reality of parenting. The constant worry and fear that co-exist on a daily basis. The fear that I am failing my children as a mother. The worry..oh the worry. Are my children happy? Is that sniffle something greater than a minor cold? Am I giving my children the best childhood they can have? These are only some of the many topics on the never ending list in my head, as I navigate the world of parenting.
If it were possible to go back in time, to my pre-child self, I think I would tell her these things.
What I wish I had known before having children:
I wish I had been warned that I would be exhausted. Not just tired, but to the core tired. My body, mind and energy would be affected for the next 18 plus years of my life. I would feel more sleepy than I ever had, because I would spend many nights nursing sick children back to health. Staying awake with the child who just wasn’t tired enough for bed yet. Watching and re-watching the same episode of Mickey Mouse clubhouse because somewhere within our watching cycle we had missed a very pivotal scene that couldn’t wait until morning to be repeated. Soothing shaking bodies after nightmares. Rubbing sweet smelling heads dabbled with beads of sweat as they fought to go back to sleep. I would be so incredibly exhausted that I would question how I could manage another hour..another minute without a nap. And I would tell that childless version of me that the lack of sleep, the bags under my eyes and the hair thrown haphazardly in to a messy version of a ponytail were, and still are, so incredibly worth it. That the feeling of a child collapsing in to your arms, your lap, with a sigh of relief and a warm hug, would make her heart feel as if it were bursting with joy, her cup overflowing.
I wish someone would have told me, before having children, how intensely I would feel every emotion. Every single one. How, upon seeing my child upset because another person had hurt them, I would instantly transform in to the often mentioned “mama bear,” ready to protect her cubs. How I would feel my heart soar with joy watching as my children accomplished another monumental milestone. How the tears would roll down my cheeks, stinging my skin, in a combination of joy and sadness, as I watched my children grow up before my eyes far too quickly.
Before having children, I wish someone would have told me that I would never love the man that I had committed my life too more than when he became a father. My love would continue to multiply for him as I watched him interact with his children, holding their bodies to comfort them after a fall. Reading each child bedtime stories and sprinkling their heads with kisses, I wish I would have known how much I would fall in love with him, over and over again. I’m not certain my pre-child heart would have believed it. After all, that version of myself thought I couldn’t possibly love him anymore. But she was wrong. Watching him as a father strengthened their bond more than she could have ever realized.
And what I wish I had known, most of all is this.
I wish I would have known nothing.
After all, life and parenting do not come with manuals. Each are journeys that we must travel without instructions, destinations without a map. If my pre-child self had heard these things, I’m not sure she would understand. In fact, I know she wouldn’t have. Without experience, she wouldn’t have been able to appreciate these things.
I’m grateful I didn’t know.