There comes a point in life when many people start to picture themselves as a mom or dad. For some it begins as a kid, by playing with dolls or watching your parents with younger siblings. For others it might be well into adulthood. For me, it took actually being pregnant to let those ideas start settling in. Call me a late bloomer.
But whenever it happens, you have flashes of how you’ll be as a parent. Maybe you’ll be the good friend, the strict disciplinarian, the eco-friendly mom, the do-everything-right-in-any-situation kind of parent. Ideas are sweet. Reality is a different animal. And it kicks in the moment your little one joins the world, in a big way.
I wanted to breastfeed my son for the first year of his life. I pictured myself warmly cradling him and smiling, a soft blue blanket draped over us. The reality is that we struggled from the first week until the last day of weaning at 7 months old. There were many tears and fits of frustration from both of us, sleepless nights, and hours spent attached to a loud, cold breast pump. Not exactly the glowing, peaceful image they show in the brochures.
As he moved on to solid foods, I hoped to always feed him healthy, non-processed, home-made meals and snacks. I started out with gusto, freshly pureeing fruits and vegetables. But eventually I gave in to jars every now and then when I felt like a slave to the food processer. And now that he’s well into toddler-hood, I serve frozen chicken nuggets for dinner more often than I’d like to admit.
I was going to be the parent who strictly limited TV time. There would be no TV before the age of two, and after that maybe 30 minutes a day. My kids wouldn’t even like TV anyway. They were going to read books and play music and run around in fresh air! Well, all of those things are lovely and very much enjoyed in our house. And while we do monitor and limit TV time, darn it if that Buzz Lightyear isn’t the most fascinating creature ever to behold. I am grateful to him and to Elmo and to Nemo, and all the rest for giving me a few moments peace to finish up the laundry. And no, my son is not yet two years old. Please contain your gasps of horror.
These are only a few early examples of the skewed perceptions prior to getting your feet wet in the pool of parenthood. And I’m sure there are many, many more reality checks to come.
But there are certain things that have surpassed any previous notions. We still have a life outside of our little family that includes travel, friends, and good food. The bond between me and my husband has grown stronger and continues to thrive every day. And we love our son beyond any capacity to measure. The joy that comes with parenthood is not something that could ever have been imagined.
As parents, the best we can do is to constantly learn, grow, and adapt. Perfection is boring anyway.