Today I had an impromptu meeting with a colleague about some new educational materials we had been given to use with students. This encounter led to the rare opportunity of us getting to catch up with one another for a bit. Not only is she a wonderful educator, but this young woman also happens to be the mom of a very adorable toddler. We laughed as she shared some funny stories of her recent daily “adventures” with him. One conversation led to another, and before long we were swapping stories of birthing experiences and toddler shenanigans. Now, I have about a 20-year jump on her in the Mom department, but our stories had many resemblances and overlaps. I mean let’s face it – when you discover another adult who has experienced the same art of mass negotiations with a three-year-old or one who has survived teaching a small human how to go “pee-pee” in the potty – you immediately feel an eternal spiritual connection with them.
She talked of the stresses she was facing as a single mom and worried aloud whether she was getting it right or doing enough. I reassured her that from where I was sitting, she was doing a great job with her little one. As we continued to talk, laugh, and share, I was immediately taken back to the year 1998. My life, at that time, was consumed by a very articulate and animated four-year-old princess-in-training and an adorable curly-headed bolt of lightning. The days started early and bedtimes were battles. The laundry was stacked up, and toys had overtaken several rooms of the house. It was busy, loud, and often overwhelming. The Princess would only eat mac and cheese, the 2-year-old lightning bolt refused to wear clothes, and I was tired. Seriously. I was beyond exhausted. I had stopped teaching to take on an executive position as a Stay-At-Home Mom. While this was a job I had desired for quite some time, most days it felt as if I was in way over my pay-grade. Thankfully, the “CEO” at my new employment was very understanding, encouraged the potential talent he saw in me, and often extended compassion as he came through the door at the end of a long day himself. Maybe it was pity. Regardless, I was just grateful for the help of any able-bodied adult who would assist in the care, feeding, and bathing of these little creatures.
As all of those memories flashed through my head, a smile came to my face and my heart swelled. There is no question in my mind that I would do it all over again. Without a doubt, those were the hardest, best, longest, unorganized, most joyous, exasperating, cherished days of my life. What I realized during our conversation is that in twenty years, not a lot has changed. Most parents today still want to be the best version of themselves for their children. Most Moms and Dads are working diligently to navigate the new territory of parenthood. They are constantly teaching, modeling, bargaining, loving, sacrificing, entertaining, disciplining and loving with everything they’ve got. They want their babies to be safe, healthy, and loved. On any given day they are exhausted but still commit to giving 200%. Many new parents go into their new role starry-eyed, but no one prepares us for all the days we will be bleary-eyed. Society, reality television and social media often exert unrealistic expectations on new parents. Keeping up with all the latest trends, toys, developmental strategies, and medical warnings are overwhelming at best. Many days are memorable, and some all run together. The bottom line is that when we finally get to lay our heads on our pillows at night, we just want to be reassured that we are on the right track and that our parenting train hasn’t completely derailed. So to those of us who have traveled those paths already, offer a kind word of encouragement to those newbies trying to figure which end is up – literally and figuratively. Give a smile, share a non-judgmental tip, extend a hand…or two.
To all of you rookie parents of littles – hang in there! You’re doing great! Just remember, all the fancy, innovative, developmentally appropriate toys in the world are never a replacement for you in the eyes of your child. That magazine-worthy birthday party you’re planning would be traded in a flash for one more bedtime story, one more “Play with me, Mommy!”, or one more airplane ride to the bathtub. They want you and they want your love. If you are working hard to be there physically and emotionally, chances are you are absolutely getting it right and doing enough. The day will come all too soon when you find yourself loading the car with boxes, clothes, and dorm room decorations. You’ll stop and wonder how those long days quickly turned into short years. You’ll wish for a little more time. Trust me on that. So slow down, Momma. Love those babies. You are enough!