Lessons From Parenthood – You Don’t Know What You’re Doing
This is the first in a series of posts titled Lessons From Parenthood. Definitely not lessons in parenthood because I know I am not qualified to write about those. Parenthood teaches so many incredible lessons, many of them humbling and hopefully funny. We parents have to laugh at ourselves if we are going to survive.
Parenting is a classroom with a steep learning curve. You start out at a complete disadvantage because you thought you were teaching the class but when you get to school you find out you aren’t the teacher and, not only that, the class is in a different language and you came on the wrong day in your underwear. The real teacher in this whole scenario will scream at you while requiring you to change diapers, feed them, love them, and protect them while depriving you of sleep, social interaction, and causing most of your conversations to be about them.
You know that feeling when you get the wind knocked out of you and you are sure for a short second that you are going to die? You will not be able to take another breath and this it. For almost a year that’s what parenting felt like with my first daughter and honestly sometimes it still feels like that with four children. Gradually, very gradually, so gradual that I didn’t even realize what was happening, I got it.
I started to understand being a parent.
Lesson From Parenting – You don’t know what you’re doing so just do your best.
But here’s the best part – nobody knows what they are doing, especially at first.
As soon as I figured this lesson out, I felt ashamed of myself. Ashamed because of all the parents I judged before I had children. Ashamed for all the times I mumbled to myself that my kids would never…fill in the blank. (Big eye roll here.) My dad always used to say to me, you don’t know what you don’t know and truer words were never spoken.
It didn’t occur to me until I was a parent that most of the time you have no clue what to do. For example, my husband and I read about how to sleep train your baby. We discussed it and thought letting our daughter cry it out was the best method for us. It was awful. She cried, I cried, my husband did not cry but he thought about it. I was sure we were scarring our daughter for life. We didn’t by the way, she turned out great. But for one week we tore our hearts out for her because we thought that’s what was best.
I haven’t read a parenting book in a long time but in the first two or three years I read a lot of them. I’m glad I did. It was reassuring to gather information and have an idea of what to expect.
Then I did what I think many parents do, I set the books aside and did the best I could with what I knew.
Admitting to myself that I didn’t know was liberating. It gave me permission to laugh at my mistakes. At first I was sure those mistakes were going to harm my daughter for life. No, they’re not. Thank goodness children are resilient.
You learn as you go.
Back to the classroom analogy, you do figure out what the teacher wants. Funnily enough, it’s not usually anything fancy. The teacher wants you. Your undivided attention, love, sweat, tears, and everything in between and you do it because you love this little person more than you thought was possible.
You figure how manage the difficult days. You learn not to get too cocky because as soon as you do, you decide to add another teacher. Two, that’s right, and you think you can handle it because you learned how to handle number 1. But guess what? Number 2 is nothing like number 1. You just started over my friend!
But by this time you know you’ll figure it out.