I remember the first time I felt like a failure as a new parent, the day when I just wanted to send the baby back, when I kept thinking to myself “what the HELL was I thinking having one of these things?”. Mia was a pretty easy baby, relatively speaking, but there were a few weeks in those early months when she cried a lot and I cried along with her. I don’t think you ever forget the first time you felt like you lost control as a parent, the first time you felt like giving up, the first time you put the baby down in the crib even though the baby was screaming, and walked away because you didn’t know what else to do, but you were more scared of what might happen if you didn’t walk away. That night, I handed the baby over to Mark as soon as he got home from work and shut the bedroom door for the rest of the evening.
The girls are at an age now where they’ll remember stuff. Remember stuff that you do, remember stuff that you say. It keeps you in check. They are no longer babies who will never remember those days, however rare, when you slip and allow yourself to throw a tantrum. It happens. It happens to the best of us sometimes. Aside from the very obvious fact that you’re trying to raise your kids to be respectful, happy and well-adjusted adults (hopefully), there’s also this fear that you won’t screw them up with your own issues, or project your own demons onto them. Suddenly, when looked upon this way, the responsibility of parenting becomes impossibly huge.
As a teenager you may mentally make a note of all the things that you would do differently as a parent yourself. When you finally get here, however, you may realize that you’re more similar to your own parents than you think. This may pleasantly surprise you – or not. This may also really scare you, depending on your own particular situation. I always think that the hardest part of parenting is the stuff that gets dredged up to the surface from deep inside. It forces you to face certain things about yourself that you may have ignored or pushed away, the stuff that you don’t like about yourself, or perhaps is leftover from your childhood that you buried. It forces you to deal with it, to process it, to exorcise it, to let go of it, so that you can become a better parent. It also forces you to examine your relationship with your own parents, reflecting on the past with some distance and a certain perspective, but also your current relationship with them now as an adult.
Nobody really tells you about this part. You get advice about every other aspect of parenting like hitting milestones and potty training and sleep issues, but nobody tells you that along the way, you face yourself and figure out who you are. I listen to my friends who aren’t parents yet wonder out loud if they are ready. I don’t think you ever are ready. When it happens, by choice or otherwise, you’re just thrown in there. You can decide to either sink or swim. It’s not always easy. You may thrash around, flounder a bit and try to come up for air, but like anything else, it’s a process and you work at it. You may have had people in your life, for better or worse, who have been your role models, but you learn how to become a parent. And no matter what age your children are or will become, you never stop learning.