My cousin had a baby recently and my sons are approaching their sixth birthday. It’s all had me reflecting on my life in the past six years. It’s been a roller coaster honestly. Twins, started a practice, lost my Dad, divorce, moved to a rural town from urban city, went from paired Queer mom to single mom co-parenting with lesbian ex. Tried to date. Global pandemic as a front lines mental health nurse practitioner. Made some new friends, let go of some old ones. I always thought my twenties would be the decade of the most growth and change but honestly my thirties clearly said, “Hold my beer”.
Through it all I’ve had these two little boys watching me, learning from me, testing me, teaching me, and permanently changing the trajectory of my life. IVF sucked. But the enduring light at the end of the tunnel was the thought of a baby. Then I got two. Then they became non-babies. Honestly I do not ever need to do the baby stage or toddler stage again. Because little did I know the blinding ray of light at the end of the IVF horrible prickly tunnel is these two little men. Not babies. People. Individuals. I love them as individuals. I love seeing the best and worst parts of me reflected in them. They are this epic mirror into my soul. I started out wanting babies. But every day I wake up so grateful for these two boys.
I think what I learned the most is people love giving advice. Unsolicited. All the time. Even when our lived experiences are wildly different. I have been VERY careful to not give ANY advice to my cousin. At all. At any point on her journey to parenthood. Because she’s a smart, capable human who has a different lived experience than I do. But I will share some gems. Because if I had known some of this stuff six years ago it may have helped.
- Don’t let any one tell you when to potty train your kid. Don’t get scared if your best friend’s kid is some potty genius freak using the toilet at 18 months. Your kid will use the toilet. Let them do it on their timetable. Mine weren’t fully trained until just under 4 years old. I let them lead. It was generally painless except maybe a few times chasing Jackson around so he wouldn’t poop in the corner of the house.
- If your kid doesn’t talk by a certain point your pediatrician will tell you to get interventions. My sons were late bloomers with the talking. They had twin talk, and still do. We would be with other two year olds who spoke in complete sentences and I’d think my kids had some horrible disability. They didn’t. They are fine. My daycare instructor asked me to go to the pedi when they were three. We did. They got a speech eval. They did fine. If your kid needs interventions they are there for you. If you have concerns don’t ask strangers on social media. Check with your daycare teacher or nursery school teacher, and pediatrician.
- Your kid may or may not sleep. And if they sleep for a few months they may stop sleeping for the next few months. You will be up at 4 AM googling how to get a baby to sleep. You will google “sleeping patterns in 9 month olds, 10 month olds, etc.” If you ask ten people they will have ten different answers about sleeping patterns in kids. My kids didn’t sleep through the night consistently until they were eighteen months old. They still wake up with nightmares, the stomach bug, or whatever fresh hell decides to surprise me at 3 AM…though it is fewer and far between. Accept that you will feel tired. For a long time. Do the best you can.
- Kids get sick. Babies cut teeth. Babies have food intolerances. You may have a lot of front ended visits of pediatrician well and sick visits for the first year or two. Sometimes I found the pediatrician helpful. Sometimes not. I thought my son was cutting teeth at ten weeks, the pedi told me there was no way it could be that early, a tooth literally broke through that night. Trust your gut. You know your kid best.
- Bring them to the dentist after they have some teeth. No one ever really told me to start going. I just scheduled it because they had teeth. Found out one of them has an enamel deficiency. Again. Trust your gut.
- At some point they will eat chicken nuggets and french fries. There is no avoiding it. Gear up. One day I opened my cabinet and saw Chips Ahoy, Pirate Booty, s’more Granola bars, and every other treat I never thought I’d be giving my children…I became that Mom. So will you. It’s okay. They still eat apples and strawberries too.
- At some point your four year old will see something PG-13 on tv. It’s unavoidable. Be ready for some questions depending if it is boobs or murder.
- You will be asked about penises and vagina’s. No matter how much you prep, or how prepared you should be (aka Psych NP who specializes in sex positive mental health treatment) you will stutter and say something that sounds like your grandmother speaking. Recover. Approach the conversation again later on your terms and try and provide some objective age appropriate education…it’s all good.
- There will be playground interactions with other kids and parents that suck. I have been that Mom who has gone and demanded the huge rock from the kid who is not mine, as my own kids watch horrified that I am disciplining a kid who is not mind, because he’s been throwing it at all the kids including mine. I then marched my butt over to his parent with gi-normous rock and hand it to his parent, explain the situation, explain I’ve already told her child I would be dragging his butt over to her next if he threw any rocks again, etc. You gotta take a stand some times. It’s uncomfortable for me, my kids, and other kids and their parents. But it’s also setting the example of right and wrong. Playgrounds provide life lessons. Don’t run away from them; lean into them.
- Babies are always the goal of pregnancy. But what I’ve learned and what I encourage you to hold onto is that babies grow into individuals. They grow into these people that we have the privilege of shaping. They are watching everything you do. They will emulate you. They make me be better because I want them to be better. Babies are the tip of such a large iceberg. Sometimes I think they need me more now than when they were babies just in very different ways. When I bring them to karate, and they learn a new move; they slyly look over to see if I’m watching…that moment. That’s when they need me. We make eye contact, I give them the thumbs up through the glass, and smile, or clap and though they can’t hear me, they know I’m there. They try harder because they know I’m watching. Put down your phone and watch karate class. Because you will miss those moments. You will miss how much they need you.
- They will have opinions VERY quickly about Halloween costumes. Pick wisely your first two years. It will be the only opportunity for you to be in control of the theme.
- If you have stairs they will fall down them. Maybe not fully, maybe not until they are five. It will happen. Don’t panic. Maybe put carpet on your stairs.
- Almost forgot…parenting in a pandemic is the literal worst. Do the best you can. Make decisions you are comfortable with even if you think they are horribly irrational. Nothing we decide will be right. Tune out the static of non-pandemic parents advice. Tune out FOMO and go with your gut (and science. Please go with science too.)
- Place deoderant and toothbrush/toothpaste everywhere. Car, purse, kitchen, office.
- Have a discussion about little people/dwarfism. Do not wait until they see someone in public to educate. It will not go well.
- Call tampons and pads “Mamas bandaids”. Or something innocuous. You have to trust me on this one. Whatever you call them will be yelled publicly at some point.