The messy beautiful world of parenting

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We’re in this sweet spot right now of knowing that we’re growing our family but also having a moment to catch our breath and to think about what we’ve learned in the first 21 months as parents. Our little unit is incomplete and simultaneously so very complete. It’s a happy place. And, at times, it gives us those precious chances to stop and breathe. When I have those, I tend to reflect, so here I am, breathing and reflecting.

I have a few friends right now either right on the cusp of having a baby, beginning the process of thinking about having a baby, or floundering through those first few weeks as new parents. I avoid telling them how much their world will change and how little they will sleep and how there will be times when they feel like they have nothing more to give (and then somehow find more) and how every ounce of their world will revolve around this new little being for a while and…I could go on and on, but those things don’t help. Those things are everywhere the new parent looks, reads, walks, talks, goes. And, again, they don’t help.

What did…or does…help me is the notion that they will feel emotions they never knew existed, both good and bad. The good will include love beyond what they ever knew possible, the laughter of a tiny soul as it stares into your eyes, the pure joy of a tiny human. Daily adventures in the simple and new discoveries in the most mundane of situations. Supreme feelings of accomplishment over taking a shower. It all counts. The bad feels like your soul being pulled in too many directions, giving when there is nothing left to give, not enough hours in the day, not enough patience in the world, and the utter helplessness of just not knowing what to do for a sick baby, a crying baby, a tired self.

The emotions are raw and pure and far less controlled than we grow to be in our single adult lives. They are often dictated by situations outside of our power, tiny little people about which we know so much yet at the same time know so little. They test us. Challenge us. And allow for so much growth and learning in such a small amount of time that in retrospect it all makes sense that our worlds feel so frazzled at the time.

This morning on my drive to work, I found myself wondering when I last learned something new. My first thought brought me back to learning to drive a stick-shift (when I was pregnant with James), and immediately thereafter I thought, that was it!? The last time I learned something new was two years ago?! And then I laughed at the lunacy because the reality of my world right now – and the blessing and the curse of the first child – is that James and I learn something new every single day, and more often than not, we learn it together.

I think that’s something that struck me only recently: for the entirety of our shared existence on this planet, James and I will forever encounter new situations with each other for the very first time. There is no prior parenting knowledge from the first kid to guide decisions here. There is just the gut. And instinct. And, sure, prior experience with James. But in reality, there is just the two of us, plotting our own little course through the world (don’t worry, we invited Chris along for the ride too – sometimes we let him steer). And to me, there is so much beauty and joy and freedom in that notion: we’re both novices, and being novices is simply fine. In fact, in this instance, it’s perfect.

So we continue to flounder, some days less than others, but our floundering is framed with laughter and joy and a few tears here and there. It’s the story of our lives these days, learning as we go. It’s also the bit of parenthood – the messy beautiful so full of love rollercoaster of a ride bit that no one shares because the no sleep world flipped upside down oh the horror stuff is just easier to talk about – that messy beautiful bit is the best bit.

And that’s the part that no one tells you: the messy beautiful bit is the. best. bit.

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