My baby turned three nearly two weeks ago. My baby is no longer a baby. Hell, my baby is no longer a toddler. When he snoozes on my shoulder in the early hours of the morning, his little body doesn’t fit comfortably on my shoulder. Instead, his head nestles into the curve of my neck, his arms draped around me, his legs folded on themselves as his bum rests in my lap. It is a far cry from the days that his little feet were perfectly aligned to tap my sensitive c-section scar. I have rocked in the dark- my arms wrapped around him- and tried to pull into words how different our lives are. How different we are. How proud I am of the two of us. Clearly by my lack of this documentation, it is more difficult than I anticipated. So instead, you get something different. What a surprise!
Parenthood is weird. I was prepared for a lot of things. Sleepless nights. Carpooling. Breastfeeding. Tantrums. Saying goodbye to the type of freedom I had pre offspring. But there are nuanced things that I was not prepared for at all. Not even a little bit.
All my cards on the table- when my ex-husband casually let me know that he had changed his mind, that he thought having a kiddo would be a fun adventure to share with me- I freaked. It was not graceful. Definitely not my proudest moment. Mostly because he put himself out there and I had a reaction that he did not anticipate.
To give a little background on my highly emotional reaction to a man saying he wanted to start a family with me- I determined a very, very long time ago that I would not have kids. About the same time I made that decision, I also wrote in stone that I wouldn’t get married. Clearly I had an accurate crystal ball when I was a teenager. Anyway, I was open about the no kiddos stance. And this man- to my elation- agreed. Unbeknownst to 20 year old me, this man would rewrite several directives I laid down for my life.
All that being taken into consideration, when this man (about three years into our marriage) told me that he was viewing such a life changing decision in a different light, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I spun out. I was convinced that he would regret marrying me (turns out he would years later. Jokes on me!). I stewed in fear and emotional turmoil for days. It was tense for both of us, to say the least.
After I got a grip on my own mind, I made a promise. Not to change my mind, but to reevaluate. A decision made by an angsty teenager who was never going to get married may not be the same as a young woman madly in love with her life and her husband. I determined that out of that love and respect, I should give it another assessment.
It took me three years. Three years of scrutinizing my own fears. Selfishness. And so many “interviews”. I questioned parents. I wanted to know the good, the bad, and everything in between. I wanted to do all of the research I possibly could. And what I came to? I had a really big goal. I needed to achieve my Masters Degree in Architecture. But once I reached the summit on that mountain, I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to bring forth a little person with my partner in crime.
Over the last three years since my son was born, lots of things have changed. My marital status. The way I look at myself (most days). The size of my business. Friendships. Relationships. But one thing remains a constant- the surprise I experience often with my mini me.
For all of the questions I asked, all the details and struggles I accumulated from various sources, nobody told me how much it would excite me to watch this little person do mundane shit. Things I take for granted everywhere else border on life affirming with this miniature human.
For instance, when he started feeding himself. He grasped tiny bits of sustenance in his chubby hand- it sometimes took multiple tries to grip said morsel- and brought it to his face, clumsily stuffing it into his mouth. My elation rose with every unwieldy bite.
Fast forward several months. The kid identified his nose. He pointed to his nose and said “nose”. Then did the same with mine! He was a genius! Pride materialized in an almost tactile fashion.
And now? Now he lines up his trains or other toys. He gets on and off the potty by himself. He knows how to pull his pants up and down. Guys, he removes his own shoes! Even if that means I end up with a shoe and a pile of pants and undies in my kitchen, I will FOREVER be proud of my little guy.
Did I tell you I got him to poop on the potty once? Just once. I cannot seem to bottle that lighting a second time. BUT HE TOOK A BIG ‘OL DOODOO ON THE POT!!! I was so excited I wanted to take a picture of the achievement. Heeding my better judgement, I did not do that. I gave more high fives in a ten minute period than I have in my entire adult life. I texted people. I repeatedly said “I am so proud of you baby! You pooped on the potty! You are such a big man!” in a voice an octave higher than I ever use. My excitement was genuine and reached all the way down to my toes.
These are the things I wasn’t prepared for. How do you logically explain why you want to talk about every time he pees without a fight? Every time he gets through the day at daycare with dry undies? And when he learned to give me kisses? I’m not gunna lie, I think that may trump the day of his birth as one of the best days of my life. When he kissed his fox because he said he was hurt? Heart melted.
I write about how this job is tough. And dear God, it is. I don’t want to minimize that. Mostly because I think it isn’t as acceptable to admit as it should be. We should be able to say that there are days that parenthood is an insane feat without having to follow the statement up with “but I love my kid(s)”. You can admit it’s difficult as hell without undermining your love for these minions. All that being said, as much as this gig is a test of resilience and endurance, I think God built this extreme pride in the ordinary for a reason. He knew we needed the wins. He knew they needed the intense excitement and encouragement.
Its easy for me to lose the forest for the trees. It is even easier for me to allow the shadows to overtake the pockets of sunlight. These moments of elation, they remind me of grace. They recenter me in joy and utter appreciation. They remind me why I haven’t given up on trying to be the best parent I can be. They make me laugh down to my soul.
I wasn’t as prepared as I wanted to be for the hardships of parenthood. I was even less prepared for single parenthood. But I am so glad that I was equally unaware of the sheer pride I would experience. How the tiny moments in life I have taken for granted as an adult are forever changed- re-cloaked as highlights. Flashes in time I will never forget. I will endure all of the tough moments for eternity in order to get the mirror. His belly laugh is worth all of the rest of it. And those kisses.