If I spent all my time dreading the "wait untils" or worrying about the next difficult thing around the corner, when would I have time to enjoy all the wonderful, amazing, incredible things that a child brings to a parent's life?
I'm pregnant. Let the “just wait until" statements begin.
Let me preface this with a few things: I understand that for the most part, people mean well. So usually these “let me warn you" statements are intended to either commiserate slightly over the difficulties that all parents go through, or to give you a friendly bit of advice over what you can come to expect.
Also, while I am an experienced aunt, I've only been a mother to a wonderful baby boy for 10 months (my second is scheduled to join us in just three more months) so I understand that I'm no veteran and that perhaps all the things to come in motherhood will sour me a little more. Perhaps, a few years from now, I'll be more prone to making such statements myself (but if you knew me, you'd agree: that's not a likely scenario).
Now let me say this, none of those things are enough to convince me that the overwhelming presence of negative rather than positive feedback should be the norm. What ever happened to the old adage that if you don't have anything good to say, you shouldn't say anything at all? Why is it that almost everyone's go-to reaction is one with a negative tone?
Examples of the statements I'm talking about:
You're pregnant? Oh, just wait until the mood swings really kick in and you can't keep it together. Just wait until you're so big that you have to waddle. Just wait until the very end of your pregnancy when you're uncomfortable all the time.
You can't sleep because you're so pregnant? Oh, just wait until the baby comes and then you'll see what real lack of sleep is. (This one makes another appearance in round two because, apparently, you don't know what sleep deprivation is until you have two kids).
You just had a baby? Oh, just wait until he is over the newborn phase and doesn't sleep all the time. Just wait until she's teething. Just wait until he's crawling. Just wait until she's walking. Just wait until he's talking. Just wait until the terrible twos. Just wait until it's impossible to feed her because she refuses everything you give her. Just wait until he's in school and bringing home all kinds of germs and you're all miserable from being sick. Just wait until she's seven or eight and has an attitude already. Just wait until the dreaded teenage years.
Now, let's agree that parenting is not for the faint of heart. It's hard. You may be a postpartum mom whose hormones have turned you into some crazy version of the person you used to be and you barely recognize yourself while you're supposed to be overjoyed at the presence of your new little angel. Meanwhile, you're just impressed with yourself if you got through an entire day without crying.
You worry about this tiny little person from their first cold to the first bump on their head, skinned knee, bite from another child at the park, broken bone, broken heart, the list goes on and on. If I spent all my time dreading the "wait untils" or worrying about the next difficult thing around the corner, when would I have time to enjoy all the wonderful, amazing, incredible things that a child brings to a parent's life?
That being said, I am under no illusions. I fully understand that no matter how much I love them, my children will test me endlessly and will, on numerous occasions, push me to the brink of my sanity. However, isn't that part of the process? Often the most worthwhile and rewarding things in life are the most difficult. Life isn't always easy, so it should come as no surprise that parenting isn't either.
To those few people who've talked pregnancy or parenting with me, and said things such as, "How wonderful for you," "That's great," "Enjoy every moment of it, it's a really special time," "My favorite age is x, they're so fun at that time," and simply left it at that – thank you. Thank you for the positivity. Thank you for leaving it at that.
These sentiments seem so few and far between that, while people generally give off statements of "I'm happy for you," it's typically followed with that incessant "But just wait until" that makes me cringe on the inside.
Can't we just be happy for people and leave it that? No? Maybe? Let's just try it and see what happens.
You're pregnant? That's awesome! What an exciting time, I'm happy for you.
You're nearing the end of your pregnancy? Great! Best of luck with labor and delivery. I truly hope all goes smoothly for you and I'm excited that your new little bundle will be in your arms shortly.
You just had a baby? Wow! How wonderful! I hope that the whole family is doing well. I am so happy for you during this special time with a new little person to help fill your home with love.
Your little one is now walking? Aww, I love when they reach special new milestones. It's great to see the little ones walking (or running) around discovering things at their own pace.
You're pregnant with your second baby? Woohoo! A sibling for your son (or daughter) and another beautiful little person to add to a home just bursting with love! (Third, fourth, or fifth pregnancy? The sentiment carries on, as well as: Good on you, not everyone is brave enough for a big family!)
Personally, I've found that those who leave you with a purely positive comment are few and far between, so much so that I've truly come to cherish those interactions. I also believe that most don't even realize the negative tone that they give off in their comments.
We can endeavor to change that. Let's be more mindful of the things that we say to parents who can (and should) be reveling in the joys that child-rearing brings. For the undeniably tough moments that come with it, hang in there. I can guarantee that you're not the only one to feel that struggle. Worry not, you can get through it.
What so often works for me when I need to reset is to look into the beautiful, innocent eyes of that tiny little person and let the love just wash over me for a moment. He has so much life yet to come and his possibilities are endless. It's a wonderful thing to be in the presence of. Life often pushes us to forget that—just don't let it.