When we are young and considering starting a family, it just feels so happy and carefree. You want that little bundle of joy to fill your heart and home with laughter and love. You imagine how happy life will be, sharing painting and coloring and baking cookies, playing in the sandbox and pushing them on swings. You can't wait for your world to be expnaded, for you to be called "mommy".
But when all these happy thoughts race through your mind in the initial phases of expanding your family, what you aren't prepared for is what really being a parent means. Youhave no concept of just what your duty will be, how much energy you will expend, how much pain you will endure. You haven't considered what this will mean; being a parent, being responsible for another life, emotionally, financially, physically.
When you consider parenthood, you may consider sleepless nights, though you won't imagine your perfect little bundle of joy will REALLY give you any problems. What you won't imagine is night terrors and screaming for hours when you are completely powerless to help. You won't imagine lying with your child through many stories and many songs trying to get them to sleep in their own bed, only to have to carry them back to their own bed when you head to bed yourself hours later. You won't imagine still having your seven-year-old sleeping between you and your husband, or the many different monsters you'll have to put to rest. You won't imagine your son can outlast you before falling to sleep, needing more hours but unable to soothe himself enough to fall into slumber.
When you consider parenthood, you may consider feeding issues and worry about whether to breast or bottle feed, how big your child will be upon delivery. What you won't imagine is weekly visits to the doctor with your tiny little sprout because though they are nursing well, they are not gaining weight. You won't imagine taking your child to Auschwitz Concentration Camp only to compare the ribs of those poor children with the ribs of your own. You won't imagine medicating your child and worrying about the extra pounds your child is gaining, or the unbelievable sheer amount of food a teenage boy can consume. You won't imagine the picky eater issues, when beans makes him puke, when you nickname him cookie monster as that is all you can get into his body. You won't imagine the fun 'cooking' sessions when every dish in the house is dirtied for a simple bowl of cereal. You won't imagine how if your child is hungry or thirsty, he becomes a demon child crying and mean.
When you consider parenthood, you may consider the costs involved in child-rearing as you go buy those first little onesies, a crib, and stroller. What you won't consider is soccer camp, Judo lessons, school field trips, family days out to the zoo. What you won't imagine is how fast a 14 year old boy grows out of his shoes and pants, how many pairs of shoes a soccer-manic seven year old will need in the course of a month. What you won't consider is necessary medications, all the "PLease, please" s, the toy store that will become your home. You won't imagine how much you can spend on coats in a given year, winter, summer, rain, sport, and then that one extra when they outgrow it or the zipper breaks or they accidentally climb through a barbed wire fence after having this coat just 3 days and it rips to shreds. You won't consider all the birthday party gifts and the extra gas to run them to their activities. You won't imagine the extra water bills from all those long showers and baths, the extra energy you'll use keeping lights on all night to fend off monsters. You won't imagine how many batteries you'll buy in a year time.
When you consider parenthood, you may consider the fun you will hope to have with your little bundle of joy. What you won't consider is a fun afternoon bike ride turning into a severe medical emergency, or how a walk through the woods will result in your child falling into the pond with you having no change of clothes ready in the car as your kid becomes hypothermic. You won't imagine the severe fear that results when a child is exposed to changed schedules, how difficult it will be to leave the house to do something fun because the switch-over from home to activity is too over-stimulating. You won't imagine you'll hear a doctor force you to tears telling you your child is autisitc, or that you'll have a discussion with your child about what it means to be colorblind. You won't imagine holding your child's hand through dental procedures where you have to help hold them on the chair, or crying as they fall giggling after being given the medicine to prepare them for surgery. You won't imagine how your heart will lurch when you have a special day out with your child and hold hands walking to the car together. You won't imagine how long it will take to choose an ice cream cone.
This week we went to the hospital to visit my father-in-law. My sister-in-law and her boyfriend were there, and were heading off to Belgium to sit on a terrace, have dinner and a few drinks, walk through the flower market and enjoy their day. After we left the hospital, Erwin and I commented about how easy life would be with no kids, how we could do whatever we wanted and go where we wanted and life would be so simple. We were both lost in thought, both feeling a little jealous of our sis and her freedom. We were both imagining life without kids.
When you consider parenthood, you may consider always having your little bundle of joy attached at your hip. What you won't consider is all you give up being a parent. You won't consider eating out means going to McD's, that a museum visit must have children's activities, that travel will take you 5 times as long for pee breaks and stops for travel sickness accidents. You won't consider that going on a romantic night away with your spouse MAY happen once in a great while, and that jumping in the car to go grab a few groceries just 'ain't gonna happen' cuz it's past their bedtime. You won't consider what being a parent means in your joy of having a baby to love.
When you consider parenthood, you may think about the possibility in loving this new little being you created. What you won't imagine is how much you will give up, how silly you will become, how treasured you will be. What you won't imagine is how much love you hold inside you, how much love you have to share, how much love you will gain. You can't imagine it until it happens. You won't be able to consider that possibility. And you will be unable to imagine. For as much as being a parent takes more energy, time, patience, and funds than you could ever imagine, one smile from your child, one thank you, one giggle, one kiss, one question, one story, one evening without argument, being a parent is something you will never wish you could replace. Being a parent is the greatest joy in the world. Being a parent is so much more than you ever could begin to imagine.