When I had Theo, I knew my life – the day-to-day aspects – would forever change. What I didn’t realize is how much I, as a person, and more specifically my outlook on life would change. Everyone always said that your priorities change when you have kids and, to me, that’s to be expected. What no one ever really talked about is how much your perception and outlook would shift, not only regarding children but in all aspects of life – marriage, friendships, work, home, future, etc.
Now that we are less than a month away from welcoming our second (and final!) baby, I can’t help but reflect and wonder what kind of “new mom” I will be to this little one.
While I’m not naive enough to think that I am some kind of expert after having had one child, I do know that there are certain lessons I learned with Theo that will shape how I interact with #2.
Don’t Stress The Insignificant
The #1 best advice I received after Theo was born came from our next door neighbour (whom we hadn’t officially met until that day). His son was only a year or two older than Theo and he said to us – from across the lawn – “Don’t worry about the things that, in the long run, won’t matter.” He explained that there is no sense in worrying about things like at what age your child first speaks, walks or is potty trained. Every kid develops at a different rate but, the reality is, we all get there in our own way.
Let’s be real, when was the last time you were asked – either in school, in a job interview, or by anyone really – how old you were when you took your first step? or at what age you were fully potty trained? Reality is, my own parents don’t remember the answer to those questions for me and they were there!
Obviously I didn’t take my neighbour’s advice on day one – I spent many days/nights worrying that Theo wasn’t developing “appropriately”, that I wasn’t giving him enough tummy time, that maybe his head was too big and that’s why he wasn’t walking early enough (that last one is a true story – I even brought him to the doctor’s to get his head size checked!). But eventually, when we got past those milestones and looked back, we realized that our trusty neighbour had it right all along. My hope with #2 is that I embrace the newfound knowledge and way of thinking so that I can enjoy the moments in the moment, without worrying if he/she is where they should be.
Insofar as this mindset has impacted my outlook, I can say one thing: it has certainly helped me in not comparing myself to others. My friend who had a baby at the same time as me but lost all the baby weight a whole year before me – good for her! I don’t need to compare to her because I ended up losing it too, it just took me longer to get there. Friends who have climbed the corporate ladder faster than I have – good for them! I’ll get there eventually too, if I want… The one good thing with not always being the first to achieve things is that you can look to those who have already “made it” and reflect whether that’s even something you want anyway…
There’s A Reason Life Moments Are Called “Stages”
The second life lesson we learned all by ourselves and I know will have a huge impact on how we embrace the newborn stage with #2.
When Theo was born, every cry, sleepless night, or cranky mood seemed to last a lifetime. There didn’t appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel, primarily because we didn’t know what was waiting for us on the other end of that tunnel – was it another sleepless night after he’d had a good nap? surely there’s nothing worse than a screaming infant who has been fed, changed and is not sleepy (yup, there is, it’s a called the temper tantrums that 3 year-olds pull in public!)?
But every time we got past a stage, we looked back and thought “well look we actually made it through that one relatively unscathed”… And that sort of became our approach with parenting – before we knew it, the newborn stage was over, then Theo was holding his head up and we didn’t have to worry about burping him, then came the end of breastfeeding and the introduction of solids, and so on… Right now, we are navigating our way through a world pandemic but, this too, shall pass.
It’s hard to keep positive when you are sleep deprived and in the thick of things but the truth is that all the stages – good and bad – will end. I know that I will be exhausted and sleep deprived with #2; it doesn’t mean that I won’t be feeling it in the moment but I take comfort in knowing that I have been through it and there’s an end in sight and, based on our experience with Theo, it really does just keep getting better!
As for how this experience has shaped a “life lesson” for me – I honestly now look at most events in my life as stages. Difficult times at work (we all have those moments where we’re just unhappy with the daily grind) have been easier to navigate when I stop and think “this too shall pass”. Falling out with friends no longer has to mean that the friendship is over, it’s just that we are going through a rough stage and we will, if it’s meant to be, rekindle that friendship in due time.
Don’t Wish Your Life Away
This last life lesson actually came from my father in the early months following Theo’s birth. Paolo was saying how he just wanted to get past this baby phase and wanted to be able to interact with Theo on a more communicative level. My dad turned to him and said “you’re wishing your life away”. Again, in the moment, that didn’t sink in but, looking back now, we understand…
Theo isn’t the only one who got older, so did we. And while it’s only been three years and we have what feels like a lifetime of growing with him ahead of us, those three years are now behind us. Three years of him developing and us growing have passed. I try to look at it from my father’s perspective and 35+ years of me developing and him growing are now past him too. It’s with the benefit of that time that he can say to us “don’t wish your life away”. Because while my second life lesson above deals with taking solace in the fact that the hard times are just stages that will pass, this final life lesson has taught me that those “stages” are what life is made up of and if you spend your time hoping for them to end, you lose sight of the moments that will inevitably become the memories.
This last life lesson is the one I will be taking most to heart, especially when we are in the “young kids” stage of life. For every temper tantrum, sleepless night or difficult experience, I’m going to try to live in THAT moment – not because I think I will look back and realize it was wonderful (let’s be real, it probably won’t be wonderful) but because each of those moments, along with the regular day-to-day and the fun times are what a life is made up of. I never would have appreciated the value of a good night’s rest if I hadn’t gone through so many sleepless nights – the hard times are just life’s way of making you realize and fully appreciate the good times.