I just spent a little over an hour spraying down windows and mirrors and mopping the floors after putting my little guy down for a nap. I never thought I would be in this season of life…and enjoying it as much as I do.
Last year about this time, I was just into my second trimester and wondering what the gender of my new bundle was going to be. We still hadn’t told many people; mostly close friends and family. I still hadn’t cracked open a parenting book and wouldn’t until little bear arrived. So, there I was, still standing tall in front of my ninth graders in my pre-pregnancy outfits, trying desperately to hide my growing baby bump. I had very little anxiety about the future. For whatever reason, I was pretty sure every instinct I needed to become a parent would show up when it needed to.
Or, at least I hoped those instincts would kick in. Admittedly, I tried to only say ‘yes’ to babysitting jobs where the children were potty trained and were sure to go to bed about thirty minutes after I got there. I thought that was the safest bet; I would get a few tens for sitting and watching TV and the kids would stay alive until the parents got there. I hadn’t changed a diaper except for that one unfortunate babysitting gig where the baby was just over a year. I tried to block that particular memory from my mind, until I made it to the first diaper I changed for baby Bennett. I will never forget that diaper change. Steven was SO helpful in the hospital as I was pretty immobile after delivery. He changed every diaper that the nurses did not. Then, when we got home, I took little baby Bear to his changing pad. He needed to be changed and I was shaking. I tried (and failed) to remember my skills from my last diaper change…about twenty years before that day. Little Bear was crying and screaming and I had no idea what I was doing. It took me about five minutes and a few tears, but we made it through.
Now, about a million diaper changes later, I can go through those motions with my eyes closed. I know when baby Bear is going to spit up; I know when he is tired; I have a good idea when he is hungry; I know when something is just off. Those instincts that I had hoped for really did come when I needed them.
I suppose that is why I have very little guilt about my preparations for parenthood. Before we were pregnant, I am pretty sure the only newborns I held (or wanted to hold) were my nephews and niece (with one or two exceptions). Every time a new mom would ask, ‘do you want to hold my baby?’ I would quickly devise some clever excuse (‘I am pretty sure my students exposed me to botulism…’) for why I shouldn’t or couldn’t hold their pride and joy. Even now, I am really sensitive to the fact that not everyone wants to hold my little bear. And that is okay.
Future parents (or people who are single and kids are on the horizon but not for a long, long time), here are five things I would’ve done differently before Bennett. None of these include reading more literature about how to become an awesome parent, by the way.
1. I would have taken more last minute trips. Here is the deal. I don’t think one baby changes everything. It changes a lot, but Steven and I are still free to do what we want to do within reason. Also, trips take much more planning than they did before. We can’t just throw everything in a bag, hop in the car, drive all night, and wake up at the beach. We can’t just take trips to visit our parents or siblings without loading up the car with tons of gear and taking a quick catnap to catch up on the energy we just expended configuring the pack and play, Bumbo seat, stroller, and baggage. I would have taken more advantage of finding cheap flights (which shouldn’t have been too hard since my dad was a pilot); I would have taken that trip to Neyland Stadium to watch my Dawgs beat the Vols (sorry Chlo Chlo)…I just would’ve enjoyed the freedom that comes with being single without a little babe in tow. Trips are still worthwhile and so so much more fun with my little man, but not quite as easy.
2. I would have invested more intentional time with the people that truly matter. Here is something that continues to plague me to this day; I really would’ve stopped making excuses for spending time with the people that really matter; namely my friends and family. I spent entirely too much time coming up with reasons why I couldn’t go see my sister for dinner (too much traffic), that sometimes, it would be months, almost a year, before I got a chance to see some of my friends and family. You see, life gets in the way of relationships. We are exhausted from working all day, cooking dinner, cleaning, working out…etc…and we have little left for the people that we love. I would’ve gotten away from the TV and made more of an effort to have dinner with my friends and my family members. Life is way too short to keep making excuses to let people into full and meaningful relationships.
3. I would have taken more naps. In high school, I was awarded the ‘most likely to be caught asleep in class’ superlative. I am still pretty proud of that particular title. Now, it seems that every time I lie down to close my eyes and drift off into a little nap, my little Bear wakes me up. I swear, it is like he has a radar. ‘Quick,’ he thinks, ‘Mom is asleep! Let’s wake her up to play!’ It has become a little bit of a game now. The last time I felt like I had earned a nap, there was a crew who decided to take down a tree next door. C’est la vie. Naps are delicious. I would’ve really tried to take a few more of those.
4. I would not have been so shy about making new friends. There is something about this community of mommies that makes me realize that I was entirely too self-aware and self-conscious before Bennett. Mommies are so friendly and helpful. Most of the moms I have met will ask for your number immediately so that they can meet up with you for a run or coffee, or give you a little break if you need to take a quick shower. I should have realized that women have been uniquely designed for community and relationships; I wouldn’t have been so hesitant to reach out to people in my walk of life to grab coffee and get to know them. We are all just people, after all.
5. I would have worried much less about these maternal instincts that I “didn’t have.” Seriously, these instincts showed up the minute I needed them. God has given me strength, energy, and patience I didn’t know I was capable of. I would’ve done what He said and ‘stopped worrying about tomorrow.’ Today has enough to worry about. I would’ve found contentment in the everyday in preparation for the rest of my life. We only get certain seasons for just that; a season. I would’ve taken more time to enjoy being that girl who just didn’t care to hold newborns, as I’ve become the woman who can’t wait to get my hands on ’em all.