How is it that parenting can be both exhilarating and exhausting, rewarding and costly, and empowering yet unnerving all at once? Somehow it easily can. My husband and I quickly realized that parenting would involve a learning curve before we had even left the hospital with our first child. We had bought all of the supplies. We had taken all of the classes. But we soon discovered that we had made a simple yet important oversight.
An attendant was wheeling me downstairs to the lobby to leave the hospital. My husband puffed with pride as he pulled our car up to the lobby door and brought in our carefully selected, extra-safe car seat. He walked over to me, set it down at my feet, and took our newborn son in his arms. Then something comical happened: We both realized we had no idea how to adjust the straps.
As he gently placed our son in the car seat, the straps were too tight in their original position. As he tried repetitively to make the ends fasten, I got more and more concerned.
“You’re going to crush him!” I panicked. It was that bad.
So he handed me our son and set to work turning the car seat upside down, to the side, and everything in between in hopes of finding something that could save us from our embarrassment. Our college degrees meant nothing. Handfuls of people were walking by in the lobby, watching the spectacle.
Finally, a man in his fifties came up to us laughing. In one quick swoop, he pressed the lever, loosened the strap, and muttered, “I’ve been there before!” A wave of relief swept over my husband and me, and then a sense of urgency to get in the car as fast as possible.
Home from the hospital...finally!
This experience taught me three important parenting lessons that still hold true today:
1. Parenting means entering a brave new world. No matter how much we prepare, there are always curve balls. Being willing to learn on the job is a necessity, for we’re all really feeling it out as we go along.
2. Securing support is essential. The grace that stranger showed my husband and me that day in the hospital was simply a precursor to the support we’d need as parents. Sharing advice, resources, and babysitters has been vital to our success – I mean, survival!
3. Parenting will involve expertise with foreign supplies. Baby equipment, for one, requires its own safe-cracking code. But as a mother of boys, I’m also realizing this principle as my children grow. For one, my oldest likes a sport that I previously knew nothing about – now I can lace skates with the best of them.
Elizabeth Stone once wrote, “Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Even with parenting’s ups and downs, it has inarguably been the most rewarding adventure of my life. And given my experience so far, I quite expect there are even better surprises ahead…