Here are a few of the lessons my teachers have imparted.
1. Babies don't come with instruction manuals.
I know it sounds a bit cliche, but it's true. Lots of smarty pants have tried to write them, but this mama is here to tell you not to waste your money. I have read countless books and articles on pregnancy, child birth, getting your baby to sleep, nursing, healthy foods, raising happy children, getting your baby on a schedule, and just about every other topic related to parenting you can think of. Maybe my children are just that advanced, but none of the gurus' advice could make my girls sleep longer, eat broccoli with a smile, or forgo a single temper tantrum. And, once you think you've got parenting figured out, here comes numero dos to defy everything you found that worked. Here's what I've found that does work: every child is unique, and I can stress about a million things or I can try to enjoy the sleepless nights and temper tantrums because I'm finding that this time passes way too quickly.
2. Children have a hidden container of bodily fluids.
Just when you think you've seen the last of tinkle, poop, vomit, or snot, those itty bitties pull out another round of reserves. I mean really, what other explanation could there be?
3. Never say never.
They WILL prove you wrong! Before I became a mama, I remember wondering why those parents in the next aisle over allowed their children to yell, scream, and kick their way through the toy department. Weeelll, my first born quickly showed me why. Let me just say that one trip to Target which involved Mama trying to play Dr. Spock and pull reverse psychology on the flailing toddler in the toy department set me straight on this issue. After using the calmest voice I could muster, I told Grace that I was leaving and started to walk away just knowing she would follow. I got a few feet away when I heard the high pitched wails stop. Turning around, I saw her quietly and calmly stand up, stare a hole right through me, and turn and run in the opposite direction! So much for teaching her a lesson. I'd say she schooled me.
4. 8 hours is overrated.
Sleep. Ahhh, such a sacred word. After not having a full night's sleep in 3 years, I am here to say that it is survivable. I thought that there could not possibly be 2 children born to the same set of parents that were such terrible sleepers. Once again - wrong! I've learned that 8 hours is a mere suggestion and not to ever expect it again. I've also learned that one can be quite functionable and almost intelligible while suffering from chronic sleep deprivation.
5. Babies are born knowing a few things.
It is often heard that the only things babies are born knowing is how to sleep, eat, and make dirty diapers. While the first is arguable (see lesson # 4), I'd like to add another to the list. Babies have an innate knowledge of how to make messes. I think it's handed down through the paternal genes. ;) It's amazing how much laundry stain remover a 7 pound baby can go through, how far a 8 month old can spew pureed carrots, how deep mashed up poptart, blush, cheerios, and spilled milk can seep into carpet, and how expansive a collection of toys can get. Certainly they're not taught this impressive skill; my little ones came knowing how to create messes.
6. Babies cause love to grow.
I remember a friend who was pregnant expressing her concerns that the relationship between her and her husband would never be the same after the baby arrived. I told her she was right. Their relationship would change, but it would be a change for the better. My love for Justin has grown and deepened more than I could have ever imagined in the last 3 years. I appreciate him on a new level. Knowing that we are responsible for these itty bitties, and we are in this together has caused our devotion to one another to intensify. Seeing Justin take care of our girls and hear him sing silly songs to them makes my heart melt on a daily basis.
7. You can't comprehend the love.
Before I had children, I thought I got it. Really though, I couldn't have possibly comprehended a parent's love until I became a mama. I did not imagine loving someone so much it hurts. I did not imagine being able to fight tooth and nail to protect my children. And, knowing I would do it in the blink of an eye. There's no way I understood how much my mama loves me. Not until I became a mama. I know that I didn't fully understand unselfish love. Not until feeding, diapering, comforting, and rocking a helpless newborn who has nothing to offer as thanks. I couldn't comprehend my heart walking around outside my body until I became mama to 2 little girls who are my world.