My little one is officially a little over two month’s old which means that’s the amount of time that I’ve been doing this parenthood thing (although I still technically think parenthood starts before the baby makes their official debut in this world but the amount of time she’s been out of the womb makes a convenient marker for assessing what I’ve learned). As any parent can tell you, it’s amazing the amount of things that can change in such a short period of time. A little one becomes more alert and engages more with the outside world during their second month. This creates some special moments and some challenges as well. Through it all, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:
- Parenthood is revealing - One of the things that a new parent quickly learns is how revealing parenthood is. The source of your strength is quickly on display. If you have been relying on yourself, all it takes is one sleepless night or one fussy day to demonstrate that you can’t do this gig in your own strength. The areas of sin that are so easily concealed under “normal circumstances” become unmasked when your child is crying and you have no idea what to do. Frustrations, insecurities, anxiety and other heart issues come out as you realize there are no step-by-step instructions on how to make things better. Hopefully these revelations drive us to our knees in prayers. Hopefully, they remind us of what we always should have known – we were never intended to live this life on our own strength anyway.
- There is no “normal.” – There are a monumental number of parenting books at a new parent’s disposal. Add that to the number of blogs that are focused on the subject and there are no lack of published opinions available to the parent. Each book or blog post spouts the author’s perspectives, and most promise a system to tackle the problems that permeate a baby’s young life. The challenge is that no two babies are the same. What worked for one baby, or even one group of babies, may not work for your kid. “Normal” is an aggregated label, and unfortunately your individual child isn’t an aggregate. It takes patience to learn your own kid’s proclivities and in doing so you may find that what’s normal for them, isn’t what the books say at all.
- Take what you can. Discard the rest. – Because there is no normal, everyone’s well-meaning advice may not work for you. Take what you can, filtering it through what you have already learned about your own child’s preferences and tendencies, and discard the rest. It doesn’t make you a bad parent if you don’t follow every piece of advice, especially because it won’t take long before the sources of advice will contradict each other. Also, just like each child is unique, people’s parenting styles differ too. What may have been a turnkey system for one person, may not fit your personality or how you desire to interact with your child. That’s o.k. People give advice because they care. Remember that. Appreciate that. But you don’t have to follow everything they say.
- A smile can change a day. – In the midst of the challenges there is nothing quite like when your kid smiles at you. You can be in tears because you just can’t figure out the best way to put her down for a nap, and she can look up at you, coo, and give you a bright, big smile and suddenly everything that seemed so strenuous moments before, evaporates. You may still want to figure out how to ease into nap time, but you also realize that for the most part, your little one is doing just fine. They’re learning; you’re learning, and that smile can seem to say “it’s o.k. – we’re going to figure this out together.” And you likely will. And the smiles at that moment will be all the more sweet because of the joys you shared along the way.
Being a parent is a privilege. It is a gift from God and a ministry that isn’t to be taken lightly. Thankfully, in the midst of all the uncertainties of being a parent, we can trust in the One who is certain, knowing that even as our kid changes, He never will (Ja. 1:17).