Once you have children you may never sleep again. THAT was a truth they leave out of the parenting manuals, Emily thought. Probably out of fear that no one would ever sign up to have kids again, and the human population would dwindle to extinction. Emily looked around the room at the younger women at the baby shower – young, beautiful, eager mama’s to be or mama wannabes, most of whom had no clue what they were getting into.
“Okay, everyone, as you know, Hannah is due any day now, and she’s going to need all your helpful advice!” chirped Katie, Hannah’s energetic friend.
Clearly, she didn’t have kids yet – waaaayyy too bubbly and cheerful. Give her a few more years and sleepless nights and we’ll see how perky she is, Emily thought as she yawned.
Emily started to write out her thoughts on sleeping on the “Advice for new parents” card. Her friend Sophie looked over her shoulder.
“You can’t tell them that! They’ll want to put the kid up for adoption before it’s even born.”
“Well, it’s true though.” Emily replied.
“Of course it’s true,” Sophie agreed. “But you don’t need to be the one to tell them.”
Emily thought back to all the stages of parenting she had gone through so far. She estimated she hadn’t slept through the night in 20 years, six months and three days; the exact amount of time since Maisy was born.
“Wouldn’t you rather know what you’re getting into? Remember when Maisy was a baby? She had colic. She would scream for hours. Usually at night. I started to relate to parents who throw their kids out the window.”
“Annnnnd, your point is? Wait! THAT’S a truth no one admits – sometimes you will feel like throwing your kid out the window! Write that down – no wait –I’m using that one,” declared Sophie, as she added, “And it’s okay to feel that way, as long as you don’t actually do it.“
“Well, it got easier for a bit, once I gave up the pressure of breast feeding and switched to formula” remembered Emily. “Just don’t tell the ‘breast is best’ mafia about that.”
“Totally,” Agreed Sophie. “I never understood why women turn against each other when it comes to parenting – shouldn’t we just want what’s best for the baby?” Everyone’s got an opinion and they think theirs is the right one.”
“More excellent advice. Everyone will try to give you advice,” Emily said. “They’ll even give you advice cards. Honestly though, it’s better if you just do what works for you and your baby, right? OOH – that needs to be written down too.”
Emily thought back to the early years. Things actually settled for a bit, and then … the toddler stage. Just when she thought she might sleep again the kid started to get up on her own.
Emily sighed. “Once Maisy was out of her crib she was always up and running around early in the morning.”
Sophie laughed, “Oh yes – all kids do that once they’re out from behind bars. Ha, ha. Too bad there aren’t cribs for all ages.”
“And why is it once they get up, they always, ALWAYS go to Mom’s side of the bed? There were two of us – go wake Daddy up! But NOOO – it’s always, ‘Mommy – are you awake?’ ‘Mommy I had a bad dream.’ ‘Mommy I can’t sleep.’ I ended up letting them crawl into bed with me, because I knew If I got up, I’d never get back to sleep.”
“Same,” confessed Sophie, “But usually I regretted it. I would wake up with an elbow in my neck, being punched in the head or freezing without any blankets. Jack NEVER stayed still. I did get smarter when Sara came along though – she would always call ‘Ma-Ma, Ma-MAAA.’ from the crib, but if I waited long enough, she would switch to ‘Pa-pa PAPA.’ Then I would just poke Sam and tell him she’s calling for him - ha-ha.”
“HEY! that’s more good advice,” chuckled Emily. “Write that down too. If you wait long enough, they will call for Dad”
“Okay, so far we have: don’t throw the baby out the window, everyone thinks they are an expert on babies (but do what works for you), and if you wait long enough, the kid will call for Dad. What about the tween years?”
“Right. If you thought you couldn’t sleep with babies and toddlers, just wait for the tweens. We always seemed to have children who did not belong to us sleeping over. And the noise! They girls would be up all night giggling or freaking over the littlest thing. I remember one time Maisy let out a blood curdling scream. We thought something terrible had happened. It did, according to Maisy and her friends. One of those many-legged, creepy, speedy, centipedes dared to join their party. Seriously. You would have thought someone died for the all the hysteria over that bug.”
“Boys are no better,” argued Sophie. “Jack and friends laughed for HOURS one night sitting on whoopee cushions and seeing who could make the best fart noises. But all that all seems innocent enough in hindsight’” sighed Sophie. “Then came the teen years.”
“God help all parents of teens,” shuddered Emily. “I used to say, for teens, moms are nothing but a chauffer, cook, and ABM.”
“You forgot to mention emotional punching bag,” added Sophie.
“Oh yeah! There’s some good advice to come from that thought,” Emily agreed. “How should we phrase it?’
“Hmmm. How about something like, ‘Your teen will tell you she hates you. Maybe more than once. This is normal. A good sign actually’.”
“Yes! It means you set boundaries and had rules. Rules like, ‘No sleepovers on a school night, or no you can’t stay out till 2 am.’ And that you voiced unpopular opinions, like ‘No, I DON’T care if ALLLLL your friends are allowed to.’”
Sophie and Emily dissolved into a giggling fit.
“These girls have no idea what they are getting into do they?” said Sophie
“Maybe some things are just better to figure out as you go along?” wondered Emily. “Or MAYBE – we should rewrite the parenting guide. What to Actually Expect. With a warning – You may never sleep again!”
“We’ll make millions!” Sophie predicted.
“See,” Emily said. “Kids are definitely worth it.”
Smiling, they submitted their advice cards into the box at the shower.
Lisa Bailey is a busy mom, wife and healthcare worker from Burlington, Ontario. In her spare time (which currently amounts to about 3 hours, 2 minutes and 30 seconds a week), she enjoys baking, golfing, reading and writing. She frequently daydreams about winning the lottery so that she can retire and do more of the things she loves.
See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.
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