People always say having kids will change your life, and it does! But here are five lessons my kids have taught me that I never saw coming.
1. They teach you how deeply you can love. Did you have any idea that you were capable of loving anything or anyone so deeply before you had your first child? Sure, you love your spouse and your parents and your dog … but nothing can compare to loving a child.
I remember my mom once telling a story about camping with her family in Canada when they were young and my uncles would play near some abandoned train cars. One day one of them was somehow trapped by one of those cars, and she told the story that my grandfather lifted the car off my uncle. I realize this might sound crazy and it’s been so long since I’ve heard it that I can’t remember the details. But even if it’s only half true, I believe my grandfather somehow saved my uncle from being crushed, whether he had to push or lift something that would seem impossible to move by a single man. Only a parent can do that.
2. They teach you how to let go. All those things that used to be important? Not anymore. Mani/pedis, massage, showers, “me time “ — most have taken some level of sacrifice. As I type this I’m looking forward to my first hair appointment in 6 months later this week. Part of this is basic self-care that we should all prioritize, but I think there is something to learning the lesson that we don’t have to be “on” all the time in order to function. Does it help to have a shower? Totally. Is it necessary? Nope.
3. They teach us we can’t be in control. All those expectations you have for your kids? Those need to go, too. Keeping your house clean for company. Keeping your car clean. Hoping your kid will wear weather-appropriate clothes when it’s summer or winter. Even with a toddler I still thought parents had control over that. With a preschooler, I know better.
It’s not up to us to decide what’s important to our kids, how hungry they are, if they’re sleepy or not, or if they’re too hot or too cold. Those are decisions only they can make.
4. They teach you how to be flexible. Those plans you had for family photos where you thought your kids would be really well behaved and do everything the photographer asks? Nope. You’re really excited you’re going to make it on time to something for once and then your kid throws up in the car or has a massive number 2 in her diaper and this is the one time her diaper didn’t contain it all. Now you’re going to be late. Or that time you wanted to take your kids to an event in town and they decide this is the day they’re tired enough to pass out on the floor while playing … you roll with it. Because what parent would ever be disappointed when their kid falls asleep? Flexibility makes parenting so much easier.
5. They teach you how to be honest. Just walk through a grocery store with a 3-year-old who likes to narrate and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Not only have I learned that it’s okay to ask questions and say what I think, I’ve also learned it’s quite liberating.
My kids never hold back on saying what they mean and asking questions about things they don’t understand. And while it makes me feel uncomfortable, this is something I’ve been working really hard on lately. It’s scary and unknown and I don’t know what people are going to think, but you know what? I feel so much more free because all those things I’ve been holding inside have found a way out.
What would it be like to feel like that all the time?! I don’t know yet but I hope I get to find out. The only reason it’s uncomfortable is because someone else told me it’s not okay. My daughter doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about her and I really hope to keep it that way. What would it be like to not worry about what others think?
What unexpected lessons have your kids taught you? —Cati