Today, while reading a post about new parenting over at Cafe Asteria, I found it interesting how quickly new parents become seasoned veterans in their own right. A few months of parenting may not entitle you to write a book or give parenting advice on a daytime talk show, but after one week with an infant, there are quite a few tasks that you begin to master to perfection.
Trial and error, and repetition, and repetition, and repetition, and repetition, slowly evolve the uneasy and inexperienced parents into trained diapering and swaddling machines. The nervous insecurities melt away into confidence and proficiency. What a wonderful feeling!
But, here's the rub...
As soon as you acquire your black-belt in midnight feeding, it is time for your baby to sleep through the night. And just when you earn your Olympic gold medal in changing a diaper on your lap in a car, it is time to potty train. You can even memorize all of the names and numbers of the Thomas the Tank engines, much to your toddler's pleasure, but in a few years it won't even matter because he will have moved onto something different.
It becomes more and more difficult to maintain that wonderful feeling of knowing exactly what to do to care for a child, because the older they get, the more complicated that job becomes.
Moms and dads struggle to stay on top of the ever changing parenting terrain by learning new tricks, adapting old techniques and forgetting some skills all together. We fight the early childhood battle of "just keeping them alive" and later move into the vast gladiator arena of trying to "teach them to be good people without screwing them up".
Parents must constantly gauge and assess their children in order to figure out what to do next. We read books and research. We ask questions and try new things. We attempt to manipulate any available aspect in life for their benefit, but it never feels like enough.
For me, that wonderful "good parent" feeling is nothing more than a distant memory, only replaced with uneasiness and doubt.
I look back on the infant era of colic and projectile spit-up and think "those were the good ol' days". Back then you knew where you stood with a child. If they were fed and asleep, you knew you had done your duty and you deserved a pat on the back.
Now when I go to bed every night I wonder, what strange and perplexing problem I will have to adapt to in the morning? What disturbing, unexplainable thing will I find broken, smelly or altogether missing? What questions will they ask me about life and what questions will I have to ask them? What if they don't tell the truth or if I catch them in a lie?
Each day brings new challenges, but perhaps what is even more worrisome than my infinitely imagined scenarios, is the idea that what if tomorrow is the day that I won't be able to figure out what to do?