I was thrilled to find out that my oldest son and his wife are expecting a baby in January. The only problem is that now, State College, where they live, suddenly seems much farther away!
This kind of life event causes us to reflect on many things like the passage of time, ones own experiences raising children and the powerful feelings stirred up by those memories.
One of the first things I thought of, after considering what I want to be called, was the unsolicited advice that young parents get.
The thing I suspect young parents hear the most is to appreciate this time because it goes by so fast. As well-meaning as this advice is, it’s hard to process through a veil of sleep deprivation, joy and constant concern.
Still, I can't resist sharing my advice, which may only resonate for my son and his wife when their baby graduates from high school.
Try to write down as much as possible about your feelings during the journey. Again, doing this sometimes takes a herculean effort when you’re too busy to shower, but do your best. After your child begins to talk, write down anything she says that strikes you as endearing or indicative of her unique personality. If you have to write it on the envelope of your electric bill, then so be it. Don’t worry about transferring it to a journal later. Just get it down on paper, date it and throw it in a box that you can tuck under your bed.
Later on when your child begins to draw, ask him to describe his masterpiece and write the description on the back. Those “scribbles” won’t mean a thing to either of you in 20 years, but the scribble labeled “man with sharp hair” will speak volumes. Oh, and please don’t tell your child that “turkeys aren’t purple”.
My last piece of advice is to be an advocate for your child whenever possible. I’ve talked with many people who remember going against their gut feelings because of inexperience or pressure from an “authority” figure.
I will never forget the ER nurse who claimed triumphantly that she had shown my terrified 3-year-old “who’s boss” while he was getting stitches in his lip. I understood that he had to be held still in order to allow the doctor to work, but I will always regret letting her insensitive remark go unchallenged. Don’t ever be afraid to take a stand in defense of your child when your instinct tells you to.
Right now you may be overwhelmed by the responsibility you are about to take on, but in a very short time you won’t remember life without that baby.