On Thursday, I called my partner to share some wonderful news: our daughter had just made poo-poos on the potty, ALL BY HERSELF!!!
Neither of us could believe she had walked into the bathroom, pulled down her pants and underwear and made a BM without speaking a word to anyone. She only came to get me for help wiping.
Now my daughter rarely asks to go to the bathroom at all, usually we have to cajole her into going at key moments, like right after waking up or before leaving the house or napping. So for her to go completely by herself was an amazing accomplishment. I doubt I could have been more proud.
The next day, she took a crap all by herself again. This one was in her My Little Pony underpants.
It was while I was washing out her soiled underwear that I was struck by what a complete crap shoot this whole parenting thing is. One moment you are delighted by your child’s accomplishments, the next you are wondering if they ever even happened.
I know plenty of posts have been written on the impermanent nature of parenting. It’s true that nothing lasts for very long, not the good nor the bad. Most of the time this is very fortunate because a lot of parenting is a challenge, and even if it never gets LESS challenging, it’s nice for the challenges to vary during each stage.
While the mother of a newborn is obsessed with the minutia of how many ounces of breastmilk or formula her child is getting–and logging those amounts alongside descriptions of her child’s bowel movements–the parents of older children are navigating the landmines of tantrums and potty training and hiding vegetables in something their child will actually eat. The only thing that every parent always seems to be thinking about is sleep, because nothing is more important for baby, toddler and parents alike than some good ole’, low-tech shut eye.
And while remembering that ‘the only sure thing about parenting is that nothing is a sure thing’ can be very empowering when you’re in the midst of sleepless nights or that pesky biting phase, it can also be exhausting. The reality is, every morning parents wake up and have absolutely no idea how their day will go. We exist at the whim of tiny people who can barely make sense of their own emotions, let alone express them in understandable ways. The uncertainty of how breakfast will go, let along the following 8-10 hours, requires a certain amount of endurance. It also requires one be prepared… for anything.
All I know is that sometimes it’s hard for me to always be “hoping for the best, preparing for the worst.” It’s hard to always have two complete sets of extra clothes, a bazillion snacks (who knows what my daughter will be willing to eat on any given day), a lovie of some kind, a sippy cup (sometimes she can handle regular cups, sometimes they are seem like rubics cubes full of water she is so confounded by them), a couple of books and/or toys, wipes, tissues, sunscreen, a sweater (San Francisco’s weather is unpredictable, especially in the summer) and other myriad toddler accouterments. The thought of trying to pack enough for a toddler and a newborn, each with their own set of unpredictable needs is exhausting. I can’t imagine I’ll ever get it right.
And then of course, there is that which cannot be packed. The plans B, C, D and on to Z that I must have at the ready to accomodate whatever random behavior my child is about to throw at me.
The truth of the matter is, I never know how anything is going to go until it’s over. Each morning I hold my breath, wondering if my daughter will let me put on her shirt and pants without thrashing around in a puddle of bitter rage for 15 minutes. Sometimes getting her hair in a ponytail is the greatest affront a human being could possible endure, other days she doesn’t even notice my comb snagging in her tangles. Drawing a bath, I’m never sure if washing her hair will elicit a screaming fit or pride and excitement that she dumped the water over her head all by herself. There is literally nothing in our day that happens with any kind of predictability. It’s totally insane. And overwhelming. And exhausting.
The only thing I’m ever sure of, is how happy she’ll be to sit in front of the TV.
I think, when I worry about having two, that it’s the idea of having two totally unpredictable people that stresses me out the most. When there are two volatile personalities in the mix, the chance of things going awry are at least twice–probably five times–as likely. In fact, the statistical probability that things will be okay must drop drastically. I’m a get-out-and-go kind of mother but I doubt we’ll be able to do much of that with two small ones to consider, especially during the first two years when the baby’s nap schedule will tie us to home (at least it will start to after six months).
The reality of it all is so daunting, because honestly, I’m barely getting by with just one little ball of unpredictability. I can’t imagine having two combustible engines revving around my house, ready to set each other off at any moment. I just don’t see how anything productive will ever get done.
Or how I will survive it.