Why is it that we never tell expectant parents the truth? Parents wax lyrical about the joys of being a parent. Like a cheerful gang of die-hards, they laugh off the well-quoted exhaustion, discuss – endlessly – the requirement for wine, and welcome each new recruit with a knowing smile and a wink of collusion to the gang behind your back. And you learn. You learn to cope, you learn what those winks meant, and you learn to worry…
Finally, I’m going to tell you the truth about parenting:
For non-parents, weekends bring fun and games: maybe a couple of beers on the way home from work, a few chores on Saturday morning, and then a big night out. Take a shower, shave your legs, exfoliate, apply body lotion, make-up, heels and bling. Clubbing, or dinner, the Menu Gastronomique – 7 gorgeous courses, each accompanied by a matching glass of wine, pudding wine with the dessert course. You indulge, it’s Sunday tomorrow after all. No alarm clock needed, just wake with the sunshine and the aroma of fresh coffee. Lounge in bed with the papers until hunger drives you to the cooker for a fry-up, then maybe a walk to chase away the cobwebs. Finally, back to the pub – can’t be bothered to cook. Every stranger is a potential friend.
Once you’ve had a child the world is a very different place. You won’t need an alarm clock, body lotion, newspapers, or bling – you will stop wearing earrings at the peril of losing your earlobes. Clubs are places where snotty children lick brightly-coloured plastic toys and parents glug vats of cheap coffee in an attempt to stay awake. “Can’t be bothered to cook” stops being a spontaneous evening at the local Italian and becomes a bowl of cereal, or cheesy chips if you can muster up the enthusiasm. And every stranger is a potential paedophile.
Things you will worry about when you have a baby:
- Cot death – sadly, it still happens far too often, as the blogging community knows all too well…
- Choking – I will never forget adding marshmallows to my list of things I never knew I had to worry about, when a 6 month old baby choked on a marshmallow and died in a local restaurant
- Blind cords – often in the news as a hazard for children
You will also worry about poo, vomit, sleep, and – of all random things – table corners. You will worry when someone else’s baby learns to roll over, crawl, walk, speak, or point before yours. You will worry when her first word is “Peppa Pig.” Don’t worry about these things. One day you will walk into a room and worry that your baby is not there – he’ll have learned to roll over and is hidden behind the door. You will really worry when your baby figures out how to work the TV remote! Oh, wait – you will also worry about sneezing in public…
As your child grows these worries will disappear. Life will get easier – in some ways. You think the worries are over. But let me warn you, as soon as one bag of worries is consigned to history, a new one opens.
Things you will worry about when you have a young child:
- Swimming pools
- Hot saucepans
- Doors slamming on fingers
You will also worry about school friends, hormones, teachers, sleepovers, and the impossibility of finding a Brownie pack with less than 200 hopefuls already on the waiting list. And don’t get me started on whether the Gazelle group has more intelligent children than the Hippo group. 🙄 You will still worry about table corners…
But again, all of these things will iron themselves out eventually. Where you’re really going to start worrying is when you have a teenager. You think your child hates you now? You’ve seen nothing yet.
Things you will worry about when you have a teenager:
- Mood swings
- Exam results
- Someone else’s pregnancy (and by extension the CSA)
Somehow you get through it, and suddenly they’re 18. Phew! “That’s me done then,” you think. I can stop worrying now she’s an adult. Erm, noooo! Because as a parent you will never stop. I remember a lot of huffing and eyerolling as a 28 year old when my Father insisted on a phone call after my 90 minute car journey home from his house.
“Look Dad,” I reasoned. “If I do end up splattered all over the motorway I’m sure the police will let you know fairly quickly, so no news is good news, ok?”
Sorry Dad. I didn’t get it then, I do now.
Now that I am a parent I notice the bad news more than the good. What if my grown daughter gets in an unlicensed cab; what if she goes somewhere “quieter” with a man she’s just met, and then changes her mind? Will she be strong enough to cope with unwanted attention from her boss? What if her first flat is next door to an alcoholic, a domestic abuser, or worse? How can I make sure my son’s girlfriend doesn’t end up pregnant at 16? What if he gets into a car with someone who has been drinking? What if the person driving is him?
This post was inspired by the following story I read in a local newspaper. It got me to thinking about the fears we all have for our children, which never completely go away. As a parent, you have to live with them, without letting it affect your sanity. Can you do that? Can you? Think carefully…