As I sit here wondering how to express myself using carefully constructed, eloquently spun words, I hear the phrase "Whew, I made it!" racing through my mind. For many people, that phrase signifies the end of some era or other significant time frame, but as a parent thinking back over the 14 months since my daughter's birth, I realize more and more as each day passes that it means my journey is only beginning.
In fact, as I reflect on the many joyous moments from my daughter's first birthday celebration, I remember saying quietly to myself, "Whew! We made it through the first year. It must be all downhill from here."
I have to hold back roars of laughter now, when I think about having said such a silly thing, not yet realizing how much I still had to learn, nor how far the journey would take me.
Actually, my journey began at 8:46 p.m. Sept. 20, 1997. It was then that my life changed in the best possible way. My husband and I were handed a beautiful, tiny little creature, so warm and snugly, so full of need, that we couldn't help but to fall in love with her, our daughter. However, even armed with that boundless love and my college education in human development and family life with a concentration in early childhood education, I still felt an overwhelming sense of panic. Almost an "I know what to do," but "What do I do?" sort of feeling. In fact, as the nurses were walking us out to the car two days later, I recall thinking to myself, "What do you mean you're sending us home alone with this baby? We need more time to prepare. Doesn't it come with directions, or can you at least send us home with someone who already knows what they're doing?"
Nonetheless, and quite in spite of that feeling, my confidence and self-esteem as a parent began to blossom. I realized that babies don't break, that it is possible to accomplish many tasks at the same time, and that mommies too sometimes need a time out, such as the kind provided by Mommy's BREAK Club. BREAK stands for Brag, Rag, Eat And Kickback.
I discovered there is much to be said about practical experience vs. book learning. I learned that parenthood, with all its joys and tribulations, is a wide spectrum of gray. Very few clear-cut lines exist with everything from discipline to potty training, diapers to television. I found out that making it through the first year with one's sanity intact simply eases one into the coming years, but that there is no end, no "Whew, I made it!"
I discovered that parenthood is a journey that takes a lifetime.
As I approached the anniversary of my daughter's birth, I reminisced about the finer points from her first year. I thought of the first time she sneezed, the first time she laughed, the first time she rolled over, the first time she cut a tooth, the first time she walked. It was in thinking of these times that I realized how quickly time passes.
In the blink of an eye, 14 months and many milestone have gone by. It is through those efforts, though, that the groundwork for my lifetime journey through parenthood has been laid. It is from the last 14 months that I realize how much further I have to travel.
In time, there will be potty training, weaning, preschool, kindergarten, boys, cars and college. But for now, I'm content to be "momma" to a sweet-as-sugar girl.
-- Monica Stark is a prevention consultant at DCCCA.