Now that I’m an
experienced old mom, I’ve found that many of my friends who are now starting families are beginning to ask my advice on various parenting subjects.
Most of it’s the normal parenting fodder:
“When did your kids start sleeping through the night?”
“When did you stop breastfeeding?”
“When were you able to start making time to look so effortlessly flawless and well rested?”
Okay, well no one ever actually asks me that last one, but I know they’re thinking it.
So in an effort to help illustrate my motherhood experiences thus far, I’ve come up with a parenting flow chart of sorts (loosely inspired by the wonderful work of the people at PBS Kids, who in absolutely no way endorsed the contents of this post), that details the four phases of early motherhood. Hopefully it will be a beacon of light and bright, shining hope to those in the throws of becoming parents for the first time.
The Sesame Street Phase
Congratulations! You are the world’s greatest mother, to the world’s greatest child. Every day is filled with songs about numbers and hands-on sensory tutorials that will expose your little one to a cornucopia of sights, smells and textures. Even the smallest, seemingly unimportant tasks are done with a smile and you spend every waking moment thinking about new ways to enrich your little one’s environment.
Strangely, you’re more excited than you’d care to admit, to talk to that grouchy, unkempt neighbor, who’s always digging in his trash can and it’s starting to seem like you only see the same four adults over-and-over-and-over again, and that does seem a little off. And now that you mention it, it does feel like it is always 8:30 in the morning… Doesn’t anyone sleep around here? And where the HECK are the other adults? And WHY ISN’T ANYONE EVER SLEEPING!?!?
The Super Why Phase
You’ve made it through the infant stage and are well on your way to becoming a seasoned parent. Well done! I bet your little one is even occasionally sleeping through the night! And you’ve probably started branching out and sending him to a Mommy’s Day Out or preschool and I bet he loves playing with all his new friends. You’re doing so great.
But it’s funny, you really love your kiddo, but suddenly it seems like everything that comes out of his mouth is an open-ended, impossible-to-answer question that leads to a slew of additional open-ended, impossible-to-answer questions. They come at you like a swarm of angry bees, each one poking into you with a fury that can only be satiated by the sting of another question. And why do all his questions have to be posed like riddles? Can’t the two of you just have a normal conversation without puzzles and guessing games? Is this what they’re teaching him at school? Maybe you should consider alternative childcare…
The Wild Kratts Phase
He’s so grown up isn’t he? It’s seems like just yesterday he was bouncing on your knee and now he’s off on wild and crazy adventures with his friends in the neighborhood. What a free spirit he is! What an independent explorer! He’s learning so much about the world around him and he doesn’t even need you to hold his hand – such a brave boy.
But you’re unsure why he insists on sneaking centipedes into the house in his pockets. And throws a fit if he can’t save a sun-dried earthworm on the playground every. single. time. And didn’t he learn just last week, that if you pull a cat’s tail, it will literally come back to bite him? Sure, you’re all for living free and in the wild, but these days you’re feeling more like #TeamDonitaDonata.
The Odd Squad Phase
Oh wow. Okay, so you’ve got a kid now. I bet you’re starting to shop in the “youth” section at Target and leaving the crusts on sandwiches. You feel a bit like you’re in a strange, underground time warp because it wasn’t that long ago that you were holding this little one in your arms and singing to him about Elmo’s World and fishing dried up worms out of his pants pockets. But it is kind of nice that simple problem solving has become a thing and he can figure out how to get his own snack every once in a while.
But you’ve lost the ability to spell secrets to your husband because he’s fully capable of putting letters together to make words, which was colorfully illustrated recently when he asked you what “secks” meant. He’s a master of memory so even the most well-intentioned empty promises are a thing of the past and suddenly it seems like when he has friends over, they’re all secretly mocking all the adults in the room. Are they? Are they mocking you? It’s almost impossible to tell; their dialogue is so fast-paced and riddled with puns…
Let me assure you my dear friend, that if you can make it through these first four phases, you can make it through anything. I assume there will be subsequent phases, which will present new and equally exasperating challenges, but as my brood has not yet aged out of phase four, I fear there is no more I can teach you. But I shall go ahead and traverse these uncharted lands and send word via FaceTime of the road ahead.
If you don’t hear from me, it’s because the future is a land full of milk and honey – too rich, sweet and calm to describe in words.
I hear they call it the Charlie Rose Phase.