What has surprised me the most about parenting

By Lauren Keenan

Before having kids, I thought I knew everything. I’d read parenting books, observed mothers, and spent hours on parenting forums. I had all the answers. Right?

Wrong.  Not only did I not have a clue, but there were some things that took me completely and utterly by surprise:

  1. Beady all-seeing eyes. One thing I didn’t expect to find as difficult as I do is being constantly observed by my toddler’s beady all-seeing eyes, First, it makes surreptitious junk-food guzzling much trickier, especially if it’s food that I don’t want to rot his teeth with. It’s also impossible to have certain conversations in their presence. They might not seem like they’re listening, but they are. In fact, only a few centimeters from their beady all-seeing eyes are ears expertly tuned to pick up any hint of the salacious, scandalous or secret. Sometimes it feels like I need a sealed-off room in my house just to have decent conversations with other adults.
  1. Being constantly attuned to danger. I’d been told about this beforehand, but hadn’t listened. It wasn’t until I moved a hot cup of tea away from the edge of the table when no-one under the age of 18 was present that I realised just how deeply this was entrenched into my sub-conscious behaviour.
  1. How scared I would be about bad stuff happening to my kids. And how every story I read about something bad happening to other children sends a shiver right to the core of my soul, a shiver that whispers ‘that could happen to your children, too’. One of the challenges of being a parent is walking that line between sensible caution and anxiety-inducing paranoia, and that is one of the many aspects of parenting I never know if I have right or not.
  1. Just how much I would hate looking at poo. Again, I was warned, but didn’t listen. There have been days when I’ve changed multiple nappies, and had to clean poo off the floor and scrape it off clothes. And, in the case of one particularly traumatic incident, my forehead and fringe.
  1. What I wouldn’t miss from my child-free days …  The movies, going out for a dance, adult parties, backpacking around the developing world. Sure, these things would still be fun to do, but I don’t yearn for them either.
  1. … and what I’d miss terribly. Going for a long walk, alone, with nowhere to be. Sleeping in. Reading a book without interruption. Leaving the house without a bag. Not having to think twice about wearing clothes that are dry-clean only. Morning showers without little people clawing at the glass.
  1. How some things are so much better now. Like Christmas. The decorations! The tree! Wrapping presents! When we paid Father Christmas a visit, I suspect I was even more excited than my kids were. There are also other things that I’d barely notice before having children that are exciting when seen through a child’s eyes: a car carrier truck, a giant yellow concrete mixer, a big, fluffy dog. I love how children make you look through the world with new eyes, and remind you that there is beauty and excitement all over the place if you pay attention.
  1. The pride. You know the type, the pride you sometimes feel for your children that makes you feel like you’re about to burst. The pride that also makes you forget that any other child in the history of time has ever crawled, rolled, sat, done a pee on the potty or finished a difficult puzzle. And even if they had, they clearly didn’t do it with as much finesse and poise as my lovely offspring.
  1. The mortification. Sadly, children lack filters between their brains and mouths. Including mine, as is evidenced by a number of recent incidents of telling strangers he doesn’t like them, telling people to stop looking at him, and calling a woman with unfortunate facial-hair that she was a man. As I stand in the corner and wish my hardest that I could disappear from these mortifying scenarios, I tell myself that this is the universe’s way of keeping the pride in check.
  1. And lastly …the love. It may sound cheesier than a cheese platter, but it’s true. I won’t wax lyrical about a mother’s love for their children as it’s been said before by better writers than I, but I will say this: it makes everything worthwhile. Forehead-poo and beady all-seeing eyes included.

What has surprised you the most about parenting? Tell us in the comments below.

Lauren is a Wellington mother of two. She blogs at Modern Mothercraft, where she applies a 1945 handbook on motherhood to parenting in the modern day, as well as writing about other topical issues.

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