Sunday, March 25, 2012

The First Year (Parenthood part 2)

I can honestly say I didn't truly understand what an achievement the first year of a child's life is until it happened to me. It was an epiphany of sorts. The night before Millie's first birthday I put her to bed, the whole time thinking 'This is the last time I put my first baby to bed as a baby. Tomorrow she's a toddler. Not a baby.' Always my baby.
When she was born my own relationship with my mother changed for the better. I suddenly understood the years of her trying to keep us all happy (often at her own expense) and her frustrating need to always be close. To be touching my hair, pushing my fringe out of my eyes (I AM TWENTY NINE NOW, STOP PLEASE.) and ever joyful in the face of our own adversities. I only understood this when Mr S and I looked at tiny (not really, she was a 10lb baby) Millie in the hospital cot and he pointed to her and said 'That's how big you'll always be to your mother.' I get it.
Apart from the snuggles and loving, the first year seemed to be about surviving. Just getting through the first really hard year and finding the pinpricks of light along the way.
It was such a shock to my system to be a parent. I remember sobbing to Mr S thinking that I was ridiculous because 'I just feel SO responsible. 24 hours a day.' To which he replied 'Yep. You are. I am. We are.' I desperately wanted him to tell me that I was being ridiculous. That kind of responsibility was so terrifying. Now, not so much. I love it.
I hadn't taken into account how hard I would find it to be friends with people who have wildly different parenting values to me. Prior to children, these differences didn't matter so much. Now, I don't think they matter so much, but it's not as easy to maintain a friendship when the boundaries for your kids are so different. Millie's not at the age yet of saying 'But HER mother lets her...' but that time will come. I suppose that right now parenting is my main focus, so it's relatively high on any conversational agenda if we're hanging out with other kids Millie's age.
The internet can be a harsh place for parents too. I've only discovered recently just how harsh it is.  And that post made people talk. I think it got linked somewhere because the stats went nuts on that post. My cynical side thinks that it got linked amongst the 'Mummy Police' who no doubt are swearing behind my back at me, but I'd like to think that it's being read by people going 'Oh god. I KNOW. Why can't be we all just be nice to each other?'
The first year was so sleep deprived. So many tears (all of us). So many afternoons of me walking around the house holding tiny M sobbing along with her saying 'I don't know what you want. I wish I knew.' Afternoons of me ringing my siblings at 5.30pm saying 'Just talk to me, please. Millie is very upset and I need to talk to someone, anyone, about anything.' And them chatting to me about the weather. I don't know that they'll ever know how grateful I am for those calls. My mother listening to me four or five times per day and suggesting different techniques for winding M.
The first smiles. The first time she hugged me. The first crawl. The first steps. The first time she slept through the night (FIST PUMP!), the first teeth. So many firsts. Firsts are hard, but they pave the way for second steps, more teeth, more sleep, more crawling.
Mr S and I flicked through a lot of parenting books but pretty much just made it up as we went along. And right now we've got a super happy, very sociable, well adjusted little girl who loves her Mummy and Daddy. So we're doing everything right.
If I had to explain to anyone what the first year is like I'd say this:
It's all about surviving. And when you make it to the first year you'll realise what a fantastically awesome year it's been.


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