I really had no idea I wanted to be a parent. We were living in a rented loft in Vancouver and I was waitressing and painting and perpetually running for the bus or getting my shoelaces tangled in my bike chain or regretting dancing on so-and-so’s coffee table last night.
But then it happened. One night in Kelowna. We were a bit shocked (I don’t know why –really, everyone knows how these things come about) and I began to worry. Would I enjoy breastfeeding? (I detest milk.) How much would a baby limit our travels? (We still hadn’t been to India.) Will I be taken seriously at PTA meetings in grotty red Converse and vintage dresses? (No one has ever taken me seriously.)
“We’ll never let our kids change us,” we said. And we were adamant. I went to see loud indie bands in small clubs at 8.5 months pregnant just to prove how adamant.
‘And no television. Ever.’
“I’ll never wear Lulu Lemon pants or let myself get a square mom-butt,” I said. And I rocked leopard print tights straight through my pregnancy just to prove I was serious about that, too.
We had all kinds of ideas about what sort of parents we would be.
“We’ll never buy one of those tacky baby swings,” we said.
“They can sleep in this beautiful, ridiculously expensive, catalpa wood crib with 100 per cent organic bedding.”
“We’ll give them organic spinach before any other foods so they learn to love it.”
“We’ll never let them throw a tantrum in the supermarket.”
“Absolutely no television. Ever.”
But then the tiny acrobat who had been living in my uterus became real. And it totally changed me forever.
Yes, I’m wearing mom jeans
Turns out, I love breastfeeding. Sometimes I stick my nose in my baby’s mouth just to smell his sweet, milky breath. Neither of my boys has spent a single night in that ridiculously expensive crib or ever ingested one leaf of spinach (not for lack of trying) and at the moment half of our living room is taken up by a giant baby swing with lamb ears.
Sometimes I wonder how I got here, from late-night, nomadic free-spirit to predictably boring, responsible mother of two, square-butt and all.
Our travels are limited – mostly because we’re broke – but we don’t mind because hanging out at home with our kids is suddenly way more fun than risking diarrhea and waiting in queues for trains. Is it annoying having constant, miniature companionship? Nah. In fact, the daylight hours aren’t enough: I take them to bed with me just to drink them in a little longer. And as for the vintage dresses: they have been replaced by – ahem – yoga pants and mom jeans. (The Chucks remain.)
Sometimes I wonder how I got here, from late-night, nomadic free-spirit to predictably boring, responsible mother of two, square-butt and all. I live in a perpetual fog of oatmeal, spit-up and sleeplessness, but I have never felt more happy or free. Not everyone lets parenthood change them, and kudos to those who don’t. Must be tough keeping up with life as well as your kids.
Selflessness, wisdom and growth
I’m no expert but there is one thing I know for certain. At its core, parenting is constant practice in selflessness.
You have to overcome the trivial and the meaningless: vanity, embarrassment, idleness, covetousness. You will give up your morning coffee-and-newspaper-in-bed ritual to powder the kitchen with flour as you allow your toddler to help you make pancakes. You will run into your ex-flame with banana mashed into your hair and spit-up on your shoulder. You will probably smell bad when someone hugs you. The fancy sofa you sprung for pre-parenthood will be snacked on, peed on, barfed on.
And as for those kids who scream bloody murder for animal crackers in the supermarket – the ones that everyone stares at and says “Oh my goodness, what unruly children!” and “What kind of parents must they be?” – they will be yours. That will be you.
But with this selflessness comes wisdom and growth.
Forced to walk slower, holding a sticky little hand, you will notice more. Your newfound patience will guide you to greater empathy and more compassion. You are a teacher now; you will see your own flaws and misgivings in a whole new light. You will learn who matters most to you; the difference between material wants and needs; to respect your body in terms of function, rather than form.
I’ve learned that adapting your life to accommodate your kids is much easier than expecting them to adapt to your life. I’ve also learned that it isn’t such a bad deal.