Nothing can prepare you for parenting.
Before I had kids, I was that annoying person who talked about having kids using a pros and cons list. Bless my heart, I didn’t have much of a choice since I had no experience to go on, but still, how my friends with kids must have stifled their groans.
Since I waited nine years after I got married to have kids, I had many good friends who had kids before I did.
They gave me loads of great advice. They even listened patiently and without eye rolls as I told them my thoughts and plans about parenting.
And perhaps they even told me what I am about to tell you, but I was too tired and miserable while pregnant to hear them.
What is the best parenting advice I have to give you after almost seven years of parenting?
It’s that parenting is not linear.
What I mean by that is that your child will not reach a milestone and then reach another and another in a straight progression.
Parenting is two steps forward, one step back (on a good day).
Whether your child is 2 months, 2 years, 12 years or 22 years, people don’t get places through a math formula. You would think that a fed baby + a clean diaper + a good nap = a happy baby, but nope.
Kids aren’t math formulas and don’t always act in predictable ways.
This is very frustrating, especially for a new parent. But this is also true after a child is able to do something new. It can be puzzling and aggravating to watch them stop doing it.
Before my son came, I was a competent, capable adult who accomplished many goals and could convince most of a class of high school students to complete their work.
So, when these inevitable detours happened, I questioned myself as a parent.
How could I not get my 2-year-old to stop peeing in his pants once a week? Why would he refuse to put his shoes on by himself when I knew he could? Why did he still spill his juice sometimes? And why did he continue to ask me questions I had already given him the answer to? (These are 4 of the approximately 8,324,597 questions I asked myself weekly as a parent.)
So many times, I thought “Aha! We are here, we have made it – he has (fill in the blank with new skill or understanding),” only to have him stop or refuse to do it soon after.
Not only is parenting a winding road, but you never know what the scenery will be like at any given moment.
Sometimes the view from the road is gorgeous and breathtaking. Other times (sometimes within the same five minutes), it feels like we are traveling through a parched desert just hoping to get to the other side (usually right before bedtime).
So, if you have a child who is growing in zigzags, who needs multiple tries, and many steps backward before taking those next forward steps, keep your chin up.
You’re not a bad parent and you’re not crazy. Your child is learning and growing, they simply need time and some detours. Just like us grownups.