10 Ways Being a Parent Has Changed Me
I understood that my life would change when I had children. What I failed to appreciate was how parenting would change me.
1. My body has changed. Those of you who have borne children, nursed children, or even raised children--or those of you who spend your life with someone who has--know what I mean. I will spare the rest of you the details.
2. I have a temper. I have never been one to raise my voice, pick a fight, or hold a grudge. At worst, I'm passive-aggressive and sarcastic when angry. Except when it comes to my kids. They can push my buttons and enrage me faster than anything else. No one else has ever driven me to spike a (plastic) jar of peanut butter on the kitchen floor. Which leads me to...
3. I realize that I am an example to others. Not long after the peanut butter incident of 2010, my daughter threw something in anger. When I explained that throwing things was unacceptable behavior, I rightfully got a "but you do" right back.
My behavior is a model to my children, and "do as I say, not as I do" is an ineffective teaching method. I need to be better than I might otherwise be because people are watching. If I'm going to be a good example to my family, I may as well try to do it all the time. Other people are watching too.
4. I love to create things. I had no idea. I have always been a consumer of others' creativity but didn't know I wanted to or could do it myself.
Through projects begun only to entertain my children, I've learned that creating can be fun. I still won't accept my son's assertion that I "really could draw a good dragon" if I only tried, but this blog and my photography give me a creative outlets I never knew I needed.
5. I have so much more to learn. When I first quit work to stay home with an infant, it felt like my brain atrophied a little bit each day. I was in survival mode, just getting from a feeding to a diaper change to the next nap.
As my child got older, I began to learn new things for him--backhoe loaders, gators, and telescoping forklifts, soon followed by Baryonyx, Gravitholus, and Tyrannosaurus Rex. In what seemed like no time at all, I learned new things from him.
It inspired me to learn more about the things that interest me.
6. I experience joy and wonder in simple things. For many years, I didn't look up. I went to school, I worked, I put in my time. But I rarely stopped to appreciate the small things--the way the moon peeks from behind the clouds, the furry caterpillar, the smell of lilacs. Thanks to my children, I take the time to notice such things and have an eager audience to share them with.
7. I know that we are more the same than we are different. Whatever your political or religious affiliation, whatever books and music inspire you, nearly all of us hold the same things dear. Our families and our children are what matter most. I find a unity in this; we all are in the same boat. I empathize with other parents no matter how our lives may differ because I know that their deepest fears and greatest joys are likely the same as mine.
8. I am learning to listen. I spend much of my time tending to my children--feeding them, cleaning up after them, and driving them where they need to go. I usually hear what they are saying, but too often I have failed to listen to what they need. I am learning to slow down and take the time to find out the why behind the what. I'm recognizing that, although they are young, they have complicated thoughts and feelings made more difficult by their lack of maturity to process them. My kids thrive when they feel they are truly heard and understood.
9. I am more kind, more compassionate, and less judgmental. The most important job I have as a parent is to grow good humans. More than anything, I hope my kids will be kind and compassionate. I spend a fair amount of time explaining why a person or a family looks or acts "different." I teach my children to imagine how they would feel in another's shoes. In teaching them, I have taught myself as well.