Life is full of surprises when you’re a parent. So is your house.
Heading into the 10-year mark of my career as a mom, I have learned to take many things in stride: shoes left in the bathroom, bikes left in the driveway, broccoli left on a plate. I don’t overlook them; they just don’t surprise me anymore.
Yesterday I crossed the living room in my bare feet and stepped on something kind of firm, kind of squishy. The mystery item stuck to my foot, and I plucked it off for inspection. Understand: I have three children and an elderly cat who has come to view the litterbox as a suggestion only. Anything is possible. My first thought: “I really hope that’s a raisin.”
Gratefully, I was right. It was a few more minutes before I considered my response. In my earlier life, I would have been thoroughly grossed out by this discovery. Today, I just keep swimming, as any friend of Nemo’s would.
But how did I get here? And what can still shock me as a parent?
Plenty, I’m sure. There are entire volumes of maternal speechlessness in my future, no question. We’ve had only the slightest of glimpses into Tween World, and that’s with our son. There are still two girls waiting in the wings of puberty, quite a few years from now. When parents of older children talk about their challenges, I study their stories and outcomes intently, an urban anthropologist seeking to get a jump on the unknown. First zit? First boy-girl party? First varsity tryout? First period? I absorb every success and regret into my fevered brain, squirreling away slivers of wisdom, praying I’ll be able to call them back up right when I need them.
But that’s the folly of parenting — that you are ever prepared. I spent my son’s first months cursing every parenting book I had read because it was nothing like any of them said. I was staggeringly unprepared for colic, sleeplessness (his and mine), the love-hate relationship of breastfeeding, and the sheer endless neediness of an infant. I. Had. No. Idea. Screw you, “What to Expect.”
Which probably explains the investigative zeal I bring to preparing for our next stages today. I’m a trained journalist; I know how to research. I just didn’t know before that research isn’t enough. Now, I get that I don’t know what I don’t know. And that’s the scariest thing of all — even scarier than a mystery nugget in the carpet.
Maybe I should vacuum.