No secret, certain parts of this early parenting journey will not be missed. Some of these things you expect: sleepless nights, multicolored vomit, poo (in all its forms), teething. All the things family members remember and tell you about. But there are a million small things that they forget to mention, perhaps because they know it will not make a difference in your plan to parent. Perhaps because these little things are so much a part of being a parent.
So, let me just tell you.
I will not miss sippy cups. And bottles. My house looks like a milk-aholic lives in it. And it’s constant. The leaky lid, the soured milk in a sippy cup that rolled under the bed. The bottle that was left overnight and everything has separated and turned green.
I will not miss tub diarrhea. Or goldfish crackers. Or the constant battle of raisins (or all the other, unidentifiable objects ground up) in the carpet and car seat. I will not miss nail clipping, which never makes a difference in nail sharpness.
But mostly, I will not miss illness with a nonverbal child.
Jack, at fifteen months, has suffered three ear infections, (yes, there is a specialist visit in our near future.) not to mention a myriad of other weird illnesses prompting visits to the pediatrician, and urgent care clinic. I’ve called my mom so many times to check in and ask whether a trip to the doctor is in order. Like, if I had a business card, the tag line would read: Mom, I’m not sure what to do about Jack. My calling card at the doctor’s office would say: Inexplicable and uncontrolled crying.
For momma and baby.
Because there is nothing that sucks worse than your child in pain.
And I have memorized the signs and symptoms of concussions, but I still check that list once a week. Because my kids fall off things, and in tubs, and on each other. They bump heads on doorjambs, and tabletops; they slip on the sidewalk. They walk in to furniture, head first. Sometimes they are standing right under me, where I can’t see them, when I pull a pan out of the kitchen and head and pan meet at slight velocity. It is insanity. And all of those things hurt. So, when Jack started screaming uncontrollably after a short, ringing conversation with my brownie pan, I was convinced I had given him a concussion. And that he was dying.
Because my brain always assumes that one of my children is dying. At all times.
All night, he screamed and cried between Tylenol doses and would only sleep on me.
He had no fever. (Although, I convinced myself that I have never really known how to use our thermometer.)
He had no bruising, or bleeding. He did not pass out. Or vomit. He had no signs of concussion.
In fact, he had no concussion.
But I called the doctor and made an appointment, because (again) my child could be dying, and I wouldn’t know, because HE CAN’T TALK.
And an hour or two before his appointment, he was fine.
But we went anyway.
And he had an ear infection.
That’s it. Another ear infection. He is ok, and I did not damage him beyond repair. Sometimes you take your child to the doctor because it gives you a sense of relief from the racing fears your brain won’t stop screaming at you. Sometimes your parenting instinct tells you to just go, even though they seem fine. Sometimes you need a second night of screaming and crying to motivate you. But you learn. You get better at this parenting thing. Mostly.
This fear, that you are losing such a huge part of your soul, never goes away. Or so I’ve been told. The fear just changes. Jack has (finally) slept through the night four times in the last two weeks. And I never wake up, look at the clock and think, “Hurrah, he slept all night!” I think, “Is he alive?” That sense of dread didn’t leave me with Carl until he was two, and still haunts me when he sleeps late. So, it’s no wonder that I like having all my family in one room, sleeping with me. It is uncomfortable, and awkward to have a toddler in our bed, when he climbs in around 3 AM. And there is never enough room. But it is the most comforting thing in the world, to hear all that breathing, when you wake up.
So, parents: just breathe. Breathe in and breathe out. You will get better at this. The waves will go out, and come back in. The goldfish crackers dissipate. The sippy cups disappear. One day your child will point at his ears and say, “hurt”. And you won’t have to guess anymore.
But, you should probably memorize the signs of concussion. Just to be safe.