I'll preface this by saying most of these things I “knew” before having a kid, but didn’t really learn them until I did.
1. Women are amazing
I mean seriously, think about it for a second. They carry human beings around inside their belly for nine months! We're talking 24/7. No breaks, no breathers, no time off. Then, when it's finally time for that kid to make his or her grand appearance, it's not like the show's over. Noooo sir, that's when things really get crazy. I mean we're talking about pushing a live human being out of your body. They don't call it labor for nothin'. Seeing the focus, determination, bravery, mental toughness, physical strength, and perseverance my wife showed through this experience was pretty mind-blowing. Thank the Good Lord I was born a man, because I'm sorry, but there's just no way. I get a splinter and you'd think someone stabbed me in the hand with a butcher knife. Oh and guess what, after all that craziness, it's nowhere NEAR over! Then comes breastfeeding, waking up at all unrighteous hours of the night, changing, cleaning bottles, teaching your husband how to do everything because he's clueless (that wasn't just me, right?), all while still keeping the house in order. WHAT?! I could go on and on. It’s a good idea to tell her how much you love and appreciate her every day. Also, some cash to go get a mani/pedi while you watch the kid is always a good idea too.
2. Changing poopy diapers is NOT that bad. Until…
Honestly before my son was born, I don't think I had ever changed a single poopy diaper, even though I have multiple nieces and nephews. I wasn't totally sure what to expect, but I knew my 26-year streak of not touching or point-blank smelling poop would soon come to an end. No one really told me that there were phases. It's probably common sense, but I'm about as sharp as a marble. When babies are brand new and they’re driving the breast milk gravy-train, their poop diapers ain't no thang. I thought, “Wow this is what I always hear everybody whining about? What a bunch of chumps!" But after a while, we started feeding Sully "real food." Obviously it wasn't much at first, so I didn't notice much of a difference. But once he started eating a variety, and more often…well, the baby poop hit the fan. Back in the beginning, I used to open diapers and be surprised, "Oh look, you pooped!” Suddenly, there were no more surprises. I could now smell it across the house. Like someone rolled a rotten piece of fruit through a fresh steaming cow patty and then Randy Johnson threw it at your face. We’re talking gag-a-maggot. South end of a Northbound mule on a 3 day hike. Peelin’ paint off the walls. Plus I started finding stuff in it. Like whole blueberries. Anyway, the bigger point here is don’t get cocky! Pride comes before a fall. Just when I thought I had the diaper game on lockdown, the outrageous stinky stank and poop-splosions were just around the corner. I doubt I’ll ever master any aspect of parenting. At least I know that now.
3. Being a parent forces you to stop putting yourself first, but you don't mind
This one probably sounds like a big “DUH!” and yes I knew it would happen, but you can’t really learn it until you go through it. When I say it “forces” you, I don’t mean that in a bad way. You really don’t even realize it’s happening. You’re so focused on what your kid needs, you almost forget about doing anything for yourself. Maybe it’s spending the entire night “sleeping” (a.k.a. not sleeping at all) on the floor next to the crib. Or later, realizing they actually like whatever it is you’re eating, and you’re so happy, you give them all of it without caring if you eat anything at all! I think in recent years, people have become even more focused on themselves than ever before (speaking to myself here, too). I’m sure tons of things have contributed to this…for instance, social media. Look what I’m doing! How many “likes” can I get? Here’s my collection of 100 selfies! That’s just one silly example, but something has gotten us all way too focused on me, myself, and I. Phillipians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition of vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of others.” I think taking care of a child is one of the absolute best ways to really learn how to do this. Of course, we should also apply it to everyone else we come into contact with in our lives.
4. Kids will get hurt. But they’ll also bounce right back.
I’m a worrier. If you know me at all, you know this. I shouldn’t be, I don’t want to be, and I try not to be. But I am. So naturally, as Sullivan has gotten more mobile, I’ve developed this (probably really annoying) habit of following him everywhere he goes and being about a foot away from him at any given time. You can roll your eyes, it’s ok. I’m working on it. Anyway, even with me doing that, he has gone face-first off our bed, face-first off the step from our entryway to our living room, backwards off of his ride-around doggy toy, and seen his fair share of other bumps and bruises. It’s inevitable. Of course I’m not suggesting that new parents pay no attention to what their kid is doing, but don’t think you’re going to keep them 100% unscathed either. No matter how bad you want to. The cool thing is, kids are resilient! In no time at all, they’re right back to playing, acting like nothing ever happened. It’s like they don’t really know it’s an option to dwell on the fact that something bad happened. Maybe we can learn something there. Bad stuff will happen to you. But you have a choice of how to deal with it. Don’t choose be upset or hurt longer than you have to.
These four things are just the tip of the iceberg. The master list is probably somewhere around 100. As I think about these things, I pray the Lord blesses me with many more years, kids, and lessons (plus the wisdom to see them, the patience to learn them, and the brains to use them.)