People without children of their own often remark to me that “kids are a learning experience,” usually after one of my kids does something adorably ridiculous like emptying a jar of pasta sauce onto the living room carpet. In response, I smile and nod, biting my tongue about how drastic the understatement is. Here are just a few of the life lessons I’ve been taught so far.
The Amazing Shrinking Domicile. If you were lucky enough to purchase a dream house, dream car or even just a dream diaper bag before your baby arrived, you probably wondered how you’d fill all the space (I know I did). Boy, did that “extra room” evaporate under the volume of clothes, toys and unidentifiable paraphernalia that started arriving during the baby shower and just never stopped.
Lesson learned #1: You can never have enough space or be too prepared with a baby on board.
By the Seat of Your Pants. Regardless of whether you read every last parenting book or you decided to more or less wing it, chances are you had some idea that you’d know what you were doing when the time came; an idea that promptly flew out the window for me when my beautiful little monsters took up residence. But everything turned out okay because I realized that I actually was capable of dealing with marbles in the garbage disposal or toys down the toilet. Plus, having a homeowners insurance policy helps give me peace of mind.
Lesson learned #2: Admitting that you might not know what you’re doing but that you’re doing your best isn’t too bad after all.
Drive Me Crazy. The job of driving has never been harder: I can’t be the only person who’s endured an in-car screaming session caused by a dropped “lucky penny” or the distribution of the wrong flavor of juice. Still, you’ll find yourself battling through it somehow and end up as a safer driver than your pre-child self could ever imagine. Not to mention the fact that you’ll become much more aware of other drivers. I can see a teenager texting and driving from three miles away. And never again will I talk on the phone while driving – I can’t believe I ever did!
Lesson learned #3: Keeping harmony in the car deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Sands of Time. When you’re up at midnight trying to get your aspiring opera singer to fall asleep, the minutes might drag; but you’ll find the rest of your time with your child fast-forwarding at warp speed. Before you know it, you’ll be shelling out big bucks for college. All you can do is take plenty of pictures and videos – the more embarrassing, the better – and hang on for the ride.
Lesson learned #4: The days are long but the years go fast so cherish every moment like it’s your last.
Unconditional Love. If a friend suffered the occasional five alarm diaper explosion, spewed the contents of your best culinary creations onto the table, and halted the functioning of your household because of a refusal to put on shoes, the friendship would probably die pretty quickly. It would be a lot to deal with even from a much-loved spouse. But when it comes to my kids, I’ve happily dealt with all this and more, just because.
Lesson learned #5: Motherhood is one of the greatest gifts. Sure it’s crazy and messy at times, but in the end well worth it.
Bye-Bye Bubble Bath. If you enjoy taking the occasional peaceful moment by yourself, you might want to stock up before your baby arrives. Because afterwards, you’ll never get a moment to yourself again. Never. So don’t count on being able to take a leisurely soak in the tub. And you can pretty much forget about candles too.
Lesson learned #6: Embrace and take advantage of being together 24/7 with your family. Your kids will be out of the house more quickly than you’d like.
My Precious. Before we had kids, there were certain possessions that I really preferred to stay in a whole, undamaged form. That’s not a realistic expectation now that I’ve got the equivalent of hurricanes on legs living in my household. Your furniture, your pets, your jewelry, and especially your electronics; none of it will ever be safe from little fingers bent on destruction.
This gave me added incentive to stop buying nice things now and put the money toward a college fund. Saving money is so important when you have little ones, especially a set of twins that will be entering college at the same time. All it takes is a few dollars to start. Think of it like any other planned expense and before you know it the kids will be grown – and so will your college savings plan.
Lesson learned #7: Helping your child secure their future is one of the best gifts you can give.
To Sleep, Perchance to Dream. Yeah, perchance to get more than half of the recommended daily total of forty winks. If this is your first experience with child-rearing, you might think that the worst is over once your little one figures out how to sleep through the night. Not so. According to a National Sleep Foundation survey, you can pretty much count on never sleeping well again.
Lesson learned #8: Keep lots of coffee on hand!