No one ever said being a parent was easy. If it were, you wouldn't see so many tired moms and dads, struggling with the question of whether they are doing it wrong or right. You wouldn't see the foster care system overwhelmed with more children than there are homes for them.
Sometimes, I cannot help but wonder if people think having a dog first is a good step in learning the responsibilities of being a parent?
I used to think the first year was the hardest. Then, I had a nearly 8 year old and realized every year is hard for entirely different reasons. It is the hardest, most tiresome, demanding job there is. But, it is also the most rewarding.
Maybe it's because of our history, but I do my best to appreciate every single moment of it. Even the moments that convince me I can actually feel my hair turning gray. Even the ones where I am so tired that all I want to do is crawl into bed and fall asleep. Because for every bad moment, there is a good one. For every tantrum, there are hugs, kisses and memories to be thankful for.
Kaitlyn was an easy baby. I mean, super easy. She slept 12-13 hours a night starting at 7 months. Self feed effortlessly before she was 18 months, and while she was stubborn about potty training (and we should not have pushed her considering all the trauma she went through from June of 2007 to October 2007 with losing her mother temporarily to a long hospital stay and losing her brother to SIDS), once she tried, it took a day for her to be complete. She's well behaved in school and until recently in public. She's smart as can possibly be, but she needs help working on self control. She has a tendency to say she cleaned her clothes off the bathroom floor, only admitting she didn't when I threaten to check. She makes her own lunch every day, but needs to be reminded to put the peanut butter away when she's done. She is an amazing big sister and is awesome at using entertaining her sister as an excuse to not do homework, clean her room or eat her dinner.
Matthew was not an easy baby. He did not sleep well unless he was being held. He was a slow eater, he was incredibly fussy and cried so much. But, he was so worth it. He was worth being tired for, he was worth listening to the ear piercing screams, he was worth the tiresome efforts to nurse, he was worth every single moment we had with him and I would have gladly had a gazillion more just like that to still have him in our lives.
Samantha is an in between baby. She is not a great sleeper. She has started to get better about putting herself to sleep at night, but usually stays up past 11. And lately she has given up naps of any significance. She hates being woken up. Until she was 1, I was still getting up with her several times a night, changing her diaper every couple of hours and trying to pacify her back to sleep, and she was a spitter. Not a little bit of spit-up once in a while, but massive amounts after every feed, a dozen times a day. I had to clean the carpet every day. She freaks out over the littlest of things (the other night at like 1 AM, she screamed Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! like she was hurt. Nope, she had a boogie on her finger and wanted it off ASAP!) She demands to use a fork but refuses to learn how to use it, instead screaming and throwing it at things. She is a great communicator, loves baths (especially the part where she dumps buckets out of the bathtub so that I not only have to dry her off and get her dressed, but also have to soak it all up, mop and then do the laundry), and is great at cleaning up. Seriously on the cleaning up, she cleans her room better than Kaitlyn.
Charlotte is already showing she's stubborn. She refuses to let me ever be comfortable. She hates ultrasounds, and she likes to karate kick me at every chance she gets.
Children are work. A lot of work. More work than you could ever imagine before having one in your life. The require constant cleaning, attention, praise, discipline, encouragement, supervision and they make messes. Some days I am so sick of cleaning the same messes up over and over again. Each and every day, cleaning the same gunk off the high chair, picking the same clothes up off the floor, washing the same dishes in the sink, going another night with limited sleep, having my dinner interrupted to add more ketchup to the high chair tray or having Samantha wait until I finally get a bath to decide to poop.
But, I'm quickly reminded of how grateful I am to have all of the above.
Because I have all of the above, I have a nearly 8 year old who still calls me mommy and who tells me about her day every single day. I have the memories of holding and snuggling a 2 month old that was never supposed to live past birth. I have the joy of a nearly 2 year old who runs to me as fast as she can to show me her toys. And I get to share it all with my best friend. At the end of the day, it's all beyond worth it.
I've also learned that there is no such thing as a perfect parent (despite what you may read on facebook). Some nights, I may not get all of the dishes clean. Some days, there might be clean laundry on the couch waiting for me to fold it and put it away (ugh, my least favorite thing to do!), and some days I might use disposable diapers instead of cloth, feed everyone pizza instead of cooking and let them scream at each other for half an hour while I ignore them and read a magazine. And that's ok. Because I'm not competing with anyone. I'm raising a family. I'm creating a home, and in 10 years, the little things I let slide once in a while are not going to matter nearly as much as the extra time spent laughing, cuddling and making memories.
Being a parent is far from easy. It requires dedication and work. But, it's absolutely amazing and worth every spit-up, poop covered, tantrum throwing minute.