We think of parenting as us raising our children. And that is true. But the opposite is also true. Your children raise you too.
Did your heart ever swell so much as when you first held that little baby in your arms? You laugh and cry and cannot stop looking at that baby’s face and hands and toes. It is love at first sight.
You may have wondered if you could ever love anyone enough to really lay down your life for them. But as you look down at that helpless, innocent face, you know you will do everything in your power to protect this child.
Then the wail in the middle of the night shocks you to your feet before your brain is even engaged. You leave your bed and tend to this squalling bundle of noise. You may groan and rue your loss of sleep, but you learn that someone else is more important than your demand for sleep.
Dad, this is for you. You find yourself holding a cute little volcano that erupts at both ends. That sweet little baby pukes all over your best suit. You thought you’d never be able to clean up body wastes. Your wife, the baby’s mom, would have to do that part. But she’s not home and you cannot stay in that smelly suit and soothe that crying baby. You figure out a way to get the baby cleaned up and calmed down. Then you get yourself cleaned up and the suit bundled for the cleaner’s. You may grumble about it to your wife, but inside you’re just a little proud to learn you’ve survived what you thought would be impossible.
You know that educating a child will be expensive and you’ve started a college fund. But then you discover how much baby diapers cost. And that is just the beginning. He grows so fast that those clothes that looked so big in the hospital look like doll clothes next to him now. He needs another wardrobe. Then the stroller and car seat, and soon that new car of your dreams slips down farther and farther on the wish list. You are learning there are responsibilities that change your priorities. You have learned to wait or amend your wishes. You, Dad, are growing up!
You’re tired and just want to curl up with a book or stare at some screen that does not cry, or poop, or anything. But you catch sight of your little one rocking back and forth on knees and hands. In spite of yourself, you find yourself on the floor coaxing her to crawl to you. You are learning the great thrill of tiny successes. You may have wondered why your sister couldn’t stop talking about every little thing her baby could do. Now you know.
Mom, maybe you feel you are less of a person since having your baby. You may be staying home to raise this child. You know, in your head, it is good for your child. Yet your world may feel like it has shrunk, excluding all but the closest friends and family. It may feel that way now, but you will be more of a person because of all your baby has taught you.
In fact, babies are some of the best teachers you will ever have. They can’t speak any words for a long time, but you learn nevertheless. You find new strength, resilience, and persistence. You know how to love more than you ever thought possible. You can empathize with people you wouldn’t have even noticed before. You see things that need to be done before being asked to help. You care if others are happy or sad. You have learned to wait to have your needs and wants satisfied. These lessons don’t all come easily or automatically, but they are worth the cost.