Before I had Master I, I swotted up on pregnancy and babyhood. I read the inevitable (What to Expect when you are Expecting and Baby Love), the slightly hippy (Well Adjusted Babies by Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani), the somewhat terrifying (Misconceptions by Naomi Wolf), the guilt-inducing (The Smart Love Parent by Pieper) and the hilarious (Up the Duff by Kaz Cooke). In retrospect, I may have believed that becoming a parent was going to come with a final exam – a literal rather than figurative one. What those books cumulatively gave me (aside from a complex) was the belief that: I would never shower before noon, I would lose all sense of my self, the people in my life would lose respect for me, that I was completely unprepared for parenting and if it were possible, I should rethink the whole idea. My reality was very different. I wanted to share seven things in my life that are so much better for having children.
>> 1. Laughter
Remember laughing with your friends as a kid and totally losing it? Your belly aching from the giggles? You thought you had stopped, but one quick look at your mates sent you all back off again? That kind of laughter is back in our house since having children. And when we went through a time of intense sadness, that laughter picked me up and kept me going.
>> 2. Patience
I am not by nature a patient person. Just ask my husband. But kids force your hand. If you don’t learn patience, you end up in a state of permanent frustration. Slowing down to the speed of a toddler, endlessly waiting for a five-year to listen, spending an hour on every last bit of dinner – all these things and more have come together and taught me a patience I honestly did not think I had.
>> 3. Wonder
Master I constantly has me in stitches with his unique takes on things. When I view life through Baby E’s eyes I cannot help but smile. Everything is new. Everything is amazing. Everything is an opportunity to explore, to learn and to grow. And they look at me with wonder. I get to teach them things and show them things and they are endlessly interested. In their eyes (for the moment at least) I get to be a rock star.
>> 4. Letting go of the perfect
I like things to be perfect and I put energy into making it so. With the possible exception of my house – I am not a natural housekeeper. But if Master I is making some craft, or building Lego, I really, REALLY want to intervene if he is deviating from the instructions. But I stop myself. It doesn’t matter if I can’t Pinterest his craft, what matters is the broad smile of pride on his face and his imagination working over-time.
>> 5. Relationships with extended family
I have always enjoyed a good relationship with my and my husband’s families, but children have an added an entirely new dimension. Watching my kids play with their cousins fills my heart with a special kind of joy. Seeing my parents and my sisters lavish love and affection on my boys is nothing short of amazing. And I finally get where my mother was coming from after all these years.
>> 6. Getting to be a kid again
In the last few years, I have rediscovered museums and art galleries. I have gotten to pet baby animals. I have had my face painted. I have gone ice-skating and I have scooted. I have dressed up as a witch and as a fairy princess. I have watched some great animated films. I have swung on swings. I have slid down slides. I have built sand castles and jumped over waves. I have discovered the (complete and under-rated) joys of laying toy railway track. I have gotten to be a kid again. And it’s AWESOME.
>> 7. Perspective
My perspective on life has changed drastically since having children. In particularly, my middle son, who I loved and lost, has taught me so much about what matters. And what does not. Life is short. Sometimes, tragically, tragically short. I don’t have time for petty jealousy or worrying about what strangers might think of me. I don’t second guess myself as much as I used to. I am better at letting the little stuff slide, appreciating the big stuff and recognising the difference.
Sometimes I look wistfully back on the past, those heady days without children and responsibility, but, I wouldn’t trade what I have now for all the world.