It’s no surprise that being a parent changes you, but you might be surprised at some of the ways you’ll change once your children arrive.
1. You’ll say things you never thought possible. And you’ll say them in utter seriousness without much thought about how strange they really are.
One of the more strange ones on my list — “Tampons don’t belong on the Christmas tree.” My daughter went through a period where she was fascinated — maybe even a bit obsessed — with tampons. And so, the Christmas after she turned two, she spent a great deal of time opening tampons and hanging them on the Christmas tree. (After all, they do have that handy-dandy string!)
Another on my list — “The dog knows how to drink. She doesn’t need a demonstration.” When my son was about 18 months, he went through a period where he liked drinking out of the dog’s water bowl — just like he was a dog. Not one of my prouder mommy moments.
2. You’ll discuss bodily functions and anatomy frequently and without embarrassment — although your kids may embarrass you greatly by where they choose to have those discussions. As the mom of a 3-year-old, we talk daily about poop and pee. I’ve also gotten used to saying “Leave your penis in your pants” in the same tone that I tell him not to play with the television.
When my son was born, I spent a great deal of time discussing the differences between boys and girls with my daughter, who at 3 was convinced that she, too, had had a penis when she was a baby. So, practically every time I changed her brother or bathed him, I found myself explaining that no, she had never had a penis because only boys have penises.
After much repetition, she finally got it. And decided to share her new found knowledge — very loudly — with her father in the middle of the cereal aisle at the grocery store.
3. You’ll be far more familiar with the characters on PBS, The Disney Channel, and Cartoon Network than you are with Dancing with the Stars or the latest high profile news article. I can’t name a single film now in movie theaters — and that’s often true. But I know the name of the cat in Curious George (Gnocchi, in case you’re interested) and I can identify many of the trains on Thomas the Tank Engine.
I also know the words to countless nursery rhymes and silly children’s songs. And I’m convinced that much more important things have likely fallen out of my head while nursery rhymes and silly songs have pushed their way in.
4. You’ll find that almost all of your possessions have suddenly turned into communal property. When my son was about 18 months, he got a shirt that outlined “the toddler laws of property,” which go something like this: what’s mine is mine; what’s yours is mine; if I think it’s mine, it’s mine; if I want it to be mine, it’s mine. But those “laws” last far beyond toddlerhood.
Pens, gum, paper, coins — they all disappear from my purse on a regular basis. My daughter recently got her ears pierced and has already asked which of my earrings she can borrow.
It is rather ironic that the same children who are fiercely protective of their own stuff have so little hesitation at co-opting someone else’s stuff.
5. You’ll be more tired than you ever thought possible. And the exhaustion lasts far beyond those initial sleepless baby days. At 3 and 6, my kids are long past 2 a.m. feedings; but most nights I’m the one exhausted by the time their bedtime rolls around. (And unlike my children, I do not get a burst of manic energy when I get overtired.)
The exhaustion is mental as much (and perhaps more so) than it is physical. My husband frequently says to me “who was it that wanted smart kids?” Our kids are smart, which means we have to anticipate their next move, and more importantly plan our possible responses — even after a full day of work.
When you have children, you learn to live with a mild level of worry. It takes having children to realize how dangerous the world can be. Every news story about bad things happening to children becomes personal.
And you’ll be reminded frequently how terribly fragile children can be — even when nothing bad happens to your own children. And still you have to let them experience the world and take their own risks — even though they take your heart with them.