Anyone who knows me has probably heard me joke about sending my kid to boarding school after he turns 8 years old.
If you haven’t heard me say this, here’s a little context.
Raising this little person hasn’t been that hard yet. Yes, sleepless nights are torture (and never easy to get used to), no breastfeeding did not come naturally for us, no I don’t always get him to eat all the colors of the rainbow with well-balanced meals, and now as we enter full-fledged toddlerhood, I have to be the meanie-butt that won’t let him run wild in the parking lot.
But the day-to-day growing of a human being hasn’t been that hard yet.
I can sing “Wheels On The Bus” until he’s tired of hearing the song. I am happy to change activities every 5 minutes to keep up with his active imagination. I’ve figured out just how many “last bites” he will actually eat. It’s exhausting, but I’m excited to wake up and do it again tomorrow! And when cleaning out my closets recently, I realized why this hadn’t felt hard yet.
Before having my little guy, I spent years learning everything possible about all aspects of early childhood education.
I spent hours and hours working with kids in classroom settings, small groups, teaching gymnastics/dance/music classes, babysitting one-on-one, etc. All of these experiences taught me how to not only manage large groups of children at the same time but also how to make learning fun.
Starting out as a teacher, one of my biggest fears was worrying I wasn’t prepared enough to have the honor of teaching these fantastic kids.
What if I didn’t know enough?
What if I wasn’t doing something the best way possible?
I couldn’t live with the knowledge that I unintentionally did not give young children the best possible start in their education while they were in my care.
So I kept reading and reading and reading. Most of this reading came while I earned two degrees in Early Childhood Education. This photo is the result of cleaning out those closets I mentioned earlier.
Want to see what I read?
(And, of course, I found another box of books right after I packed this giant pile up, so imagine a few more into this picture.)
Here’s my biggest takeaway from this weekend’s cleanup: I am not finding parenting super hard (yet) because I’ve been preparing for years!
Little did I know that all of this reading, research, and working with young children before getting pregnant was actually preparing me for being a parent in addition to being a teacher.
If you look closely, only the far left column of books is related to pregnancy/birth/breastfeeding; that was definitely a topic I needed to learn more about after peeing on a stick.
What this weekend’s cleanup got me thinking about is why parenting feels so hard for so many.
While I was focusing all of my efforts on learning everything possible about child development from birth through age 8, everyone else was becoming experts in medicine, tax law, data analysis, science, advocacy, getting an MBA, car mechanics, dog grooming, etc.
All of your expertise are things I rely on every day. If I were only given 9 months to learn everything you have in your lifetime and do your job, I would have no clue what to do!
Thinking about raising a child over the age of 8 is what scares me. I have no idea how the psychology of a middle schooler works.
- When do they stop telling you about their day?
- How do you keep your big kid safe in a work of evolving technological dangers?
- Will he really smell bad for years? (You see the appeal of boarding school, right?)
So when it comes time to have a baby, we spend A LOT of time reading books most people recommend, Googling until way too late at night, and creating the perfect Pinterest-inspired nursery. Maybe we do some reading into postpartum healing and what to expect in the first few weeks/months. You may have heard the phrase, “It will come; naturally, you’ll know what to do,” or “Just read a parenting book.”
And then reality hits. Relatives go home, significant others go back to work, and friends without kids don’t quite get what you’re going through.
You’re responsible for growing this tiny human being into the most amazing vision that you have of your child.
- How do I find developmentally appropriate toys for an infant?
- How can I get a toddler to clean up toys or eat meals without needing a professional negotiator?
- How do I teach empathy to a 3-year-old so they are kinder with friends?
- What the heck do I do with my constant “I’m bored” 5-year-old that is both stimulating and fun for both of us?
It’s hard! It’s hard for a lot of reasons. As busy parents, we only have a little time to learn and synthesize all the information out there. And there’s so much information; it’s hard to figure out what is good info to follow and what is just cute graphics.
We only have a little time to really dig deep into what skills kids are developing and focus on how to grow those skills.
Some people feel it’s a rush or competition to have the smartest kid who has accomplished many goals ahead of their peers. There’s a ton of pressure early on to have kids meet benchmarks that were not even designed for their age groups.
This puts added pressure on parents to feel like they need to do more. It’s hard to ask for help, especially about parenting concerns, because it feels like admitting failure.
I don’t have a great big answer down here at the end, but I do have a great big hug for all of you amazing parents. If you haven’t heard this yet today, YOU’RE AWESOME!
Find ways to support yourself as a parent.
- Join a local, new parent or meet-up group.
- Share researching a topic with a friend (“I’ll look up new meal ideas for the toddler, you look up ways to encourage sharing among toddlers”).
- Answer honestly when someone says, “How’s it going? What I can do to help? Do you need anything?”
- And breathe! Some days you are a good parent for keeping yourself and the baby alive. (Ignore everything else that didn’t get done, and just remember you did the most important thing today.)
Just know we’re all struggling in our own way. (Whether or not it shows on social media is another story.)
We are all experts in our own ways and with our own passions, so ask for help!
And remember, even those of us who felt like parenting wasn’t super hard in the beginning, we are always thinking about a boarding school in the future. Just kidding… kinda : )
Looking for some ideas for future reading? Here are some of the books I felt made a huge impact on my own learning that I’d love to recommend to you.
Please note this page includes affiliate links which means I may earn a commission from your purchase using my links at no additional cost to you.
Pregnancy & First Year:
Teaching young children: