For two years of my life, I dated a girl who had a child. The baby, a girl, was three months-old at the time we started dating, is now four and half years-old and we still keep in touch today, even though her mother and I are no longer together. Biologically, she is not mine, but, since the age of 21, no girl has meant more to me or taught me more about life than she has (other than my mother, of course). I’m sure even conventional parents (you know, ones who actually conceived their child and are still together) can agree with most of these:
1. You will stop sweating the small stuff. Most of the petty inconveniences in your life, which many now refer to a “first-world problems,” really aren’t much of a bother anymore. The time comes when you realize that you are caring for and raising another life; and at that point, you could care less about the fact that Starbucks spelled your name wrong.
2. You will learn that a healthy baby means everything. Some people want a boy; some people want a girl; some people want twins; whatever the case, when it comes down to it, having a healthy baby is the only thing you care about. You’ll quickly learn that raising a child is extremely hard and tiring; when you remember that there are people who have children that will require constant attention for the rest of their lives, it puts everything into perspective.
3. You will turn into your annoying parents. I remember when my mother would try to wrangle all of my cousins together for family photos at every family gathering, and I remember how much I dreaded it. Looking back at those old photos later in life made me realize wish that we weren’t such pains in the asses about it, because I wish there were more to look at. Eventually, you will take a million photos and — thanks to advancements in technology — videos to hold onto for future memories.
4. You will turn into your overprotective parents. When children are in the beginning stages of walking, every wobble makes your heart drop; you look for anything and everything around the place that could remotely cause harm and keep your child away from it. If you could, your house would be a giant bouncy castle. Every cough — especially while eating — will give you a minor heart attack. Animals, swimming pools and small objects will also cause spikes in your heart rate.
5. You will see the beauty in sleep. This is in all forms: (a) Having your baby sleep throughout the night; (b) You sleeping throughout the night; (c) Watching your baby sleep or nap. They’re all beautiful and underappreciated. Silence is, indeed, golden.
6. You will learn what unconditional love truly is. You may know what it is through your parents, but, being the child, you don’t really understand it. When you have a child of your own, you understand everything your parents told you when you were younger. You will love your child through everything — when they throw up on the floor and you’re struggling to clean it up; when they cry that they’re hungry, yet don’t want to eat anything; even when they take their diaper off and pee all over your laptop, completely destroying it (true story).
7. You will have a newfound appreciation for Eminem’s lyrics. OK, so this one may vary, based on your age, but it’s still true. Whether you like Eminem, love Eminem, or hate Eminem, when you hear songs like “Hailie’s Song,” or “When I’m Gone,” you’ll definitely appreciate it more, if nothing else.
8. You will learn that they become a part of you. You will feel their joy and their pain, and you will do anything to prevent the latter from happening. When you sigh at your parents for saying, “I’m always thinking about you,” just know that they really are thinking about you all the time. Few things in life are more beautiful than the laughter and smile of a child. At the same token, seeing a child in emotional pain is one of the most heartbreaking things you can witness. You will try to hug them so tight that you squeeze the pain out, while at the same time not wanting to let go so that nothing can hurt them again. You will always feel a connection to them, in good times and bad.
9. You will fear for the future. From broken bones to broken hearts, you will always think about the future and what it will hold for your child. With each year that passes and as they get older, you start to evaluate yourself as a parent. What kind of person will they be? Did I prepare them enough for school, life? When will they start dating? How will I pay for their college education? When will they get married, have kids? The list goes on. My greatest fear in life, next to death, was being a terrible father. Those first two years at least gave me the confidence to know that I won’t be a “terrible” father. I don’t know if I’ll be a great father or an OK father, but I do know that I won’t be a terrible father. While in the moment, things seem like they are an eternity away, giant life events in your child’s life will be here before you both know it, which takes me to my final point…
10. You will learn that time flies. Even though I wasn’t there for the conception, I’m sure the nine months flew by. From the time I met her to the time she started walking nine months later, the time flew by. Even though it took her a little longer than most to talk, looking back, it seems like ages ago. Moral of the story: Cherish these moments. You may want to rip your hair out when your child has trouble sleeping, but you’ll miss the times when they were so small that you could hold them in your arms. You may pray for your child you start walking so that you don’t have to carry them all the time, but you’ll miss it when they won’t let you carry them anymore. I still claim Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to be one of the best movies of the 80’s, so I will leave you with his words: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once and awhile, you could miss it.”