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Parenting is an Endless Cycle of “Well, This is New”

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor

Are you a new parent? I am sure you have been bombarded with information from friends, family members, articles, or books. Heck, even that old lady in the grocery store has probably given you some advice!

You may have heard things like there is “no manual for parents” or been given a copy of the “What to Expect…” series. Those books are loaded with tons of material about parenting, and honestly, felt like a manual to me.

Getting used to conflicting advice was one of the first times I thought to myself “well, this is new.” I didn’t realize at the time (18 years ago now) just how many times I would utter these words.

“I came to parenting the way most of us do — knowing nothing and trying to learn everything.” — Mayim Bialik, actress and neuroscientist

Parenting is an Endless Cycle of Well, This is New

Infants and those early years

You bring your baby home from the hospital and no matter how many books you have read or people you have spoken with; it is all new.

Unless you have done this before, there really is no way to prepare for the worry of making sure your new baby is thriving.

Heck, just surviving some days can seem hard. Food is necessary for both thriving and surviving and that experience goes something like this:

  • Decide whether to breastfeed or bottlefeed
  • Figure out what you need to do either (pump, freezer bags, or the “right” bottles, nipples, or formula)

You work this checklist out in your head and are ready to hit the ground running! Great job, mom and dad! Let’s say you chose to breastfeed and felt really strongly this was the path you wanted to go. Now you are a few days in… and your nipples are sore, and the baby is having a hard time latching. You aren’t producing enough milk, or you are just leaking everywhere.

Either way, these things are all new and not what you were “expecting.” Maybe you stay the course and learn some new ways to fix these common breastfeeding issues, or maybe you switch paths and bottlefeed. Either way… there has been a kink in the plan and you have to adapt to something new.

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The same thing can happen with infants who bottlefeed. You put all this thought into getting this certain bottle with a snazzy nipple, research formula, and pick the one you think is best.

Then you bring the baby home and guess what… Yup, he/she despises that nipple and refuses to use it. Or your baby is colicky and needs a different type of bottle. Or it spits up the formula you meticulously chose because it has an intolerance to milk.

“I don’t know what’s more exhausting about parenting: the getting up early, or acting like you know what you’re doing.” ― Jim Gaffigan, actor and comedian

Well, this is new

After investing weeks and sometimes even months, narrowing down the right food for your baby, perfecting the hold that is most comfortable and reduces gas, you are a “feed the baby champ!”

Congratulations! You will have about a week to revel in how far you have come and pat yourself on the back because you can do things one-handed. Now, guess what… It is time for your baby to hold the bottle by himself.

And now there is cereal on a spoon. A SPOON?!?! Finger foods? What is happening here? We went from ‘Baby can only have formula/breastmilk’ to ‘Oh look at this smorgasbord of food!’

Now, suddenly this baby wants to eat independently. It wants what is on your plate, even though they are only supposed to try one thing at a time. Then there is the list of things they can’t have yet… and then one day they can have those things too.

This happens with diapers and potty training too! You learn to change a wriggling toddler with one hand behind your back, but now it is time for them to go on the potty! Like, how is this fair? Every time it feels like you have “mastered” something, it is time to start over with something completely new and different.

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“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” ― Benjamin Spock, pediatrician

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This does not just happen with babies

Oh no! This cycle of “Why do I need to unlearn everything I just spent months perfecting?” does not go away. It just gets worse. You spent months supporting their head, only for them to walk and fall into everything… then they to climb!

First, it might be your couch, and then before you know it, they are trying to climb the roof (this is especially true if you have boys!). I remember thinking, “this is fine” I can make sure my child doesn’t injure themselves with this newfound mobility. That works well for years! Then, in what feels like mere moments, it is time for Driver’s Ed…

Like, “I’m sorry, what?” “I have spent the last 15 years monitoring this child to make sure nothing happened to her, and now you want me to let her do what?”

Oh nothing major, just get behind the wheel of a vehicle and practice driving it around town.

“This is 2021, don’t you people have a simulator first? No…ok…no biggie…”

“There are so many quiet times you spend as a mother that aren’t glorified but are a foundation for your kids. No matter what, there was always a thick safety net under this trapeze.”  Tina Fey, actress and comedian

All these new experiences are really just ways to teach you to let go

Full disclosure… My first baby turned 18 days ago, and we are preparing to send her off to college. I might be a little salty. I keep seeing this infant who needed me to do everything, and then she became an independent child.

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That child talked to me and wanted me around all the time, and then turned into a teenager who thought mom knew nothing. Then she hit 17 and decided that I was her best friend, and she needed me again (yay!). She concluded this only a short while before planning to leave here and move out of my house.

This is new… Out of all the things that I have thought that about during this parenting journey, this is the one I like the least. I know there are even more “new” and exciting things again for her life. And that’s really the thing… it is her life.

I may have spent 18 years keeping her safe, making sure she was fed, learned to tie her shoes, taught her to drive, helped her navigate adolescent love, and make it through all the things that were new to her.

I just realized (or maybe remembered) how it feels to be that age when all these expectations are new. She has had her own learning curves to manage, and adulthood is going to continue to throw her curveballs.

Maybe, life, in general, is just a cycle of saying, “Well, this is new.” Embrace it. Relish the moments and focus on the love and growth—not so much the skills. The skills will have to be relearned at a moment’s notice, but the love—that will be there forever, and it will never steer you in the wrong direction. Parenting is an endless cycle of saying “Well, this is new…” and “I love you.” I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“If John Lennon was right, that life is what happens when you’re making other plans, parenthood is what happens when everything is flipped over and spilling everywhere and you can’t find a towel or a sponge or your ‘inside’ voice.” ― Kelly Corrigan, author of Lift

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