Atticus is almost two, which is completely NOT baby anymore. This kid is living his life and I am along for the ride.
And I've realized I've learned some things in the last two years which other people have probably learned too and which others are going to learn in the near future, but I always appreciate a heads up from people slightly more experienced than me in life . . . so here you go: some honesty, maybe some profanity, hopefully some truth.
- Trust your new-mama instincts and emotions, even if they surprise you. I am not an especially nurturing person by nature. My favorite advice to give is "Well, figure it out. Read your Bible. You'll be fine." However, not long after Atticus was born I was like crying because he was so cute and saying things like "It's ok, mama's here." This was totally weird and surprising for me. Part of me wanted to brush it off and say I was just hormonal [partially true], but the rest of me, which was falling so deeply in love with this fat, pathetic little person told me to dive into how I was feeling. The amazing thing about hormones is that God gave them to us on purpose - to help us fall in love with our spouses, to help make us want to, ahem, procreate . . . and also to bond with these precious, helpless, tiny little people that are a result of said falling in love. So don't make excuses about being emotional and hormonal and tired and whatever. Don't put up walls around your heart when you hear your sweet baby crying. Go ahead and cry with them because they're so sweet and sad; sit and smell their head for like 47 minutes because it's the best thing ever; stay home alone just the two of you when people say you need to get out [at least sometimes] and just look at them and talk to them and pour out this ridiculous Niagara Falls of love on them any way you know how . . . and then, sit and cry some more because at some point, it'll hit you that this is how God the Father loves you BUT SO MUCH MORE.
- But let go - a little bit. You need to take care of yourself and your marriage [if you're married]. Those are not selfish things and they are the best things you can ever do for your kids. GO on a walk with your husband for an hour while somebody else who loves that baby watches them. LEAVE for a Starbucks run and hour of reading a book with long words while your baby has time with Daddy. Do it. All will be well. Tiny vacations are the beginning of your child trusting you to come back, and you trusting Jesus to take care of them.
- You still need Jesus. Probably you read that and if you're an honest person you're like no s&!t I need Jesus! I don't know what on earth I'm getting myself into! I'm about to/just did push a human being out from between my legs! Yes. This is true. But I'm not talking just the "I Need Thee Every Hour" kind of needing Jesus, though that hymn takes on a whole new meaning when you become a parent. What I mean is that you still need to be friends with Jesus. You still need to spend time with Jesus. Alone. And I know for me, and maybe for other new moms too, something in you freezes up at the thought of this. Another person who needs me. Great. Just what I need. At least Jesus doesn't need my boobs like the rest of my family seems to. Right?!!! Oh mamas [or soon-to-be], Jesus is not another demand on your time and energy. He is not a taker. He is not going to suck the life out of you like your baby does at times, however sweet they are. Even your husband, or friend, or whoever, who might be wonderful and generous, still requires some kind of response from you. But when you come to Jesus open-handed and open-hearted, even when you feel like you have no heart left after giving and giving and giving, he isn't waiting for you so you can give some more; he is waiting to fill you, to give to you, in exactly the way you need it because he knows and loves you THE MOST. You just have to show up and be filled. In the first few crazy months this really can't be that consistent, the showing up. But it can be the attitude of your heart. Once your tiny person starts sleeping all night long, set an alarm and get yourself out of bed - even 15 minutes before they do. Drink some tea. Read some Bible verses. Tell Jesus you've got nothing, and ask him to give you the good gifts he's been waiting to give you. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! All we have to do is the small, but courageous thing - ask; seek; knock; show up. It's worth it. And if we want our children to love Jesus more than anything - this is where it starts; by giving up a little sleep to be friends with God, and showing them that Jesus is THE BEST THING. Better than sleep. The only thing better than sleep, really.
- Find something that keeps you from losing your temper. In the big picture, this is naps. But they don't always happen, so find a backup plan. For me, it's singing a stupid song that helped me control my temper when Atticus WOULD NOT STOP CRYING. Usually I ended up laughing. Helpful.
- You can't care about everything. I don't care how much you cared about all the tiny things while you were living in parent-theory land before that baby showed up, you can't care about it all anymore. Don't have it in you to do the cloth diapers today? Don't. You'll care again tomorrow. Want to eat an entire pack of Oreos even though all that crap's going into your breast milk? Do it. Just not every day. Need to let your kid cry in his crib so you don't punch him? He'll be ok for five minutes while you settle down. None of these things are the end of the world. You have too much that matters to worry about than the occasional breaking of rules you made up for yourself. And DON'T EVEN let anybody judge you. Does someone have a glint in their eye as you eat those Oreos and make a comment about the "mystery ingredients"? Eat another one. And hang out with that person less.
Also, HAVE FUN.