Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Parent (11/16/06)
TITLE: Until Forever
By Marlene Bonney
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Reality hit me when our first child was a month old and I was knee-deep in diapers, (before the days of disposables) two a. m. feedings, frayed nerves from very little sleep, and a colicky, crying infant. When our baby turned six months old, we celebrated the event by burning all our baby informational books. By the time she was two, we realized our toddler had a split personality: Precious Sweetheart and Tantrum Tess. We soon became adept at guessing which would present itself each day.
Thus began a roller coaster ride of life as a parent, charging up to the highest seat with pride and laughter and then plunging down the other side with tears and frustration. Much as parents-to-be want to pipedream, children do NOT come with individualistic instruction manuals! I kept copious notes and progress reports for our first baby and thinking I now had it made, referred to these after the birth of our second child, only to discover it could not necessarily be applicable to each successive child added to our family! Each baby actually stubbornly develops his/her own unique behavior and progress table!
My thirteen-year-old cousin brought her baby to church a couple of weeks ago—a school assignment doll, complete with car infant seat and all the necessary trappings of a newborn. This baby looked so lifelike, it would have fooled Mother Teresa! This doll was “pre-programmed” with computer chips to cry, fuss, sleep and wake. I gather the idea is not only to give adolescent teens a taste of what parenting involves, but also to discourage them from teen pregnancy. Contrar, my friends! My cousin was thrilled to “play mommy”, even getting up four times each night to calm the crying “doll” without “losing it”. The length of the assignment? One week. ONE WEEK! I could master triplets for ONE WEEK! Part of the trauma of early parenthood is to only vaguely remember an elusive state called sleep, and peace and quiet, and to realize this commitment goes on and on and on and on . . .
When my children became teenagers, I began dreaming of the time when I would not need to arise at five a.m. to make sure they were wakened by their alarms and that scheduled bathroom times were adhered to (in our generation it was not uncommon for family homes to have only one bathroom). Well, all too soon they were off to college, but instead of relaxing and enjoying the freedom of “sleeping in” my “automatic brain clock”, programmed in my head much like the computer chip in my niece’s “baby”, refused to shut off. I no sooner discovered how to conquer this hurdle when the physical side kicked in and my bladder reminded me of my age and just how many children I had carried and borne! Inevitably, I gave up and just got up anyway.
My husband and I cancelled our “empty-nest, finding the inner-you” get-aways after we discovered the children still remembered our address and would sporadically return home for vacations, long weekends, summer jobs, or laundry rest-stops, not to mention the “in between jobs” sabbaticals.
All too soon, they were all married and (we erroneously thought) on their own. Now, they needed their dad’s expertise with plumbing, electrical, and car problems and not to leave me out, Mom’s help with pregnancies and subsequent grandchildren! Once we held these beautiful babies in our arms, we were again bonded for life and the retirement plans of exotic extended trips were replaced with visits and babysitting, our hearts full of love and therefore, service.
I have heard it said, “Once a parent, always a parent,” and I have proven it to be tried and true.
As a side note, we decided to write our own book on child rearing and it has been on the best-seller list for over a year! It has adorable photos of our children and grandchildren at various ages and stages of development, with blank pages interspersed for readers to record their own child’s statistics and progress. We titled it “By Trial and Error . . . whatever works.”
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