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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Once a parent, always a parent

In conversation with a friend last night, over a particularly nice dinner complemented by a couple of glasses of very drinkable wine, the discussion turned to parenting. The two of us, both mothers of three boys each, wondered why our mothers hadn’t told us about the joys of sleepless nights, cracked nipples and fretful babies. In fact, not only had our mothers not told us, but there wasn’t a female we knew who had imparted these facts to us before we had our first child. Afterwards, plenty of them came out of the woodwork to regale us with their tales of sleep deprivation, knotted breasts, swollen nipples, babies unable to feed or sleep and husbands that wondered what they had been doing all day.

Why did all these sorry tales only come out after we had already taken that step too far? I don’t have the answer. If a younger woman was ever to ask me what it’s like being a parent, I would certainly tell her warts and all. There will be no sugar coating from me. However, I’ll make it clear that all my children have been vastly different, from when they started in the womb, to their births, to their stages in life, not one of the three has progressed along the same route as his brothers.

What I have realised over time is that parenting never ends. My youngest might have turned 18 and is now recognised as an adult, but he still needs me at times. My eldest might have moved out of home, but he still asks me for advice and help, which I freely give. My middle son is very independent, but even he needs me now and again. As others have commented before on this blog, once a parent, always a parent.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s a comforting thought that you can still turn to your parents for help and advice. I discovered this the other day when I reluctantly called my father and asked for his financial help. My youngest son has to have shoulder surgery and it is going to cost more than I can afford. Now my father and I haven’t had the most congenial relationship, although the past few years have seen both of us mellow, but he had no hesitation in helping me out. In fact his words were “what are fathers for?”

It’s the other thing no one told me before becoming pregnant. Once you have children they are yours for life. You can never finish giving them your help or advice, a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen with. The sleepless nights and cracked nipples might disappear, but the claims on you never will. I kind of like it that way.


  1. I have always called it the great motherhood myth....If we really knew, would we do it? ( I only had one!) It was the worry that got to me. I worried about everything! I still worry and it's the stress of a lifetime. But the payoff is SO sweet.......

  2. I like it that way too!!! I look forward to the phone ringing everyday and it is one daughter or the other. Makes my day. And it is even better if they need something!
    So glad you dad is going to be there for you in this costly situation.

  3. Me too.... I have a lot of years to go before they are even close to "adult" but I will always be there for them, and that is always special!!

  4. my son is 37. he still calls me re advice and whatever. thanks for your comment re listening.

  5. Even if people told us, would we have believed it/would it have changed our minds? Probably not. I am glad to know my boys will be still needing me once they are older. I, agree, though, no one told me what it was really like to be a parent before I was one. Thanks for stopping by the claw earlier.

  6. Susan - I don't think I ever worried, but it would have been nice if someone had thought to warn me about all the bad bits!

    nanny - nearly every time my eldest son calls its because he wants something, but simple things like information I might have that he needs. It does make me feel good.

    Seductress - you are just a special lady and mother anyway! Of course you will be there.

    Rose - thank you for your comments too!

  7. sherri - I might have believed them, but it probably wouldn't have changed my mind. It would have just been nice to know that all the things I went through were normal!

  8. You are so right... my parents are still, well, parenting and I'm 34... I'm on my own, but as a single mom they have been there to help more times than I can count and I'm grateful... and blessed!

    And as for warts and all, I firmly believe that if we would be more upfront about things that happen in the birthing process, some of those 13 year old girls that "just want a baby" might be deterred! It's worth it, AS AN ADULT, but it ain't pretty

  9. This past few months, my mom has gone in for a few different surgeries, and this last one; even though it was routine, I for the first time thought "when she's not alive anymore, I'll be alone."
    It was the single scariest thought I've ever had. My mom is in her 60's and not the best health.

    Yes, as a parent you are always there for your children, but most of us would be lost without our parents. No matter how old we get.

  10. I really appreciate your honesty and humanness. I think this is my favorite post of yours. It's very well written. It is strange how we often need to just discover for ourselves some of the biggest of life's lessons.

  11. I am glad you can rely on your dad. And once a parent, always a parent... true.

  12. I had a conversation with my 9 y/o the other day wherein I told him that even when he gets to fifty, he'll still be my baby. I think he actually got it. Both my mother and father are gone, and in stressful times, I do miss having a parent I can lean on.

  13. Yes, I know. I think the joys EVENTUALLY outweigh the hardness of the infant stage, so people kind of forget. I remember thinking the same thing - why didn't anyone WARN me?!

  14. Glad to hear they always need their Moms. I'm already starting to fret about them wanting their friends and girls more than their Mother. Okay, maybe not fretting. Maybe more like panicking.

  15. My parents are like parachutes: in case of emergencies. :-)

  16. Sorta Southern - I'm 50 and still ask my father for help! I try not to, but sometimes I just have to. I hope I can always be there for my boys too!

    Domestic - my mother passed away a few years ago and there are definitely times I miss her. Hope your mom gets better quickly!

    Robyn - thank you! I always appreciate your comments. I guess as long as we learn from life's lessons, its ok.

    Kazzy - for awhile I didn't think I could rely on my Dad, luckily I was wrong!

    Joy - it must be difficult without either of your parents. I'm sure you are being a fabulous mother though!

    Kristy - I have to admit, I didn't enjoy the infant stage! But as soon as my boys grew up a bit and we could have conversations, I loved the whole process.

    Only Girl - Dont panic! They will always come back for your advice and love and just to be with you.

    Fickle Cattle - Good analogy! Thanks for visiting.