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.