Before I married my husband, I taught first grade. For the most part (save the occasional behavior issue from hell), I enjoyed spending my days with a classroom full of six- and seven-year-olds. It was my life for a several years.
I figured that my knowledge from teaching, as well as the time I spent studying developmental theory in graduate school, would aid me in my role as a stay at home mom. And, in some ways, it helped. However, there are a few things I did not expect.
1. Incessant Noise
From the moment my three girls wake up until they all go to sleep at night, my house is filled with noise. Never-ending, mind-jarring (at times) noise! My oldest daughter, Ginny, talks all day, nonstop. Grace, the middle child, sings and bangs on toys every chance she gets. Only my youngest is “quiet” with the occasional fussing and crying. Recently, as we went through the drive-thru at Taco Bell, Samantha was crying, Grace singing (to calm down Samantha), and Ginny kept yelling at me, “Did she see me? Why did she see me? Are you sure she saw me?”
2. Silence Matters
Because of the unremitting noise, you learn to value silence. Silence is my friend. No music, no television, no nothing. Just quiet. If I could bathe in it, I would and love every minute of it.
3. From Slob to Neat Freak
When I visit with my aunts and uncles, you can almost guarantee that one of them will bring up that I was a slob as a teenager. They will mention that no one could walk through my room because you couldn’t find the floor. Ha ha. Having two little girls whose sole goal each day is to make a huge mess has forever changed my sloppy ways. Now I can’t handle a mess, even a little one. By the end of the day, I want my house picked up with no clutter in sight. Who knew I would turn into a neat freak?
4. Turning into My Parents
I’ll admit that this transition began as a teacher. I would find myself repeating words I heard as a child to my students. Flabbergasted, I reflected and discovered that my parents made sense more than I realized. Now as a parent, I will quip, “Close the door. I don’t want to air condition the outside,” just like my dad. I’ll ask, “Are you blind? Your toy is right in front of you.” Which leads me to…
5. Oh, the Things You Will Say
There are days when I will say something that seems so nonsensical that I have ask myself if I really just said that. Don’t be surprised if you come into my house and hear me say, “Stop kissing your baby sister,” or “No licking my face.”
This phrase becomes an acceptable way to answer the millionth “why?” your preschooler has asked.
7. No Sick Days
I guess I never thought about what happens when a parent is sick before I became one. Now I know that parents, especially stay-at-home parents, have no sick days. You do the best you can to survive on the days you feel miserable because your kids still need you.
8. The Songs in Your Head Change
Every morning I wake up to a song I’m singing in my head. I’ve done this for years. As a teen, I usually woke to my favorite Duran Duran or Madonna song. As a college student, it was probably “Baby Got Back” or Sophie B. Hawkin’s “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover.” Now, as a mom, I wake up to “Time for Your Check-Up” from Doc McStuffins or “The Hot Dog Dance” from Mickey Mouse Club.
9. Your Kids Do Listen
For all the frustrations that parenting brings, there are moments when you notice that your children have been paying attention; they do listen. My girls will say “Please” and “Thank You” at the proper times (and even around guests and strangers). Ginny tries to teach her sister Grace things we taught her, like making her bed. If you accomplish a task, Ginny is the first one to give you positive affirmation, “You did a good job, Mommy.”
In those moments, you realize that maybe you are doing something right.
10. Unconditional Love
I love my husband, but not in the same way I love my girls. I knew I would love them, but I did not know how much until I held them each for the first time. Every ache and pain they feel, I hurt, too. Their joy becomes my joy. It’s a love without definition or limits. It is unconditional.
While some of these might not be surprising to everyone, they were surprising to me. I might have expected noise, but not to the degree it drives me mad. I knew I would love my kids, but not to the degree that I do. If you are a parent, what has surprised you most?