We'd be here all day if I told you EVERYTHING I've learned in the last 14 1/2 months of being a parent, but I realized the other day that I've learned a lot about myself, about my husband, about my parents (they weren't crazy! At least not for the reasons I might've thought as a kid...), and about all sorts of things (like that tongue wounds heal fairly quickly!).
One of the major things I've learned is to not be afraid of babies. I can now feel confident holding them and playing with them, I know how to calm them down, what to feed them, what they can handle, how to hold and not hold them, etc. I know how to clean diapers!
I've learned how to survive on very interrupted sleep. This is not so much the case anymore, because he sleeps very well now (for about 12 hours straight at night and two naps). But I survived the horrible nights, and these, too, passed. I just had to keep that going through my head as a mantra some nights..."This too shall pass...this too shall pass...this will not last forever..."
I've learned to treasure moments when I get to hold him and cuddle with him. I know this won't last forever and it already makes my heart hurt to think about him getting too big to want to cuddle with Mom. I never wanted to cuddle with my parents as long as I can remember, so if he's anything like me I'd better enjoy it while it lasts. The last couple weeks I started giving him a bottle at night before bed and we cuddle up with a blanket on the couch and he drinks his bottle and we read a book or two. He's getting too big to carry around much, and besides--he'd rather walk! So this is about as much cuddle time as we get.
Especially for the last few months I've noticed myself being really emotionally affected by movies and stories where a little boy dies or almost dies. For my Faith Film class we watched a short Russian movie called "Most" (which I can't find online at all, but it apparently won some awards and is excellent), and a little boy dies a horrible death and we watched it in class and then had to turn to people around us and talk about it...yeah, a little embarrassing...I held it together for about 2 minutes while we were talking and then just lost it, tears streaming down my face--luckily the people I was talking to knew me and that I had a little son and understood.
I've learned a lot about my fears and have reflected almost unconsciously about what I went through at various stages in life as I've thought about what I don't want him to have to experience. I wish I could bring him up in a world that was a better place. I wish he'd never have to learn about things like violence and poverty and betrayal. I wish he never had to go through the horrible parts of middle school and high school. I hope his sweet little spirit can stay intact through it all and that he'll learn to love and hope in the midst of all the not-so-good stuff of life. I hope learning about all that stuff, and facing into the injustice of it, will make him a more loving and caring person.
I've learned to accept the title of "Mama," although he hasn't said it yet to refer to me... I don't know that I'm really comfortable with it yet because of all the baggage our culture (and perhaps all cultures) put on that role, but I feel like my husband and I have done fairly well at not having to fall into prescribed roles (except, of course, the physically necessary ones), and we've learned to communicate about how we're feeling about parenting stuff.
Our little guy has such a personality all his own. He is so friendly and cheerful. I've learned a lot watching the way he accepts and loves everyone. He genuinely wants to make a connection with everyone he sees--even if they're 500 feet away and not looking in our direction, he inevitably waves at them. He even waves at animals and inanimate objects sometimes. But he especially loves people. He's required me to be more outgoing because he goes right up and interacts with everyone.
I've learned how much it's possible to love a little person! It's incredibly amazing. You always hear how there's no love like that of a parent for a child, but of course I could never imagine what it would be like. It's hard being away from him all day and I get really excited when I get to come home and be with him. I get to take care of him on the weekends, and for the next few weeks while I'm working on finals I won't get to spend as much time with him and it makes me really sad. I never really enjoyed hanging out with kids much before, or at least not for too-extended periods of time, but this is totally different. Yes, it's tiring at times, but it's also energizing to see him learn new things and get so excited about the littlest parts of his day.
OK, that's enough for now. I'm truly grateful for this little person I've been privileged to journey through the rest of life with.