Parenting from the beginning: A true story.
Since our mission is Lifting Families Up by Providing a Foundation for Family Wellness, I have decided to start a blog series that focuses on the hardest part of family wellness: Parenting.
You don’t have to be a parent to read this, because I can tell you right now that, unless you run away to an isolated region of the planet, you will have some sort of interaction with kids. How we interact with the kiddos of today, can directly influence how they interact with the rest of the world, whether you want it or not.
In this series, I will share many things such as personal experiences, professional perspectives, parenting skills that work (and don’t work), and anything else that may show up along the way. Please understand that any of my own personal revelations are just that, personal. Nothing I write will be offered as judgement against anybody, but merely an alternate perspective that may help others find their own words and revelations. If it helps you, great! If it doesn’t, tell me what you’re looking for, and if I can help, I will.
So, let’s begin.
The very beginning.
I am an Associate Professional Counselor. I finished grad school in 2017 with a focus in working with kids. This focus was due to the fact that I had been doing case management with kids and families in Knoxville, TN for close to five years, but I wanted to focus more on the counseling side, rather than the social work side. My wife and I moved to Savannah, GA in 2015 so that I could start grad school and become a counselor who specializes in working with kids and families. In 2017, I started teaching parenting groups that helped families learn 1-2-3 Magic by Dr. Thomas Phelan. Then, at the end of 2017, we had our first child. Yes. You read that correctly. I was teaching parenting before becoming a parent. Luckily, I worked with some very understanding parents who took the knowledge that I shared for what it was worth, instead of accusing me of not knowing what I was doing.
There are plenty of philosophies on parenting out there and I can tell you this: none of them are 100% right (but there are a few that are wrong, just saying). Parenting is not a standardized program that can be used for all kids, regardless of age or functionality. If you ask 10 different sets of parents how they would handle a situation, it is very possible that you may receive 10 different sets of responses. Responses that could work, but are not guaranteed. Instead, parenting is more like a state of being. Just as we are constantly changing with each new experience in our lives, our parenting changes with each new challenge presented by our kids.
For me, the thought of parenting became very real almost from the moment that we found out that we were pregnant. And by “the thought of parenting” I mean the initial elation which leads almost immediately to an intense fear. Nine months seems like a long time to prepare, but we seem to forget that as we get older, time travels much quicker. How are we supposed to get a house (we were renting at the time and wanted something better and something that was ours) and move into it? Do we have enough money for this? Do we have enough support from family and friends? Are we going to screw this kid up (despite all of my experience and training, I think this is a fear that we must all face)? And countless other mind-destroying questions of varying degrees of intensity.
Finally, after the initial influx of varying and ambivalent emotions, reality starts to set in. Fear is one of the worst things to leave unchecked and unchallenged. Fear is just the result of our acknowledgement that we have no control over certain things. Unfortunately, it is a stark reality that we do not have control over most things in life. Notice how I said “most” things though? Because we must also face the stark reality of what we are in control of. We are in control of our reactions and our thoughts, even when we don’t feel that control. For some people, this realization comes easily, for others, not so much. Regardless, we have to put hard honest work into changing how we think and how we react. All of the questions that I voiced earlier, stemmed from an uncertain future. In order to succeed, we had to focus on what we needed to do in the here and now. We had to focus on each individual step that was necessary for us to succeed.
I want to put a little note in here regarding what men usually go through during the pregnancy. Mothers go through so much, however, not a lot is put into researching what fathers experience. As I am not the mother, I am not going to speak to her experiences. She shared them with me, but it is not my place to share that. As the father during pregnancy, the following is what I experienced. Most fathers find it difficult to connect (and I did find myself struggling with this some) during pregnancy for one simple fact. We are not connected the same way that mothers are. When you ask fathers what they look forward to most about having children, you will often get responses such as “teaching them to play sports” or “I’m excited for them to play with action figures or watch Batman The Animated Series”. If you notice, these are all action oriented experiences designed to develop and deepen a connection between child and father. But go deeper. Most babies don’t do these things. They need to grow older first. So a lot of fathers find it difficult to find that connection with their kids until the kids start to get older. I knew this going in, so I found myself trying to do things that would help to find some connection. I went to every ultrasound and every doctor’s appointment that I could. I played music for the baby. I talked to the belly. I felt some of the kicks (Placenta was on the front wall so I didn’t feel a lot). And ultimately, I communicated with my wife to see what she was feeling. I tried to do my best, and that is all you can do sometimes.
Fast forward. I say fast forward, because the next 9 months was a blur of doctor’s appointments, house hunting, house buying, and trying to find as much time as possible to spend with an ailing mother who is battling stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. Our son arrived 3 weeks early. We like to blame that for the fact that we didn’t have everything completely ready, but let’s be honest, even if they’re right on time, you’re never completely prepared.
The day of his birth, my wife and I didn’t really sleep for close to 36 hours. To say we were delusional is an understatement. We had to have a C-section cause his cord was wrapped around his arm and his leg (cause he just loves to roll around and kick… still… to this day). Everyone and their mother decided to have a baby the same day as us (just after Christmas) so we wound up in the smallest room they had available (someone else got the Paula Deen suite!). But man, when he was here, it was truly the greatest feeling ever. And the most exhausting. And greatest. And scariest. And greatest. I held him almost the entire night while my wife tried to get some rest (as much rest as you can get when they constantly are coming in your room to check on you). Once he was here, I finally felt that connection that I had tried so hard to find over the previous months. He was here and our family was finally complete.