If you become a parent via pregnancy, you feel and see your body change as your baby grows inside you. You wait everyday for 9 months until you can meet them after birth.
If you become a parent via adoption or foster care, you feel the love for your child grow in your heart. You wait everyday amidst the paperwork, home inspections and visitations, until you meet your baby and/or they legally become yours.
However you become a parent, it takes time, and yet once your baby is in your arms, and officially yours, it’s still surreal.
Even after growing a big, pregnant belly, having a C-section, and dealing with the crying, breastfeeding, and diapers changes, I didn’t feel like a parent. (At least not right away.) Sometimes, what makes it feel “official” isn’t the physical. Here are six times in the first year where I *officially* felt like I was a parent.
- Making your kid’s first pediatrician appointment
I’ll never forget the receptionist asking me, “What is your child’s name and date of birth?” I almost felt confused and unqualified to answer the question. (Wait, you mean MY child? Oh my gosh, that’s right I have a child now.) It felt so formal, like I was a parent and this baby was MY child.
After two years and a million pediatrician visits, I’ve finally gotten used to this. But those first couple times I was asked for information on “my child” I was quite flustered.
- Sharing facts about your baby with someone
When you’re out and about with your baby, or mention you just had a baby, people will immediately ask you questions like, “How old are they? What’s their name? Are they eating solids? Are they crawling or walking yet?” For some reason, sharing details about my child feels like a verbal declaration that I am their parent. I am their caregiver. I am the one who knows everything about them, their milestones, their likes/dislikes and their development.
You, the parent, are in-charge of this little new human and you hold these important pieces of information.
- Getting a babysitter
I’ll never forget interviewing our first babysitter. I felt so strange talking to this teenage girl about my baby girl. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was that teen babysitter sitting on the other side of the table? (And by yesterday I mean 15+ years ago…)
Halfway through our first conversation, I realized I was just a parent sharing the needs and schedule of my daughter. I’m the adult now, not the babysitter.
Also, when the babysitter comes to your home for the first time, and you leave them with detailed instructions of your baby’s favorite blanket or toy or pacifier and a list of phone numbers, you realize…. You’re the parent. You’re the responsible one.
- Hearing them say your name
My daughter said “Mama” by accident as a 7-month-old, and then didn’t say it again intentionally until she turned one. (And, yes, she intentionally said “Dada” long before she said “mama.” It’s okay, I’m not upset. It’s not like I carried her inside me for months and birthed her and breastfed her…*sigh*)
But the first time my daughter said “Mama” so clearly, so purposefully, as she reached her little arms up above her head, beckoning me to pick her up, it was pure magic. This sweet little thing I’d been nurturing, called me mama. I’d told her who I was a trillion times, but to have her acknowledge it verbally, made me feel like a true parent, a true mama.
- Missing them even when you’re completely exhausted
You finally get your child down for their nap or bedtime, close their bedroom door, and you sit down, exhausted. You’ve read the stories, changed the diapers, and done all the work for them to finally be asleep so you can bask in the silence and independence of childless freedom. Then, 15 minutes to 1 hour later, you miss them.
Now I don’t know about you, but NO ONE else on earth creates this kind of phenomena in my life. I love my husband but he never exhausts me like my child (probably because I don’t take care of all his physical and emotional needs). I love my sister or my best friend or other people in my life, but I don’t pour so much of myself out for them, only to miss them moments later.
This is just one of the many dichotomies you’ll feel when you officially become a parent.
- Thinking of the future and realizing they’re your kid forever
My daughter has learned how to mimic me and my husband. She’ll wag her finger and say “no” when she knows she’s doing something wrong, or she’ll try to type on a keyboard like she’s seen mommy and daddy do when they’re working. I see her do these things and it makes me think of how quickly she’ll learn a language or how to solve a math problem. My mind jumps to what she’ll be like in first grade, seventh grade or college.
Maybe you’re signing up your child for swim lessons or preschool, or you’ve noticed your son or daughter’s ability to dribble a soccer ball, or their talent for finger painting or building blocks into castles. Whatever gets you thinking of their future, can make you realize a big truth: they are in your life forever. Sure, 18 years living under the same roof will go by quickly, but that precious, babbling little baby is your kid forever.
Whether they’re 14 months or 45-years-old, you will always cherish them and you will always be their parent.