The Parenting Tutorial and an Uncertain Future

While strolling through this garden we call parenthood I have become even more awed by nature and its incredible order tucked in amongst some serious chaos. I’m not talking about the whole birth and development of life thing, though that is wonder-worthy. I’m talking about the way that nature has of preparing parents for what’s coming next in their child’s development. It seems from the moment of conception we are given this live action tutorial through which we can sharpen our skills and, more importantly, acclimate to the next stage of forehead-slapping madness that is on the horizon.

I first started paying attention to the grand tutorial when Bug was just mastering the fine art of rolling herself over. She’d be lying on her back, discovering her toes when, as if by some divine assist, she would find herself on her belly. Her expressions went quickly from confounded to amused to “Sweet! I am WAY closer to that duck thing that sounds like a birthing moose when I squeeze it” (she’s always had a real knack for animal kingdom gestational noise identification – we’re understandably proud). Not really knowing how such a miracle of movement had happened, she would fluster herself in and out of those positions repeatedly until she grasped that it was she that was making it happen. After banging her head on various things twenty to thirty thousand times, she had it cold.

Soon these little experiments of hers culminated in her rolling like a horizontal Dervish, which then gave way to the belly scoot, then the backward crawl, then the forward crawl, then pulling herself up to standing and on and on until she became the fastest bipedal four year old on the planet that she is today (I have the notarized papers to prove it). It was in watching these skills develop that I began to understand how the order and the pacing were teaching tools for us doting parental types. Just as the child slowly moves through their stages of development, the parent slowly familiarizes himself with his new perpetual motion machine. Nature doesn’t throw a running baby at new parents for good reason – their head would explode within five weeks. Parents of newborns have enough to become accustomed to without wondering how their little miracle got on top of the fridge. We are given babies that only eat, poop and sleep because that is all we can handle at first.

That isn’t to minimize the difficulty of having a newborn. Lord knows ‘easy’ isn’t one of the words I would choose to describe that phase. ‘Masochistic’ and ‘terrifying’ more readily pop into mind. But having an ambulatory child is a whole different ballgame, one for which a new parent is wholly unprepared. The thing is we’re all totally unprepared for what hasn’t happened yet. Remember when you and your partner were pregnant with your first child and every single member of the human race had a tidbit of advice for you or an anecdote about what it was going to be like? Remember also how when said child was born you realized that you hadn’t had any idea what everyone was talking about until RIGHT THEN? That’s what I’m talking about.

So, watching Bug roll around on the floor was when I recognized the beauty in nature’s plan. As she rolled I considered the future. She wasn’t going to roll a couple of times, pop to her feet and ask for the car keys. She was going to go through a long process of learning how to move which was going to give me the chance to adjust to the current stage and prepare for the next. By the time she was crawling, I had an understanding of how to keep her safe and entertained. By the time she was walking, I knew where the dangers were and what her next move might be. The tutorial was simple, but it was genius.

As my younger daughter is nearly three now, I have had many opportunities to watch the tutorial play out and have seen how it also works when the behaviors become more complex. My girls are communicative, interactive little beings now that are constantly pushing their boundaries and experimenting with social standards, but as long as I am paying attention I know that I can apply the lessons so aptly taught to me and successfully navigate the foreshadowed, if uncharted, waters ahead.

Trouble is, now I’ve started to know when something big is lurking. Both of my girls have been good nappers for a while – it’s been a breather in the middle of the day that I can usually count on to give me a chance to recalibrate and accomplish tasks unfettered. The rare occasions that I am not afforded a little quiet time have often resulted in some challenging evenings (read: I have shopped the house for the bluntest instrument available with which to bash my own skull). Lamentably, Bug is now starting to forsake her naps regularly. She is four years old now and I figure that is the natural progression of things, but I shudder to think of what the parenting tutorial is preparing me for now. What could this possibly be teaching me? Am I getting too much free time? Does she feel as though she’s being short changed on her waking opportunities to ask me “why?” about everything sunlight has ever touched? You mean to tell me that pretty soon they are both going to be awake with me all the time? I mean, I love my kids, but that’s got to be unconstitutional or something, right? RIGHT?!?!

Clearly, I’m not ready for the teenage years.

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About Mitchell Brown

I am a stay at home dad with my two daughters who are a lot stronger than they look. When I'm not cooking, cleaning, dancing, reading, teaching, playing or protecting my eyes and groin, I am writing about this whole experience in all of its ridiculousness.
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12 Responses to The Parenting Tutorial and an Uncertain Future

  1. mike says:

    Well put Miotch. We’re at the starting to crawl phase right now and your words are putting me more at ease because I’ve definitely felt those particular fears.

    Editing question: Is dervish a word that is always capitalized? I know that Dumpster is but I didn’t know about Dervish.

    Best to you and the family.

    • Thanks, Feet. I’m glad to have been even a little help as you go on in this journey. No one is much help, though, other than your little monkey. Just listen and they will teach you all you need to know.

      As for the editing question, because Dervishes are a sect of sorts, I thought they would be capitalized, though I didn’t research it before I wrote it. I’m pretty sure my usage was wrong, though, as not all Dervishes are whirling so my reference is putting too fine a point on them.

  2. Meka says:

    Oh Mitchell….. all I can say is…I am here for you. Kai stopped at 3 and Koa at 1. At First it was liberating. A new freedom in the day. Now, well, do you remember me coming to the tribe in tears not long ago??? I am here for you brother. Teenage years ….. I am still in denial that they will ever come.

  3. Carol Brown says:

    This is where you institute absolute, compulsory, mandatory “rest time” and try to never, ever stray from schedule. Once in a while Bug may even want to join you. Good luck-this is a challenging time because you still have to be home in time for the little one’s nap. It will actually be freeing when neither one naps. You’re able to roam away from home all afternoon! And no one is ever “ready” for teenagers.

    • Thanks, Mama. Rest time is definitely being instituted, as you know, but is that going to be enough to keep my sanity in reach? These are the questions I need answers to, oh wish sage of child rearing.

  4. David says:

    Mitchell,

    Ha, Ha, Ha… you have no idea, my friend. If your’s are anything like mine as they enter the teen years, you will surely question why or how the species continues; or if it even should; and if you should do something to stop it. Why do “some species eat their young” seems not so bizarre. It is a difficult lesson, but one we apparently must learn, thankfully and eventually. They will return to making us proud and thankful, just prior to us giving up. And the species will continue, apparently as it should; and someday, they will take care of us as we have taken care of them. Apparently, it is the way it is, and should be. We must learn that we are just not in as much control as we think we are or should be. Nevertheless it is a wonderful journey; is it not?

    • A wonderful journey for sure, my friend, but your words are not assuaging my fears. Knowing your daughter helps to know that what you say is true, but maybe you could at least fool me for a little while that the path from here on out is without it’s obstacles. I know it isn’t true but I would sure be willing to listen.

  5. Maggie Batt says:

    Lovely writing senor. I feel you, Logan is now cutting out his naps. It’s a gradual process though and a couple times a week, he still really benefits from some snooze time in my arms. I still encourage down time for all of us an hour or two a day. Though I probably need it most…….

  6. Erika Greelish says:

    I’ve been enjoying your posts for some time. Especially liked this one, as I’m writing this response during my two-year-old’s nap time. I too, am terrified at the thought of that mid-day break (during which I work) ending and yet, at the same time, I obviously survived it with my older child! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • Thank you so much, Erika. I am honored that you are sharing your time with me. All parents have gone through what we are going through, so it must be ok. But it is disconcerting. The fact that you got through it with your older child helps! Thanks for reading.

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