I glanced in the rearview mirror today, and her shining eyes in the very back seat brought a lump into my throat.
She is six now, heading to 1st grade, and I don’t know where the time went. I swear it was just yesterday that I brought her home in a preemie outfit that swallowed her whole.
In the seat in front of her, big brother sits, his face losing baby fat as fast as he’s losing baby teeth.
They are both big kids now, riding big kid bikes and reading chapter books, leaving me to shake my head and ask the age-old question, “Where did the time go?”
It’s just one of the things no one can make you understand about being a parent.
They can’t explain to you that seeing your wrinkly, red newborn for the first time will make your heart feel as if it will explode from the love that suddenly appears.
They don’t tell you that the second time is just like the first.
They can’t tell you that you will panic the first time they sleep through the night, though you begged for it for weeks (or months – they don’t tell you that either).
No one tells you how bad explosive diapers and projectile vomiting really are, and they don’t explain that it is physically possible for your son to pee in his own mouth.
They don’t tell you that the tooth fairy will need to come on the night you have no cash, and you’ll be forced to ask Grandma to deliver a dollar on the sly.
They don’t tell you that you become a raging bull the first time someone is unkind to your child, and that you will have zero hesitation about putting some hurting on a three year old.
No one prepares you for the agony that is potty training.
They don’t tell you that you will memorize, verbatim, Good Night Moon and Elmo Loves You and Green Eggs and Ham and Little Toot (not kidding here – it’s about Toot the Tugboat) and that when you lie down at night you will hear, looping in your head, the theme song from Little Einsteins.
No one tells you that when your son is seven you will drive by the park that was his childhood, and you’ll cry for the day when he and his first friend pretended to be monsters.
You cannot be prepared for walking your baby into school and facing the reality that you have to leave without him.
You would never believe that you’ll have to scoop poop out of the tub with a plastic cup.
They don’t tell you that you will drive 30 minutes out of your way to go back and retrieve a smelly, tattered stuffed animal that is your only hope for a peaceful night.
You can’t guess that you will stand in the doorway of her room, watching her chest rise and fall, wondering what you did to deserve that child.
No one tells you that years after diapers are only a memory, you will still have a brand preference that you purchase for baby showers, and that your preferences are gender-specific.
No one tells you that you will repeatedly inhale the scent of your baby’s head, closing your eyes as you try to memorize it.
You don’t know that seeing his newborn rompers will bring tears to your eyes and that you will hug them to your chest to remember how small he once was.
You can’t imagine that the baby you once carried will turn into a hilarious, vivacious child whose company you prefer over that of some adults.
They don’t tell you that you will second-guess yourself daily, replaying decisions you made and words you said and time you spent.
You can’t know that the home-movies you are making now will rip your heart to shreds in a few years as you laugh and cry and marvel at the changes in your children.
You don’t know, but you can’t know.
They don’t explain, but they can’t explain.
Being a parent is simply an indescribable experience – we have a picture of what it will be, and the vast majority of the time, we are wrong. But we are wrong because we underestimate it. We simply have not learned how deep love can go, and we cannot know how we will transform.
The birth of a child also brings the birth of a new person – a parent.