The Joy of Parenting

The other day, a friend of mine who is expecting asked me for some perspective. Her other parent friends have been telling her how hard it is, focusing on the bad side of parenting and making her feel discouraged; she asked me to tell her what’s good about it. She caught me in a moment when I was questioning why I ever thought it would be a good idea to have kids, because it’s just been so hard lately. But you know what? As hard as it is, I love it. I love my kids, I love being a mom.

Most of the really great stuff for me lately is sibling stuff. I love Sam and Grace’s relationship SO MUCH. The way he RUNS into the bedroom when he hears her stirring on the monitor. The fact that she learned how to crawl this week because she wanted to get to one of his toys. How much she loves going on the swings at the playground and how much he loves pushing her. The way he runs over to pat her when she fusses and tells her, “Okay, okay,” or, “Okay, Goggy.” (Goggy=baby.) The way people look at them and say, “Two redheads!” (Because, you know, I haven’t noticed. People are so silly. But having two of them has stopped the accusatory demands to the effect of, “How dare you have a redhead when your hair is BROWN?”)

The sibling stuff is great and it’s kind of my whole world right now, but it’s not so helpful or relevant because my friend is expecting her first. So I’ve been thinking about it for days, trying to figure out how to express what I love about being a mom. There’s the big stuff, of course, the part where you see and shape the growth of a human being, the part where you love and are loved unconditionally. But this morning I realized that the joy of parenting–just like the rest of life–is in the moments.

Sam’s Gramma sent him a pair of Woody and Buzz dolls (sorry, action figures) with my birthday present. He LOVES them. Will and Sam went for a walk this morning and Sam insisted on bringing the guys. When they returned Will reported to me that Sam ‘flew’ Buzz the whole way. They’d been back for maybe five minutes when Sam, clutching his pals tightly, asked to watch Toy Story. And it was not two minutes later that Sam ran downstairs shouting “Oh no! Oh no!” and retrieved Woody’s hat from the floor where Will had tossed it on their way out the door (for fear of losing it). Woody’s hat back on his head, Sam happily settled down on the couch…until he saw that his dad was building something. Sam is Will’s assistant so he ran to help.

And THAT is what is awesome about being a parent.

Could you all do me a favor? That is, those of you who have kids? Leave a comment with one thing that is great about being a parent. It can be a ‘big’ thing, it can be a moment–whatever.

Thank you, I love you.

36 thoughts on “The Joy of Parenting

  1. Julia

    July 11, 2010 at 9:30am

    Thank you! Looking forward to the comments to come and will drink them all in. xoxoxo

  2. Laurie

    July 11, 2010 at 9:39am

    I can’t believe that people are telling your expectant friend all the bad things! Yes, taking care of children can be hard, but that is SO not what you should be focusing on! The awesomeness is: when your little baby grasps your finger; when he wants something he can’t reach, and you can see the gears turning as he tries his hand at problem solving; when he LAUGHS (baby laughter is the greatest invention EVER); when he hugs and kisses you. For me, I loved all the little moments when Jake was learning about the world around him. I have video of him, in his baby carriage, at the park. He’s sitting up, looking at older kids in the swings. Then he starts rocking back and forth, mimicking the motion of the bodies in the swings. And clapping. Another video at his second birthday party shows me helping him unwrap a present. It’s a baby’s radio-cassette player, but of course, he doesn’t know what it does. He watches as I put the batteries in and turn it on. When music plays, he exclaims, “Oh! Deets!” (Deets = dance = music – I was the only one who knew what he meant.) He suddenly knew what it was.

    And now that he’s older, I miss my little guy, but I love the teen he has become. He’s smart and compassionate and caring, and he is FUNNY AS HELL.

    Middle-of-the-night feedings, dirty diapers, and even that month that he cried non-stop is SOOOO worth getting to be this kid’s mom.

    I think the parents who see their lives and schedules changing as a bad thing are really missing out. Yes, having a baby changes things. But it’s wonderful.

  3. SemiCrunchyMom

    July 11, 2010 at 9:39am

    The way they can take something as simple and ordinary as a snail shell, and adopt it, name it, feed it, love it. And you will be so awed by this that you won’t think twice about dismantling your sink to get it back when it gets dropped down the drain, because your little one is “so worried about poor Laura!”
    .-= SemiCrunchyMom´s last post ..Shopping with Kids =-.

  4. Jessica

    July 11, 2010 at 9:39am

    My favorite part about being a mother right now is seeing C’s excitement at EVERY new experience. EVERYTHING is new and wonderful and WOW, what a great world we live it! It’s hard to be jaded when everything is somehow magical (except, perhaps, for sauerkraut…but we’ll work on that).

    Also, that hugs from Mama can still fix almost everything.
    .-= Jessica´s last post ..A Bit of a Dilemma =-.

  5. Cory

    July 11, 2010 at 9:44am

    1. Being the center of someone’s universe really is intensely amazing.

    2. The SNUGGLING, oh, god, the snuggling.

    3. Every three months(ish), for the first couple of years, there are really noticeable developmental changes. It’s bizarre and incredible to watch.

    4. A moment: Yesterday, we went to the farmer’s market, and we promised my two year old son that we could touch the hubcaps of the vintage pickup truck that’s parked there (one of his favorite things to do). But we had our coffee and croissant and totally forgot. On the way out of the market he started to wail, because he realized we were going the wrong way. We quickly figured out what we had done wrong, and said “OH! Sorry, baby! Let’s go back to your truck!” And, just like that, we had righted his world. As often as he cries because of something we’re doing correctly (e.g. changing a diaper or not allowing him to do [x] right this second), I now love it when we screw up, because then we can FIX the sadness. Easily!

  6. bad mummy

    July 11, 2010 at 9:54am

    Seeing my 4 1/2 yr old kid smile when she wakes up and sees me just about kills me with joy. We recently visited my parents, so we sleep in the guest room that has two beds, side-by-side. One morning I woke up before she did and just laid there, looking at her. She started to stir, then opened and her eyes and saw me looking at her and just looked so damned happy and pleased. Those moments in the morning, before we’ve had to battle over getting dressed and whining…I cherish those moments.

  7. Delle

    July 11, 2010 at 10:29am

    Children are completely awesome. When you realise for the first time that it is actually, really, truly you that they love and want is pretty amazing. Two from this week, I turned round to find Ro clearing the dishes from the table. Unasked and doing a really good job of it. Then this morning, I was awoken by a rousing chorus of “The sun is a mass of incandescent gas”. Three is a brilliant age, but I’ve thought that about every age so far.
    .-= Delle´s last post ..Here comes science =-.

  8. georgia

    July 11, 2010 at 10:43am

    i don’t think i can pick just one thing. i love being a mom! with the first kid i think it’s definitely a challenge to suddenly have a person NEED you 24 hours a day. but i don’t find it any harder than anything else in life. it’s all in the attitude.

    when H was about 8 months old i woke up to him softly patting my cheek and saying “mama mama mama!” i’ll never forget that.

    a few months ago my newborn baby daughter was very fussy so i put her in the car and drove to the fabric store with the excuse that i needed to get buttons for a sweater. i left H home with my husband. ever since then he’s told me “mom, i missed you at the button store.” it’s become our little saying. every night we tell each other “i love you. i missed you at the button store!”

    i love how my daughter will crane her neck to find her big brother when she hears his voice. she recognized his voice from the moment she was born. very cool. and i love that if someone else is holding her and she’s fussing as soon as i take her back into my arms she grins and settles down.

    it’s the best.

  9. Katherine

    July 11, 2010 at 11:38am

    Not a mom, but had to pop in and say that kids are wonderful and amazing and all, but I love hearing these stories because it shows how many wonderful and amazing PARENTS are out there.
    .-= Katherine´s last post ..Nailing it =-.

  10. Sonja

    July 11, 2010 at 11:47am

    1. The way a newborn sleeps on your chest is unbeatable.
    2. The slobbery baby/toddler kisses are to die for.
    3. The holding, hugging, cuddling, snuggling. The way he settles his head into the space between my chest/chin/shoulder melts me every time.
    4. The sweetness. Yesterday, he suggested I nurse the baby chicks we were watching for a friend. I wasn’t about to nurse something with a beak, but it was such a sweet moment.
    .-= Sonja´s last post ..two =-.

  11. Amanda

    July 11, 2010 at 12:16pm

    Not a mom either, but my favorite part about kids is seeing things anew through their eyes. I may have already experienced something for the first time, but if I get to participate again with a child who is doing it for the first time, I get a little of that magic again by sharing it.
    .-= Amanda´s last post ..Just Like Summer Vacation =-.

  12. Delle

    July 11, 2010 at 1:02pm

    Oh, I think it is also worth saying to your friend, look at how many of those people who are talking up the negatives either have multiple children, or intend to. If they really thought it was so unutterably dreadful, would they really go through it all again?
    .-= Delle´s last post ..Here comes science =-.

  13. Mary

    July 11, 2010 at 1:11pm

    Getting to teach your child to read! That is my favorite thing right now, but there are so many awesome things.

    The first time your baby looks up to meet your eyes when she is nursing. That right there is worth all the bad stuff. Oh my god, so sweet. I’m going to go cry now.
    .-= Mary´s last post ..DOUBLE RAINBOW ALL THE WAY- =-.

  14. ivonne

    July 11, 2010 at 1:37pm

    one of the best things is the shit kids make up. the words! my daughter calls the fly swatter the “flatcher catcher”. I haven’t laughed like that in years.

  15. denise

    July 11, 2010 at 1:46pm

    Hi–came over by Nina Bargiel’s recommendation. Also a mother of two. And also beating my head against the challenges of parenting…they continue to catch me off guard (even though I’ve been at it for almost 7 years.)

    BUT that’s not what you asked about it, is it?

    The simple joys, steeped in the corners of minutes and days make even the hardest stuff dissipate. It’s funny I read your blog today because I planned to write a post about the simple joys that overcame me today–forcing me to surrender to the moment. Sitting in the shaded lawn with my daughter. watching her legs dangle from the chair. Hearing my son reminding my hubby to pick up his tools. Sunlight streaming into wide blue eyes, asking questions about the magic of the universe.

    They’re not the things I expected to enjoy, but the seemingly mundane bits that lift my soul.

    Best to your preggo pal!

  16. Kymmi

    July 11, 2010 at 2:11pm

    As a mother of a 6 year old, it’s her perspective changing my world. Watching her grow and become a personality all her own has amazed me. But it’s the way she points things out that I’ve never seen, is delighted by the oddest things, and has her own beat.

    We took her to Europe when she was 3, and it was a great trip. She proved herself an excellent traveler, adapted to new time zones, and lapped up all the attendion. (Swear to God, you want to be treated well in Europe? Travel with a child. Everyone beamed at us, gave her gifts, and generally acted like we were the best Americans they had ever met.) We were traveling during my birthday and we splurged for a night in a hotel in Brussels with attached rooms. Girl went crazy for having her own desk, to do her own work, and generally ran around her room squealing with delight. Husband and I were in the other room watching the Tour de France and she comes in and says inquisitively “What’s that thing next to the potty? The small thing?” We thought about it and realized that she meant the bidet. “Oh,” she said matter-o-factly “sorry, I pooped in it.” And with that skipped off back to her desk.

    OK, that was just my favorite story. But the real joy in parenting is when you’ve had a hard day and you’re pissed off at the world in general and your child comes over and gently strokes your arm and tells you it’s going to be OK. And she’s right.

  17. olga bargiel

    July 11, 2010 at 2:22pm

    Being a much older mother and grandmother I would like to say that that feeling you get the first time you make eye contact with you baby continues – small moments like finally learning to ride that bike and big moments like the wedding day. That’s a feeling you can’t get from anything else – well worth the sleepless nights [you get them again when the kids are teens] and the diapers [thankfully you don't get those]

    No doubt about it parenting is a physically and mentally exhausting job – and it doesn’t get easier – however, the comic material gets better -

    olga aka slackmom

  18. Helen Tosch

    July 11, 2010 at 2:29pm

    Thanks to Nina Bargiel for pointing me to this blog – it’s a wonderful pick-me-up.

    My son is now 20 and going through all of the rebellion that 15 year-olds normally do. So, that’s annoying. Very annoying. But I can tell you without any doubt that being a parent has not only been the highlight of my life, it has shaped my life in ways I never imagined nor expected. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

    I agree with many of the parents – the greatest things are in the moments. There is absolute joy in the simple things, and if you take time to breathe and bathe in the joy of each day, it can be overwhelmingly good.

    What comes to my mind?

    Holding your sleeping child in your lap, brushing her (or his) sweaty hair with your hand, just adoring how it curls around those tiny ears.

    Watching the world through their eyes is like getting to live childhood all over again – but only the good parts.

    Rediscovering awe when you catch a firefly, go too high on the swings, find an inchworm, or run through a sprinkler, and knowing that these moments will shape your child and fill his/her head with the wonderful moments that will last a lifetime.

    Laughing. At anything. Farts are suddenly funny again (if they ever weren’t).

    Seeing the excitement when making holiday cookies, birthday cake, pancakes, pretty much anything that involves spending time together making food.

    Getting the first handmade Mothers’ (or Fathers’) day card.

    Watching your child experience success – no matter how big or small it is – and knowing the joy it brings him/her.

    Eating ice cream cones becomes so fun again, as does hearing the ice-cream truck and running down the street to meet it.

    Cuddling while reading out loud. Even if you’ve read the book five times….that night.

    Hearing your child read to you for the first time.

    Never knowing what crazy, interesting things will come out of your kid’s mouths, and enjoying all of them. (When my son was 2.5, he couldn’t say “truck.” He exchanged the “tr” for an “f.” And my lovely younger brother would encourage it, telling him to say “truck you,” and then laughing and laughing. Well, with that positive reinforcement, the inevitable happened. We were on the way to the doctor’s office, which was unfortunately common back then, and he yelled out from his car seat, out of the blue: “f*ck you, doctor!” He laughed, and I did everything in my power not to laugh and not to make a big deal about it. Fortunately, he didn’t repeat that at the office, but that moment still makes me laugh 18 years later.)

    Dancing, listening to music, blowing bubbles, sledding, throwing snowballs, building snow forts, playing ring around the rosy until you’re nauseated, watching for shooting stars, finding fun things in the clouds, catching bugs, making paper snowflakes, going to the first concert, sports game, or scout meeting, making messes and not caring about the mess, riding the first rollercoaster, first dates, watching cartoons and knowing that to your child, this is the funniest thing ever, hugs, kisses, knowing that no matter what, someone in the world loves you more than anything and will always think you’re amazing – no matter how much you screw up.

    My son is incredible. Just like everyone else’s child is to them. And he has taught me the true meaning of unconditional love. He loves without conditions and forgives without question. He apologizes when he makes mistakes, and he never brings up the past. And I think that when you watch your child grow into a person, who, though he or she has plenty of flaws, is just amazing, and you know that somehow, you had a role in making that happen, it’s the most rewarding thing you could ever experience.

    Parenting is hard. There’s no question about it. But everything in life that’s worth doing comes with a warning label. It’s all hard. But if you take the struggles and frustrations and hair-pulling days and multiply those moments and days by 100, you’ll never balance out the sheer joy that parenting can bring – especially if you let it. My best advice is truly not to linger on the things that drive you crazy, to take some time for yourself, even if only a minute or two, and make it a point to every day tell your children you love them, and give them some examples of why. It will remind you what makes your kids so fantastic, it will help them become loving, confident and fun, and it will make the ride of parenthood that much more enjoyable. Good luck, and enjoy!
    .-= Helen Tosch´s last post ..Theres going to be trouble if there are any more peeps from the audience =-.

  19. B

    July 11, 2010 at 4:29pm

    I’m saying these without reading the other comments first (love the idea and must answer while inspired – can’t wait to go back and read these later!). Anyway, forgive me if I repeat but…

    Among the awesomeness that is mothering/parenting:

    Nothing better than a baby sleeping on you, preferably skin to skin. Most relaxing feeling ever, hard not to fall asleep yourself. Do this as often as possible before they outgrow it. It’s not spoiling the kid and you’ll miss it when it’s gone. (That’s for dads and moms – my husband still tries to steal naps on the weekends with our 13 month old when she lets him.)

    Snippets from today:

    Watching your four year old attempt hopscotch.
    Seriously. Amazing. The flailing legs and arms with a determined look on her face and the giggling, oh the giggling.

    Nursing the one year old, she got down when she was done and walked off, and then arms raised overhead, she did a victory lap. Yes, she ran around the house, arms over head, warbling some chant and it all came off like she’d won a great prize.

    In other words – there are moments in every single day when they make you laugh like you’d never believed possible and fill you with such joy, love, and amazement that you can’t imagine life without them, and the time before they were born is a distant memory. Those who focus on the drudgery or every day parenting miss out on the wonder of every day, those moments that you take mental snapshots or movies and rewind them because you never want to forget.
    .-= B´s last post ..You Said This Would Be a Family Vacation =-.

  20. Sara R.

    July 11, 2010 at 5:42pm

    As Viv is now 3 (how did that happen?), I’ve loved watching her develop her imagination and sense of humor. She tells me stories about the dinosaurs and the unicorn. And she gives really good raspberries, climbing into our bed and blowing on my tummy, laughing like an insane hyena. The little moments just make me feel joyful and so incredibly grateful to have been given this chance to be a parent.

  21. Kymmi

    July 11, 2010 at 7:24pm

    Turns out I wasn’t done!

    The best thing about being a parent, is my relationship with my mother since my daughter was born. My mom and I have always been close, but it intensified when my daughter was born. First it was the support, I have never wanted my mother so much as those first few days. Then when the emotions hit, the immense love I felt for my baby, made me realize what my mother had given my brother and I. It really made everything she had done “hit home” if you will.

    There is also nothing more precious than the relationship between a child and her grandparents. My daughter has them ALL wrapped around her pinky, and I couldn’t be happier.

    Now I have a different relationship with my mother – I am her daughter, and I am her granddaughter’s mother. We talk as equals, she gives me advice and most amazing of all – she stays out of my parenting decisions. It’s a gift.

    It was probably the most unexpected thing about parenting, but something I cherish.

    Kymmi

  22. mina

    July 11, 2010 at 8:00pm

    being a mother is amazing beyond belief! I agree completely about the many small moments – hearing “mama” in the sweetest, most love-filled voice, having little hands pat and hug you. The amount of pure love and joy that children bring with them is limitless and so wonderful to share. It is truly having a window to the divine! Being a mom is the most beautiful, sacred experience of my life. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity. Best wishes on your journey. You’ll do great.

  23. Cindy

    July 11, 2010 at 9:13pm

    As most of the comments are geared toward newborns and toddlers, I’ll go up a few ages. They make you laugh. Talk about out of the mouths of babes, they’ll come out with things that will have you rolling on the floor. Once, my youngest (of three, 1 girl, 2 boys) was upset with me. I don’t remember why but I think it was because I had told my friend who was babysitting for me that they couldn’t do or have something that day. She was taking them somewhere and Zach was pouty and said “Mommy doesn’t love us”. He was about 6 at the time. My older son, who was about 8, turned around and said “Well, I don’t know about you…but she LOVES me”. I wasn’t there to hear it myself but it’s been one of my favorite stories ever since. As children grow and start to think for themselves, they’re so INTERESTING. I loved talking with my kids. I think that’s why I always felt I was a better mother when they were older than when they were younger. I think they’re cute and lovable when they’re infants/toddlers but honestly, I also found that after 10-15 minutes of playing tea party or what-have-you, I’m bored to tears. [ducks]

  24. Anne

    July 12, 2010 at 10:15am

    My kids are older now, but I remember all the things everyone else has mentioned, and I did love every baby/little kid moment. I’ve really loved all the ages and stages – some more than others:) Through the years I’ve also been mesmerized at times watching their sibling relationship evolve. But right now, with my 13 yr. old daughter I’m not always sure how our relationship is going moment to moment what with the yelling and door slamming, but then she made sure I was the first person she told that the boy she liked had “asked her out”, I was honored and elated (I freaked out later :) And for my 10 yr. old son,the basketball player, at every game, every time he scores he finds me in the crowd and the smile he gives me makes me want to weep with joy.

    Thanks for this post, love you too.

  25. Holly

    July 12, 2010 at 11:54am

    Bedtime!
    I love the small moments, the simple things that kids can find to be *amazing, for instance~ a walk around the block becomes a dragon-hunting adventure or a soiree w/princess heels.
    But, at the end of the day, tucking them in their beds clean and sweet-smelling from baths w/minty breaths from freshly-brushed teeth, holding hands during prayer, then a quick kiss and lights out–aaaaahhh, that can be 1 of the joys of parenting!
    Bedtime comes early around here…3 of my 4 are up @ the buttcrack of dawn but I also enjoy having a couple of hrs child-free @ night to have Mommy/Daddy time and to be able to sit back and savour the little moments that have occurred throughout the day.
    I love the lil darlins to pieces, and there’s nothing sweeter than sleeping babes.

  26. Rusti

    July 12, 2010 at 12:52pm

    My first (and only so far – obviously!) ;) hit the 18 month mark last week… right now what I’m loving about being a parent is how much FUN she is, and how exciting it is to see her discover new things. She loves water, she’s learning new words, she’s turned into a regular little monkey (and me – a jungle gym!) and while she’s getting to be so independent, wanting to feed herself, un-diaper herself (uh oh!) and do things on her own – she still lets me cuddle her to sleep, she willingly gives hugs & kisses when saying goodbye (often these days without even being asked for them!) and it melts my heart to hear her say “momma”… also – in the midst of my frustration at trying to get her to go to sleep last night – she made me burst out laughing by sitting up, smiling at me, putting her hand right in front of my face to wave and tell me “hi!” :) Silly Goose.

    the past 18 months have been a rollercoaster, and I wouldn’t get off for anything (well, maybe a snack & a bathroom break – ya know, once in a while) ;)

    (if your friend is interested, my last post is a little about the best things we’ve experienced in the last 18 months – a very short condensed version) :)
    .-= Rusti´s last post ..18 months =-.

  27. Amy

    July 12, 2010 at 10:38pm

    I love this post. Yes, parenthood is hard. But you know what? A lot of things are really hard and not nearly as rewarding. Tell your friend not to worry. Even on the worst days, it is still totally the best gig. This morning, Nola and I went to swim class. When I was nursing her down for her afternoon nap, she looked up at me and said, “fun at swim class” and then smiled and went back to nursing. I nearly died from cuteness.
    .-= Amy´s last post ..Acceptance =-.

  28. Dawn B

    July 13, 2010 at 12:34am

    Being a mom is the coolest job I’ve ever had. It’s the hardest job, but it’s the only one I’ve had that allows me to wear whatever I want, let me actually have some sort of control (very little, but hey I’ll take it), and it makes my brain think better.
    When our firstborn was began smiling and then giggling..that’s when I knew that it would be so much fun to hang out with this little dude. It has been since…
    I wish both of my kids could be newborns again.. squishy, wrinkly, adorable newborns that make those cute newborn faces.. the tiny clothes.. People always told me “they grow up fast.. enjoy it.. I’m tellin’ ya…” when I was pregnant with the first one.. and he’s 4 1/2, getting ready for his second year of preschool and his sister is getting ready for her first year….. and they were so right. Tell her to enjoy every single little moment.. it’s stressful, but it’s full of good stresses.
    .-= Dawn B´s last post ..the will of steel =-.

  29. Jenny Yerrick Martin

    July 13, 2010 at 9:14am

    Kymmi’s bidet story is one I will be repeating. :-)
    Thank you, Annika, for myself and our mutual mother-to-be friend.

    I honestly don’t know what people are thinking when they present parenthood in such a negative light. Trying to make themselves look like badasses? (“Yeah, I can handle it. You may not be able to, though.”)

    There are too many things I love about being a parent to my 2 1/2 year old to pick one so I will just go with this morning’s favorite moment.

    We’re starting to potty train him and he’s so far just telling us when he thinks he has to poop and then sitting on the potty for a few minutes, then going when he’s back in his diaper. But the look on his face when he is sitting on the potty trying to go- so earnest, trying so hard… it kills me.

    Oh, and as an ongoing favorite, the way when he puts his toy down, he announces, “I put it right here.” Every time.

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