Everyone speaks of childhood milestones without realising that for parents, these too are monumental events in their journey down that road called parenthood. From first words to first dates, every stage calls for adaptation as parents guide their offspring through childhood and beyond. Here is a compilation of them:
1) You discover you’re pregnant. You house within you another life whose development depends largely upon you. As such, you can’t just guzzle down wine and puff away like a chimney like you used to. Most experts suggest you cut down on coffee. While one large cup is unlikely to harm your baby, over-indulging might put you at risk of miscarriage or premature labour. Understandably, many first-time parents discover a hitherto unknown interest in health, fitness and nutrition.
2) Your baby is born. This is probably the most sleep-deprived and confused you’ll ever be in your life with a hundred and one experts giving conflicting advice on everything from starting on solids to co-sleeping. Total strangers will come up to you to comment on how well you’re doing as a parent or to offer what feels like unwanted advice.
3) Your baby starts to speak. This means you have to watch what you say as the little tykes can and do soak up anything that comes out of your mouth. The next thing you know, you’ll have other parents coming up to you to report that your child taught their child “the f word.”
4) You baby goes off to school. Parents either rejoice or mourn the loss of their babies for 6 hours of the day, as the little ones first go off to kindy, then “big kids school.” For many, this is an opportunity to go back to work or if they are already working, to feel less badly about being away from their children.
5) Your baby goes off to high school. For the first time since he or she was born, you have sleepless nights as the baby discovers disco, mini-skirts and the opposite sex. Actually, it is the last more than the first two that keeps you up, as rampaging hormones, peer pressure and media influence causes your baby to go from sweet child to under-dressed, sulky, petulant teenager.
6) Your baby goes off to uni or gets into an apprenticeship. While probably still living at home and off you, you’re child now has holiday and weekend plans that exclude you.
7) Your baby moves out. With the cost of housing escalating, many don’t leave the nest until they are in their mid to late twenties. Moving out heralds the beginning of weekly telephone dates to keep you updated on their lives.
8) Your baby gets married. It’s a cause for celebration, unless you are made to pay for the wedding, in which case you only have yourself to blame for not teaching the baby about money. At any rate, it means there’ll be someone to care for him or her and to share life’s burdens with when you finally shuffle off to heaven.
9) Your baby has a baby. Hooray! We’ve come full circle. But for the masochistic few who refuse retirement, this is a time to play consultant instead of unpaid nanny.