“The first year is the hardest.”
I sit here writing this post five years into parenting. This is my take. The first year is not the hardest. Not even a little. It’s the easiest, by a landslide. Maybe I’m just lucky, and my kids were unusually easy babies. Or perhaps I’ve conveniently blocked out each of those first years and am remembering them through rose-colored glasses. Either way, I am thoroughly convinced that “The first year is the hardest” is just a platitude. What people really should be saying is, “Just wait…this is just the beginning.”
No part of parenting is easy.
Yes, the first year is full of hard parts – sleepless nights, feeding struggles, days of fussiness, and inconsolable cries. But the first year is also full of snuggles, naps, stroller walks, and errands with a snuggly baby nestled up against you in a carrier.
The real meat of parenting, the part that really tests your chops, comes later. Kids stop napping and want to be on top of you 24/7. They whine a lot. They have epic tantrums and meltdowns over seemingly nothing. When you need to get things done, mommy guilt weighs you down. They ask questions, many of which you don’t know how to answer. If they aren’t asking questions, they’re talking, and you’re obliged to respond, even if you’re desperate for quiet. They start school and begin learning about friends, and it’s your job to teach them how to treat everyone with kindness. They cry when their feelings are hurt or when they miss a relative, and you have to comfort them even if you don’t know what to say.
Half of the time, I don’t know what I am doing.
During the first year, you celebrate the firsts – first tooth, first solid food, first step, first birthday. As I sit here writing this, my first child’s last year of preschool has come to a close. I found myself crying in the car as we drove away on that last day. As they grow older, along with firsts, are more and more lasts.
And the hardest part is being at peace with these ever-increasing lasts.
Raising tiny humans is hard. Keeping them fed, bathed, clothed, and loved – that’s the easy part. Teaching them to be kind, to be empathetic, to work hard, to ask hard questions, to be confident and strong, to march to the beat of their own drummer, and for us as parents to be at peace with the fact that each day our children grow bigger and will one day not need us so much – these are the hard parts.