The moment you become a parent, everything changes -- including you. It's like you, 2.0 -- the new and improved version.
A few hours after my first daughter was born, my husband was getting ready to go home and sleep a few hours before pickup up my parents from the airport. "I'll just go say goodbye to the baby," he said, and I remember being stunned at the thought that there was a whole other person in our family. A whole person whose needs we had to consider, whose wants counted for something. Eleven years later, there are five of those extra people in our family. That's a lot of needs and wants to think about.
As a parent, you can't be self-centered, because you are aware every moment that there is someone else to think about. You can't sleep in when a child is screaming with a full diaper or needs to be fed or desperately wants to be held, played with, or loved. You can't spend a vacation indulging your own whims when your children have completely different ideas about what they want to do with their time. And that's a good thing. Parenting makes you compassionate. It makes you aware of the rest of the world. It keeps you from being so self-absorbed that you can't see past yourself.
Before you have children, you know everything about being a parent. You have all the answers, and you sometimes even share them with the parents you observe. And then you have children and you realize how little you know about parenting. And how little you know in general. (And as your children gets older, it gets worse.)
Once you learn how little you know, and accept it, you learn humility. Then you relearn it almost daily as you make mistakes, pick yourself up, and forge on. If, for a moment, you forget that you are not perfect, your children will be right there to remind you. Bless them.
In the days and years before you had children, you could feel superior on airplanes, on line at the supermarket, and anywhere else you saw children misbehaving, parents making mistakes, and anyone else who deserved your compassion -- but may have found your contempt. Once you are a parent, you understand. When a cell phone rings in a movie, you know that it was perhaps left on so that the sitter could call. You help distract the crying baby on the airplane -- or you simply keep quiet while others grumble. You learn to put yourself in the shoes of others -- because all too often, they're the only shoes you can find.
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