By TMoM Team Member Laura Simon

Ten years ago, I was pacing the worn wood floors in my first house, trying to figure out how on earth I was supposed to do this parenting thing.

It was our first night at home, my first night without the convenience of the hospital nursery where trained medical professionals would watch to make sure my newborn kept breathing while I desperately tried to sleep.

“I don’t know how to do this,” I texted a friend, who made the mistake of asking if I was doing OK. “I’m not OK. How am I going to keep him alive? I feel like I need to watch him all the time in case something happens. He wants to be held all the time. I can’t even go to the bathroom by myself. I’m exhausted. How am I supposed to do this?”

She promised me I’d be fine, and while “fine” is perhaps a bit too generous, it turns out that we (both of us) did, in fact, survive.

In spite of everything I didn’t know.

My firstborn turned ten just last week. As a toddler, he was joined in short order by a little brother and a little sister, and somehow we have all made it to this point: my first decade as a parent. No one is more surprised than me.

Instead of feeling emboldened by a decade of successful “keeping them alive” and clothed in public places (for the most part), I’m actually kind of terrified. The NEXT decade includes puberty, driving lessons, dating, college admissions, and more keeping them alive and clothed in public places. In retrospect, colic seems relatively manageable.

Lately, I’ve found myself feeling much like I did in those early days: spiraling into panic. What if my kids never learn to complete their math unless I stand over them and keep them focused? What if they rush through their work forever? Will these children EVER stop picking fights with each other? Will anyone actually learn to hit the inside of the toilet when they pee? How much information do you give an 8-year-old when he asks where babies come from? Did my child just say “erection” instead of “reaction”? Out loud? In public?

I’m pretty sure I’m not OK. How on earth will I survive the next ten years?

I think I know the answer this time around. I’ll get up every morning and handle the day. I’ll say “I’m sorry” and “I love you” a lot. I’ll make the best decisions I can with the resources I have. I’ll shed a lot of tears and make plenty of mistakes. We’ll all lose lots of sleep.

My first decade of parenting has taught me that kids are resilient. They require authenticity, not perfection. Feeling overwhelmed by the task is totally normal, and (I hope) probably also a sign that I’m doing it right.

Ten years in, this is still hard work. The diapers are gone, but the questions are harder. I cannot even talk about the mood swings (mine or theirs).

This is equal parts the hardest and the best job I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

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