Way back when, before I became a parent, I can think of a handful of stand-out times when I simply did not know what to do. I remember the panic of being in a strange country, without a working cell phone, and relying on someone I couldn’t reach at that moment to collect me from an alien airport. I remember in my late teens working a customer facing job, only to be faced with a raging patron with no manager in sight for support or guidance. I remember losing friendships and relationships, and swearing I’d never recover (which of course I always did), with no clue how to console myself at the time.
And then adulthood, and more specifically parenthood, hit and I finally understood what it meant to be ‘in at the deep end.’ If you’ve ever known the immediate terror of discovering a bleeding child, a fever over 104F, or being faced with the proposition of medical conditions and complicated surgeries on a little one, then you know what I’m talking about.
There is nothing quite as grounding as realizing you’re officially ‘it.’ The ‘adultiest’ adult present, now required by status and age to deal with anything that occurs (and to do it correctly), lest the outcome be truly terrifying. To look into the face of your child, or even your spouse at times, and reassure them in the most sincere way possible that everything is and would be absolutely fine, despite a noise in your head that is challenging that constantly, is a ‘new mom’ skill that none of those baby books talk about.
Googling bizarre and alarming symptoms, bad behaviors, weird behaviors, missing behaviors, and even our own mental health struggles (yes, I’ve been there) with shaky hands is, apparently, all part of it, but if I said that it kicked in as an extra skill set right after crowning I’d be lying to you. It’s a learned skill and I still spin around in circles privately when things go awry, wondering who is going to spring into action and tell me exactly what to do. And then I do, and I realize I’m growing up after all. Thank God for mothers, mothers-in-law, mom friends, and very understanding on-call pediatricians and pediatric nurses — that’s all I’m saying.