The other day, as my daughter was having her nightly bath, she got a glimpse of her father naked. Though this has happened many times before, something new seemed to click. She stared at him and I could see she was registering the difference between his naked body and hers. She looked at him, she looked at herself, she looked back at him. Then she pointed right at his penis and asked, “You got poopies daddy?”

“No,” he said, “that’s part of my body.” I could see her actively processing this information, like she was just on the edge of understanding.  “Oh,” she said as she looked back at herself, “I don’t got poopies.”  Then she slid back into the tub and just sat for a minute as her brain re-calibrated with this new bit of information. Watching a child’s mind expanding, her reality shifting, her sense of the universe changing, is really quite astonishing.

As amazing as these moments are, however, you enter parenthood kind of expecting them. All the development books and websites detail these types of revelations along with a general timeline of when they will occur. Sometimes you are so prepared to see your kid’s mind get blown that you are even waiting with a camera in hand, like the first time she eats solids or sees the ocean.

What the books and websites don’t prepare you for, what they don’t even mention, is how enormously your mind will be blown on a daily, if not hourly basis. You’ll just be somewhere doing your thing and some huge life changing thought will hit you. It’s like when you are eighteen and stoned and suddenly think you can see molecules floating in the air and then all at once you realize that you are actually just a collection of molecules yourself! And it is so wildly depressing that you just want to throw yourself off the roof of a building. But you can’t! Because you can’t feel your legs, or find your shoes, or remember which way is up.

Like other day, for instance, I was watching my daughter play and it suddenly dawned on me that I am going to die some day. And because I’ll be dead I’ll miss some bit of her life. And this single fleeting thought filled me with so much regret. I thought, “how could I have ever looked away for even just one second, and how could I have yelled at her this morning when she tried to eat a bar of soap. And how can I forgive myself for not always listening to her with all my full attention when we only have so much time together in this life?” And pow, just like that my reality, my safe little world, was shattered and my mind was lying in bits all over the room.

Or there’s the realization that I had shortly after she was born. I was listening to her breathe and it occurred to me that maybe there really is a god. After all, how could this baby exist (I mean yes, technically I know but…children are way bigger than sex). And then I suddenly started to panic because if there is a god maybe he/she is pissed at me for cheating on an ex boyfriend and coveting my neighbor’s fabulous deck furniture and not calling my grandfather enough. And maybe, if this is indeed the case, god’s anger at me will affect his/her opinion of my daughter and he/she will be less inclined to give my little one special perks and spare her from painful experiences in life.

And then with no warning at all I doubled back and had the mind blowing realization that maybe there is, in fact, no god at all and that it really is just me and my husband and our small circle of family and friends looking out for the well being of our child. And that thought was just so utterly terrifying I felt that I could never drive, or fly, or cook on a gas stove, or do anything even remotely dangerous ever again.

And they just keep coming.  Sage will do something so small and it will shatter my sense of reality, it will just rock my world. Like, I’ll watch her try to talk to some kid who ignores her and I’ll see her slink sadly away and it will suddenly occur to me that someone is probably going to break her heart some day. And then I think of all the ways that she, this tiny little daughter of mine, could break my heart; like if anything bad – really, really bad – ever happened to her. I might just stop existing for all the pain I would feel. And to love someone like that, to love someone the way that every parent must love their child is really just too much, it almost makes you feel like you could just keel over and die right there on the spot.

I want a development book that will warn me of these revelations. I want someone to send me a daily e-blast letting me know all the ways that I will be rocked to the core today and then tomorrow and then the day after that. I want to be able to plan ahead so that I can schedule therapy or a trip to the spa to recover from the revelations.

Maybe it would go:

Your kid is one week old! He can see eight inches away and is most likely shitting green mucus.

You are most likely questioning your belief in god. In the coming weeks expect sleep deprivation to lead you into mild hysteria on a daily basis. Expect to feel that you are completely incompetent for the next few months.

Your kid is six weeks old! She is most likely beginning to give the occasional social smile.

You are most likely coming to terms with the fragility of human life. In the coming weeks expect to begin pondering your own capacity for violence should anything ever happen to your precious little one.

Your kid is 5 months old! He is likely developing object permanence and will begin to cry when you leave the room.

You are likely starting to feel terribly guilty all the time. You are realizing that it is your responsibility to raise a decent and loving child. In the coming weeks you may find yourself freaking out over the fact that maybe you don’t know what it truly means to be decent or loving.

Your kid is two! She is beginning to display an increased desire for independence.

You are realizing that time is going by so quickly and soon she will be off on her own and you will be alone, still a parent, but a parent with no child in the house. In the coming weeks or maybe months or maybe years expect to realize that the only way to combat these overpowering thoughts and reality shifts is to just stay present in the moment and stop worrying all the time…

good luck with that!

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