This one’s inspired by some wonderful friends who recently became parents. The new father told me as the due date was approaching that he and his wife were simultaneously thrilled and terrified. My immediate thought, although I didn’t say it then was, “Yeah? Get used to that feeling, Buddy. It’s doesn’t ever go away. It’ll just ebb and flow and the context will change.” I think that showed great restraint on my part, but now I have to come clean. I need to let folks know, you never escape that feeling of wonder and fear.

Consider this. You spend the baby’s infancy thrilled at every new physical and mental landmark. And every one of them IS remarkable. I can think of nothing in my life that has amazed me like watching every new benchmark in the development of my children. They all happen so fast it’s almost too much to assimilate. And while all of that wonderfulness is going on, thoughts like ” are they eating enough? Are they in the right growth percentiles? Am I doing everything I can to protect the child from illness? Do we immunize for this but not that? How many injections are you planning on giving that infant to inoculate it for how many diseases? Does the baby get enough outside time? Am I overexposing the baby to sunlight?” are all screaming through your brain.

The child continues to grow and as it does the scale of terror and delight just shifts a few degrees. The child says it’s first word and the parents are elated. Then the worry sets in. The first thing the parents do after recording the first word in the baby book is rush online to Google “first words” and figure out whether their kid hit theirs during the right developmental window. Now all of a sudden you’re worrying about EDUCATION! Preschool, kindergarten, public school vs private vs home schooling. Should I do flash cards with my baby? Is that over-stimulating? Wil we let the baby watch education themed DVD’s? Does TV really just rot their brains? Is there such a thing as an ok amount of screen time?

The child continues to grow and it goes mobile! Again the parents are instantly and simultaneously elated and horrified. Our child is in motion! Your very next thought will be, “OH SHIT! This kid is moving!” Because now they’re testing everything you thought you baby proofed 8 months ago.  Every unforeseen hazard that a child might pick up and put in it’s mouth is now a choking hazard. Every piece of furniture that an adult intuitively can see will be unstable is now a threat to topple over on Baby Precious if they attempt to pull up on it. AND THEY WILL! Electrical outlets….don’t get me started.

The language skills continue to develop further and the education thing starts anew. You call your most trusted friends and say, “Well the baby knows all kinds of animals on sight and the sounds they make when she sees pictures of them. But she thinks every color she sees is blue when asked. Oh my God, is she color blind? Can the pediatrician test for that?” Or you tell them, “When you ask her how many of anything are in front of her the first answer is always “four.” Is that normal for a child her age?”,

Then they get a little older and they start going outside the home for extended periods of time, sometimes without you! Yes, that’s right. For reasons that only they can understand, our children want to go out into the world and DO THINGS! As parents we’re so proud and so scared! We start asking questions like, “How many floaties is excessive when they want to learn to swim? What’s too young to teach my child about stranger danger?” Never mind the insecurities like I hope they have a great day at preschool. I hope his classmates like him and he makes lots of new friends. I hope he’s not bullied. I hope he’s not THE bully!

I mean, hell, our oldest is in elementary school, so my wife and I haven’t even gotten to tweens, teens, etc, and I KNOW that when they’re grown and gone from my home it won’t stop. I’ll be thrilled when they meet people that they want to spend the rest of their lives with, but I’ll worry whether or not that that person is the right one for them. I’ll worry when they have kids of their own as I’m simultaneously celebrating my potential role as grandparent and plotting just how much I’m going to spoil their kids.

As far as I can tell, the terror and the thrill of parenting are inextricably linked. And the potential for both are nearly infinite. They’re opposite sides of the same coin. So my advice to all parents and parents to be, embrace the contradiction now. Treasure every thrill. Try to minimize the terror with laughter, constant communication and a bottomless well of love.

What are some of the questions/concerns that I overlooked?