Looking ahead to better (and worse) parenting times

 By Derek Abma

Parents often fall into one of two categories — looking forward to later stages in their child’s development, or dreading them completely.

It starts when they’re born. It often takes a while to get their sleeping patterns nailed down, so you might find yourself eagerly anticipating a time two or three months
down the road, when not only is your baby sleeping through the night, but so are you. And, to be frank, it takes a few months for babies to fatten their cheeks up and reach optimal cuteness.


Derek Abma and family at the 2012 Parliamentary Press Gallery Christmas Party.

Then again, other parents think about how their baby’s increased mobility — first crawling, then walking — will make their lives more difficult as they have to start sealing off every stairway and moving every breakable item out of the designated safe zones.

I tend to fall into the former category. I look ahead and expect better times in later chapters. I’m starting to realize, though, that nothing’s that straightforward — not in
parenthood or life in general. With every change, certain problems might go away or become more manageable.
But there are always new challenges to take their place.

Right now, my kids are nine and six. Those are fun ages for kids to be, from a parent’s perspective, but also complicated. Then again, there is probably no such thing as a time in your children’s lives when you can sit back and say, “We made it; mission accomplished.”

My parents still stress out about my sister and me, and we’re both in our 40s. I tell myself I won’t do that with my kids when they’re grown up, but I probably will.

But in relation to my earlier point, I’m one of those who focus on what’s a pain in the rear right now, as opposed to in the future.

Take daycare, for example. If you’re a household in which both parents work, it’s something that needs to be considered almost immediately. Daycare centres and before-and-after-school programs have waiting lists that take years to get through.

My kids are now both, thankfully, in the daycare program at their school, but it took a while to get them there. They both went to home daycares in their younger years.

While my wife and I were generally happy with their caregivers, it presented several challenges that were unavoidable with home daycares, such as limited hours, having to arrange transportation between the caregiver’s home and the school, and having to make alternative arrangements when the care provider became ill or had personal issues to attend to.

I looked forward to things such as when the school’s daycare would accept the first child, and then the next.

Their coming of age to go to school was also highly anticipated, largely because it put them closer to qualifying for this daycare and reduced the amount of time for
which daycare was needed.

But I’ve talked to other parents who didn’t embrace such milestones because it brought on separation anxiety and made them feel like their babies were growing up too fast.

Now that I’ve attained this relatively cosy daycare arrangement, frankly, I’m looking forward to not needing it anymore. My son is, too, depending on what kind of day he’s had. My daughter, just months into the school’s daycare program, is still enjoying the novelty of it all.

I’ll certainly save money when I’m not using daycare. But let’s consider the era we’ll be entering then — tweens then teens. We’re talking amplified attitude, raging hormones and temptations at every corner. Some parents fear this. Others who have been there warn me about it.

But being the optimist I am, I look forward to mentoring my kids through adolescence. I think of myself as one of those cool dads who still has the mindset of a teenager; I’ll know exactly what to say when issues arise over things like sex, drugs and drinking.

On the other hand, I’m a bit of control freak. And at that stage of their lives, most of my control will be gone. They won’t be under my supervision, or under anyone’s supervision, when many of those crucial decisions need to be made.

I’ll be giving the best advice I can, hoping it’s the right advice, trying my best to express it correctly and hoping that it’s followed.

What about college and university? Those are my golden years, right? Not if they’re flunking out while costing me thousands of dollars in tuition.

What about when they get married? I might not like their spouses. When they have children? It’ll be kind of funny to see them go through the same stresses I did, though to some extent many of my old parenting anxieties might return, not to mention I’ll probably be changing poopy diapers again.

It’s best to accept that there’s no perfect time in children’s lives or our own lives. The world is designed in such a way that no reward comes without a price.

The most you can do is live in the moment, enjoy it when you can and hope the enjoyable moments continue in the future.

Derek Abma is an Ottawa-based journalist and editor of The Wire Report. He can be reached at derekabma73@gmail or Twitter.com/derekabma.

Photo: Steve Gerecke Photography