In August of 2000, I found out that I was expecting. I remember feeling ‘off,’ and we were traveling in the heat and humidity of Savannah, Georgia, and I contributed my off-ness to the unkind southern summer weather. As we drove towards the hotel for the night, we saw a daiquiri bar, and although I didn’t drink much, an occasional sweet frozen delight in the hot summer sounded like heaven on earth. However, I was feeling off; we had been trying for nearly a year to become first-time expecting parents, so we stopped at the drug store for a pregnancy test on the way into town.
It was positive.
Best. Day. Ever. That second blue line changed my world.
We kept our secret until we could assemble my parents from Massachusetts and his parents in Lubbock for the grand reveal. Sonograms in picture frames for each set of first-time grandparents wrapped in gift sacks with baby blue and soft pink tissue paper. Tears, hugs, and excitement abounded with that gift that hasn’t ever stopped giving.
As our news spread, we were gifted the book, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” Of course, you’ve seen it. Back then, the cover was creamy-yellow (still may be), and there are sequels – What to Expect the First Year, the Second Year, How to Eat Well When you’re Expecting – it’s an absolute monopoly on child-rearing. I read those books and highlighted things, left the book open to specific pages where my husband would be sure to notice the section about rubbing pregnant ladies’ feet. I mean, I was ALL IN.
Now, however, it is 2021.
The books and instruction stopped by the time my kiddo was entering pre-school. But that was OK because I had it all under control, and I had figured it out. Author, Heidi Murkoff, had done her job and orientated me to pregnancy, newborn phase, and toddler-dom. I was ready! And, I was.
I navigated kindergarten. I navigated elementary school and figured out what the best birthday treats and state-testing snacks were. I hosted slumber parties and realized that paying a little bit for an elementary school birthday party venue was well worth the cost, compared to cleaning my house and planning activities for many darlings who didn’t care if I had dusted, mopped, OR put the laundry away. Thank you, Ms. Murkoff; I am well on my way.
I navigated overnight camp in middle school, before-school football practices, girl-drama, Belles & Beaux post-parties, homecoming mums, antiquated middle school gyms, and social media (cringe).
In high school, I navigated broken hearts and breaking hearts. I balanced the responsibility of being an advocate for my kids at school and letting them stand up for themselves (but honestly, I could use a do-over with that one, I think I could do better). I navigated first jobs, parent-taught Driver’s Ed (that’s another one – maybe leave that to the professionals), proms, prom parties, how to sign up for the SAT & ACT, how to earn dual-credit in the summers to get a little ahead on the hefty bill that a University would bring.
I expected all of that.
That is all I was preparing myself for.
All of that was in my sight as I was expecting for the first time. Now, however, 20 years have passed, and I wasn’t expecting any of this.
I didn’t expect to drive away from the university that my two children call home full-hearted, with the choices that they have made and the people they have become.
I didn’t expect to start crying when I drove by the sororities with giant letters on their perfect lawn and gaggles of sisters outside practicing their welcome songs as they are anxious to meet their recruits (i.e., my kid).
I didn’t expect only to empty the dishwasher every three days or so and kind of miss emptying it daily.
I didn’t expect that one of my proudest moments would be visiting my son at college for parent’s weekend his freshman year and realizing that he had found his people. He is thriving on his own. He is a well-adjusted, functioning member of society.
I didn’t expect that finding my daughter’s shirt in my laundry basket after she moved to college would cause me to cry and make those awful snorting sounds as I tried to control my emotions.
I guess, in short, I didn’t expect, 20 years ago, that two blue lines would grow into a fantastic adult (and then another one). I didn’t expect my love for them to deepen each year that they grew. I didn’t expect that an empty laundry room would make me nostalgic. I didn’t expect that their independence and strength would take them away.
And, I didn’t expect that my 8.5 oz perfect baby boy would ever comfort me, the mom, 20 years later with an enveloping hug and the sweet whisper, “I love you, mom,” before I drove home again.
Parenting is not what I expected. Good, bad, I don’t know. But what I can attest to you is that it gets better and better.
For context, the boy in this essay is a 20-year-old Junior at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville (approximately 627.4 miles away from his parents’ home in Lubbock, TX). He was the snuggliest baby and toddler with the most vibrant blue eyes. When he was fussy, he fell asleep to Kenny Rogers’ “The Greatest.” The girl in this story is 18 months younger than her brother and is an 18-year-old freshman at the same university. She has had the strength and determination of a bull since in utero and loves her momma more than she would ever admit.