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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Stages of parenthood bring new challenges, new joys

Cheryl-Anne Millsap The Spokesman-Review

You know, I’ve been having second thoughts about this whole parenting thing. I wonder if I’m cut out for it.

Oh, I know. With four children it’s probably a little late for that now. But there’s so much more to parenting than anyone let on at the beginning. It’s a lot more difficult than I was led to expect.

So, when, exactly, I’d like to know, does it get any easier?

Before my children were born, I read all the right books. I took my vitamins, made lists of names, gave up all the things that made Friday nights fun and did whatever I could to get us both off to a good start. While I worried about everything, especially the things I couldn’t do anything about, they swam in the dark, sucked their thumbs, turned somersaults and tap-danced on my bladder.

Later I nursed them, rocked them, and held them as close as I could. I sang songs and nursery rhymes to amuse them and bought all the right toys – the kind that promised to teach them at least three new skills and take them to a new developmental milestone each time they played with it.

We went for walks and to the park and listened to Mr. Rogers.

The real trouble started when they learned to put one foot in front of the other. From the first moment they let go of my fingers and toddled across the room, a baby-step or two ahead of me, I’ve been scurrying along behind them, biting my lip.

I didn’t want them to fall. I didn’t want them to get hurt, and I didn’t want them to have any scars.

Now I’ve got teenagers. And I am still a step or two behind them, still trying to keep them safe. And just like the babies who threw their hands up in the air and moved across a room, staggering and stumbling, powered by the force of their own momentum, they don’t look back. And if they do, they just giggle at the sight of me trying to catch up.

Slow down, I want to say. Get your balance and take it slow. But I can’t get the words out because I’m holding my breath.

So, when, exactly, can I stop worrying?

Apparently, never.

Just as I hide a smile when young mothers sigh that they can’t wait until their child learns to walk or goes to school, and some of the burden of child care is eased, the women who have adult children – who have made it through the teenage years – smile at me when I want to know how much longer my children are going to trouble my mind.

Forever, they shrug and say. Forever.

Nothing I read before my babies were born, nothing anyone said to me, adequately conveyed just how difficult this was going to be. I just didn’t get it.

But then neither did I get the message that I would love, more than I ever thought it possible to love, the children that would prove so troublesome.

So, on the days when I’ve had it, when I don’t think I can stand another minute of it; when I have to force myself to turn off the highway toward the very creatures who are driving me crazy; when a part of me would prefer to shake it all off and drive straight out of town, I think again.

And it’s those second thoughts that save me, and point me toward home.

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