I'll admit, I was pretty young when I had my first. The thought should have terrified me, but somehow it didn't. I was 21 and lived 3,000 miles away from "home". I think just one of those factors would have freaked out most, but the one thing I was always certain of was that (one day) I wanted to be a mom. Ironically I always wanted at least two children, and no more than four. Go ahead and laugh, but hey, I stopped at 4. I had two, followed by a big gap, and two more. I often say that I've got "two sets of two" and at one point I was SO sure that my life was so crazy that TLC could pick up my life as a reality show called, "A Teen, a Tween and Two Toddlers"! Having a huge gap (9 years) gave me this really cool (and somewhat exhausting) perspective having been a young mom, and then the (ahem!) "seasoned" mom. Yup, being the mature mom is a lot like fine wine... halfway in it hits you JUST how tired you you feel!
Finding out I was pregnant turned my world upside down. To say I was ready would be an understatement. But, is anyone really ready to be a mother in their early 20s? While I wasn't prepared, I embraced motherhood by focusing on someone other than myself. If you have kids, you know that putting your kids first is usually the path you take. Admittedly the most terrifying part was telling my mom she was about to be a Grandma! I joke now, but at the time I remember feeling relieved once I told my parents. As a native Marylander, I chased the sunset to San Diego, California. I left the nest at the ripe old age of 19; why you ask? Because I knew everything about the world, and I was so sure I had it figured out! Are you laughing yet? You should be because it *is* funny to reflect on how naive I was. On the same subject, I recently had a conversation with a dear friend about her own daughter leaving the nest. She was filled with "what ifs" and exuded so much anxiety. I shared my story with her and reminded her of this: As you go through life, you don't know what you don't know! I know that sounds odd, but it's true. Typically when you are young you lack experience, so everything you learn is part of your life journey. You don't quite realize that older, wiser folks are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads - and thank God for that right? Could you imagine if we REALIZED how silly some of our experiences seem to others? When we are going through our trials and tribulations, we see our journey with a very narrow scope. Whew! Seriously though, it's a good thing we're oblivious! It's only looking back at the mistakes we've made, complete with all of the face-palms we realize just how far we've come. I had NO idea how clueless I was, but I had the confidence in me to figure it out and every mistake was a new opportunity to get it right the next time. Hopefully my friend can find comfort in this thought. As parents, all we can do is the best we can until our children leave our grasp - then it's all up to them.
But, of all the mistakes I made - my son Gavin wasn't a mistake. He's one of the greatest gifts of my entire life, and though this may sound odd to those outside of our family, I lovingly and jokingly refer to him as my "practice child"! Understand that in no way shape or form do I consider his life or my role in his life "practice" for something better. Much like when I was young when I moved out into the world - I just didn't know what I didn't know. I had to figure it out the old-fashioned way; practice! Most things in life take a little bit of practice to get the hang of it, so my first child was definitely the learning curve so to speak! As the oldest, Gavin either had it "way harder" or "way easier" than his siblings. Only time will tell as his siblings have many years to go! In all honestly, I'm fairly certain that my parenting style won't change. I'd like to think I'm "laid back, but firm + you can only push me so far" and so far it's been pretty effective. My kids all know just how much I love them, but they also know if they try to push me they'll be on the bad side of crazy. Nobody likes that! It's always best to stay on the good side of crazy! I know a lot of parents reading this know what I'm saying...if not, just know that if you're struggling, it's good to let the bats out of the belfry every once in a blue moon. You don't always have to show your kids THAT side of crazy (and certainly I don't mean call CPS kinda crazy), but trust me, every now and then you gotta play that card! So....I'll keep at it with my laid back but firm loving approach, coupled with just enough side-eye sprinkled in to keep my kids in line. After all, we don't want another spaghetti noodle incident now do we?
Despite a few bats in the belfry, Gavin and I have this connection that I adore. The late night chats in our kitchen about his life and love interests, and how so-and-so is doing something stupid...again. I love that my son will tell me when he's struggling, ask for advice, and gives the best hugs me whenever he sees me. No really, he hugs me every. single. day. He also knows that I'll say "Drive safe, I love you" when he leaves, and he appreciates it because I raised him to understand that telling someone to be safe, and that you love them isn't a burden. I raised him to be loved and loving without ever thinking about it. I pray he always loves those around him in that genuine way, and I hope he never loses that big heart of his. Moreover, I hope nobody ever breaks his heart, but I know it's probably inevitable. I know just like being young and leaving the nest, and having a child at a young age that sometimes heartache is practice for what's to come. Just like everything in life we have to learn from the hard times. Aside from normal parental fears for the future (you know, having a 36 year old neckbeard living in the basement), I'm pretty confident that my "practice child" will do just fine. He's starting college this fall, and I couldn't be more proud. I'm eager and excited to see what comes next, and if his heart is any indication for the future, he'll have a loving family one day too. As his mom, it's exciting and terrifying to begin a new chapter and the words college, love and family gives me far more than a smidge of anxiety. Weren't we just watching him in the High School Musical this past spring??? Most of all, my mind is blown that he's just a few years from the age I was when I had him. I would just die if he moved 3,000 miles away - I might chain myself to his car if he tried!
My pregnancy with Gavin wasn't easy. In fact, all 3 of my boys gave me the run for my money. Gavin was the first though, and his birth shaped my perspective of pregnancy which easily helped with later pregnancies. At 24 weeks I was put on bedrest. I had been having preterm contractions and was told to lay flat, don't get out of bed and to rest. I never got a chance to take Lamaze classes (that's the outdated term for "childbirth" classes - but it's seldom used anymore.) I remember taking the most annoying drug called "Terbutaline" which they don't even prescribe anymore. Those crack pills made my heart race and I hated every single second of taking them and I'm not shocked that they don't prescribe them anymore! I was released from bedrest at 36 weeks but of course, but I didn't deliver him until 40 weeks (and 4 days)! Who knew he'd take so long after all that??? Maybe one day I'll have the courage to write his birth story - for now I'd have to figure out how to tell it without using 4-letter words!! That was 18 years ago, which seems like an eternity; the year 2000! That was back when you couldn't just Google ANYTHING because "internet" was in it's infancy and that's also the year I invented Pinterest.
SIDENOTE: Yes, I said that's also the year I "invented" Pinterest! Okay, so disclaimer: Maybe it's not the Pinterest, but it's a funny anecdote. People laugh when I tell this story; sometimes they are laughing with me, sometimes laughing at me. I don't care though, bring the laughs because I think it's funny too. So here's the scoop - I had the basic concept for Pinterest. I needed a "page" to go to where I could link all of my favorite things. Being a visual person, I wasn't happy with a bookmark bar, so I created a webpage (via Dreamweaver) where I placed thumbnails of photos that linked to all of my favorite things on the internet -which in the year 2000 was like...oh....20 things? It was my very own "bulletin" board, complete with pics. Sound familiar? So again, it obviously wasn't the actual Pinterest, but the concept is identical and I had this idea nearly a decade before it was"invented". If only I had realized just how valuable my thought process was! Hey, if Al Gore invented the internet, then I invented Pinterest; so there!
Alright - so chasing California dreams, pregnancy, bedrest, and inventing Pinterest. It was a ride, but most of all I made it through to the other side. It took 18 years and a little bit of practice but, Hallelujah I (technically) have a grown-up now! I'll leave you with this: My practice child is pretty incredible and I love him dearly, oh and whenever you are surfing Pinterest, think of me!