I think we can all agree that no stage of parenting is easy.
That said, some parts are more difficult than others. The breastfeeding, the tantrums, and the wrestling match that is brushing teeth, all seem to be the worst when you’re in the thick of it.
But then, as time goes by, new challenges present themselves. Just as you’ve finally adjusted and figured out a stage, a new one emerges and replaces everything you think you know.
I was ready as I could be for all of that. I understood that things would constantly shift and change, and I continue to roll with it all the best I can.
There is one thing, though, that gets me every time. I was not ready for it. It strikes fear, it feeds on insecurity, and it will make the happiest, most unassuming person cringe.
I was not prepared for the phenomenon that I call the “wait untils.”
The “wait untils” involves any person in your life using anything you’re complaining about (or even just mentioning in passing) right now to tell you how much harder things will be later. It goes something like this:
Me: “The baby is only sleeping for an hour at a time, and I’m exhausted.”
Other person: “Just wait until that four-month sleep regression. We didn’t sleep for months.”
Me: “Man, our toddler is starting to throw tantrums, and we are having a really tough time with it.”
Other person: “That is nothing. Wait until they’re a teenager! They will not listen to anything you say.”
You get the picture. And I know you’ve been there. Honestly, I’ve been both people in those scenarios.
Why do we do it? Why do we feel the need to say these things?
Is it because we want to relate and the only way to do that is to subconsciously one-up the other person? Do we genuinely want to warn them about what’s to come? Are we a little jaded?
I think so. Yes to all of these.
When we got pregnant with our second, it was my worst round (thus far) of the “wait untils.” Most of the musings centered around the transition from one to two children: “Wait until you have TWO of them to deal with! Wait until you have TWO in diapers! Wait until one gets sick at daycare and brings it home to the other one! You’ll pull your hair out!”
I heard it from people with kids, people without kids, well-meaning people, people who for all intents and purposes are mad at life. I heard it from friends, family, and strangers. (I was even told that having two kids would be so hard that it could effect my job performance and I should really ‘think about what that means.’)
So…wait until my kids get in the way of my career?
I have an idea. What if throwing out how much worse things will get WASN’T our go-to response?
What if we just listened and took in what the other person was saying? What if we read between the lines and figured out that someone can be struggling AND still enjoying their kids at the same time?
It’s not far-fetched. But it’s hard.
We need to address this, though. Because even if someone thinks they’re being helpful, they’re not.
Recently I was listening to a psychology podcast about negative self-talk. Did you know that our default response is generally negative when we are faced with a dilemma or even given information? Our minds tend to think the worst; we have to train them to do otherwise. We have our work cut out for us to even try to be positive in our OWN minds, without the opinions of anyone else!
If this is true, why on earth would we want to add to the negativity that already exists?
So, I’m asking us (all of us) to really stop and think before we provide that response. Take two seconds and ask yourself, “if I was in their position, would what I’m about to say be deemed helpful?” If it’s not, then let’s not.
Instead, let’s make the “wait untils” good.
Let’s spin them on their axes. Let’s throw some pixie dust or whatever you want to throw at them and shine them up like a penny you found in a parking lot.
How about “Wait until she can talk and you hear her say ‘mama’ for the first time!”
“Wait until he asks for your help building Legos and you construct a tower just to knock it down together!”
“Wait until she wants you to read her college admissions essay and give your opinion.”