You May Not Remember Your First Years of Parenting

You May Not Remember Your First Years of Parenting


I became a dad in January, 2014. It was a day I will never forget. It was almost surreal as I drove my spouse through an ice storm to get her to the hospital, and then flagging down security there because the parking lot elevator wasn’t responding.

I also won’t forget the first time I saw my son “smile” (although it was probably just gas.) I have the image as my lockscreen, so it’s kind of hard to forget. (Aww.)

However, the next few years are patchy for me. We were both neck-deep in changing diapers, coddling him to sleep, and ensuring he didn’t hurt himself or eat something inedible. Our sleep went from an uninterrupted 7–8 hours to a sporadic 4–5 hours per night. We would take turns tending to him in the night, or playing nurse if he was sick (truthfully my spouse did most of the heavy lifting.)

Perhaps this lack of sleep in the early years is what wiped a lot of my memories from that time. I love sleep, but I had to adapt to less of it. (I have since compensated by taking naps during the day to make up for all the sleep I lost when our son was a baby/toddler.)

Our lives were all about him — we made every plan around his well-being, and made sure he was well taken care of outside the home. We constantly strived to satisfy his picky diet. The books we read to him at night were painfully simple and repetitive, and I couldn’t wait to move on. (They’re a lot more interesting now, with elaborate storylines and complicated characters.)

We still do all of these things daily, but pieces of us are coming back.

Now that he’s 8, he’s become more independent. He is now his own person. I still have to prompt him to get dressed, put away his school backpack, brush his teeth, and so on. But for the most part, I can flake out on the couch now while he amuses himself with Lego and video games. He’s enjoying school and looking forward to his first Cub Scout camp, so we’ll actually have a weekend mostly to ourselves.

I have flashbacks of his funny moments, and carrying him around in my arms. I do fondly remember napping beside him during my paternal leave from work (that turned into a full-time freelance writing career.)

But that entire time — up until he was about 4 or 5 — seems almost like a different life now. I get glimpses of it in my head, and sometimes I’m reminded of highlights through Facebook memories. Interestingly, the same goes for him — he remembers more than I do from the earliest days, but he has left the toddler brain behind. He is only looking forward.

Your pre-parenting self will be gone — or at least change

I’m not trying to turn you off of becoming a parent with this piece (although it may require more incentive to have babies in the future.) I just want to point out that you may lose yourself for a while when you take on another life, and it could take some time for you to come back. When you do, you won’t be quite the same.

I’m reminded of a scene from Lost in Translation, my favourite movie of all time. In it, Bob Harris (played by Bill Murray) explains becoming a parent to the much younger Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson):

“Your life, as you know it… is gone. Never to return. But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk… and you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life.”

Perhaps you will remember every second of the experience. My spouse seems to remember a lot more from that time than I do. Perhaps adjusting to being a dad was mildly traumatic for me, in the best way trauma can be. I think I may have some Parenting PTSD. It changed who I am as a person, in ways I’m still figuring out.

Maybe when the smoke clears from recent years (not to mention a pandemic, which required online/homeschooling and other logistical juggling), the missing pieces will flood back into my brain. But for now, I’m grateful for the video evidence of those earlier times with him.

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Photo credit: Derek Thomson on Unsplash


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