Sometimes life just isn't what you thought it would be. When I had my first daughter five years prematurely, my husband was just finished his first year of a four year university degree. The timing of having a baby seemed unwise indeed, but come along she did. When she was a little baby, my family lived two and a half hours away and we often made the trip with our precious little package in the back seat of our Honda hatchback, the wind whipping her hair and threatening to steal her breath. It struck me then that I'd always assumed that when I became a mother, I would have air conditioning. And a house. And I'd know what I was doing.
I did have a very good sense to know what to do with babies. I naturally was attracted to them, felt comfortable with the breast-feeding, the diapering, the cuddling and the cooing. It was exhausting, but fairly black and white. Then they turned into children, and all the books and classes suggested that good parents would not parent by gut feeling or conviction, but through advise and education. Lest we screw them up for good. I sensed my gpa slipping fast. But by the time I had my fourth, I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the whole "preschooler" thing. I knew what I felt was important. I knew what worked, and what didn't work. Too late for the first three guinea pigs who were now dragging me through bigger kid boot camp.
But that's how life is. When we were kids, we knew our parents were mean and horrible at times, but we always assumed that they knew what they were doing. We assumed that they didn't torture themselves at night, wondering if they were "enough". If we were naughty, it was because we were rebellious, fleshly little brats who should obey their parents if we wanted our lives to go on at all.
I'm at the mid-point of my life now, if I live to be reasonably old. I know some stuff now. I know that parents are actually made up of two separate people with two separate brains. I know that parents are actually people. I know that most of us bumble along to some degree, mixing what we've learned with what we hope is true.
There are other parts to my adulthood that have come at me by surprise. All was not as it appeared. And I'm left with the sense that surely there had been a lecture on this stuff, and I must have daydreamed through it because I'm just not sure of the right way to navigate. It smacks of my grade 11 geography teacher who used to teach material from notes he had compiled years back, but then tended to hand out a test on materials from an entirely different stack. The kids who were smart and remembered all the geography they had ever taken in their eleven years tended to do fine. I tended to fail.
And we're not in grade eleven geography any more.