Expectations of Parenthood

By ERIN TURNER

This summer my oldest child turns 16 years old. I can’t comprehend where that time went. People told me it would go fast but until you experience it yourself, you have no idea. Sixteen. Wow.

This time of year I  reminisce a lot about that first pregnancy. With the opening of a new maternity center at our local Providence St. Patrick Hospital, I’m finding myself doing walks down memory lane. I was absolutely blessed to have Dr. Mark Garnaas make the journey into parenthood three times with my husband and me. It was an excellent experience and obviously one that is near and dear to my heart!

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My sweet baby boy as anewborn.

As an expecting mom, I had lots of expectations. I’ve always been a planner and a good organizer. My career at the time thrived on good planning and organization so logically I figured I’d just shift that skill right into motherhood and I’d have no worries.

Planning and organizing for the baby gave me a sense of control over such a monumental shift in my life. I had every diaper arranged cutely in baskets, every onesie folded and laid lovingly in drawers and a birth plan that would put Martha Stewart to shame.

Yup, this parenthood stuff was going be a piece of cake with homemade buttercream frosting in various shades of blue for my new baby boy! Then life happened and taught me the true lesson of parenthood: Humility, flexibility and acceptance on all levels.

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Ethan teasing his mom and dressing like ahillbilly!

I first started learning the lesson moments before Ethan arrived. My dear husband was trying hard to be helpful and useful during delivery so he decided his job was to keep a wet wash cloth on my forehead. It bothered me and I didn’t want it on my forehead so I finally snapped and said to him, “Stop putting that on my forehead! You’re going to ruin my hair for the pictures!”  I remember thinking, “Wow–now THAT was a weird thing to say!” See, I’m not usually concerned about how I look–especially after giving birth AND I was hardly the wife who was critical or snappy to her husband.

I didn’t plan for that reaction. It was the furthest thing from what I had envisioned happening. This memory has given us lots of laughs over the years, but deep down it also serves as the beginning of my “real” motherhood. Not the one I had planned out on sheets and sheets of papers or had conjured up in my head. No, this was the beginning of being a real mom who was quickly learning that expectations may not be reached the exact way I intended. Although, when I learned to bend with the situation, life rewarded me even more than I had planned!

Stpats3-252x300Sixteen years ago, this precious boy with blond hair (which, um, I didn’t expect!) was placed in my arms. I was his and he was mine! At that time, I never imagined him growing into who he is today. I had visions of an average-sized, outgoing teen who would probably play football and maybe some basketball too. Maybe he’d be a doctor or possibly a lawyer. What I have today is Grizzly Adams on stilts (although he hasn’t quite got the beard yet)! This 6’1″ kiddo loves the outdoors and is an animal whisperer. He dreams of owning a ranch in eastern Montana and running hundreds of cattle on it. He is quiet and prefers small groups of people. He is incredibly strong physically and mentally. And loyal. Oh, man he is as loyal as the day islong.

Did he meet my expectations? No, not at all. In fact, he failed miserably. And I’m SO grateful that he didn’t meet my expectations! By stepping back and allowing our kids to form their own identity, separate of our own visions for them, they usually surpass our expectations and become well-adjusted and happy young people. And isn’t that what we all want for our precious kids?

StPats2-224x300It’s been humbling to let go of my preconceived ideas, my well-thought-out plans and my lofty expectations. I’ll admit there were days over the last 16 years when I struggled with the acceptance of anything but what I had planned. I didn’t expect to snap at my husband in the delivery room, I didn’t expect to leave the restaurant with a screaming toddler, I didn’t expect to have difficulties with breastfeeding and most of all, I didn’t expect my children to blossom into the beautiful and unique young souls they aretoday.

My husband and sons were my teachers. I watched for years how my ever-patient husband handled a change of plans and how free he seemed in his acceptance of the new plan. Meanwhile, I compared how my sons experienced life if they were doing what I had planned to the exact minute and how they experienced life in a more free and positive way if I allowed life to happen regardless of how I had it scheduled.

By lingering a little longer on hikes rather than rushing off to the next planned activity, we’ve seen wildlife, sunsets and found “super cool” rocks that we otherwise would have missed. By letting my toddlers fall when they learned to walk, they gained independence and perseverance. By letting the kids cast their fishing pole just one more extra time, they’ve landed their first fish. By taking the road less traveled, we discovered ranches and farms that ignited a passion for agriculture in our son. The rewards of letting go of expectations set in stone are immense and worthwhile.

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The Turner boys with their indivdual and uniquepersonalities!

I realized that happy, lifelong memories happen in the unplanned crevices of life. So, slowly over the years I have loosened my grip on the calendar, the planner and my always ticking watch.

Not that I’ve become lazy and lackadaisical, I still plan and organize (how do you think we get to all the cool places?) and expect my sons to behave appropriately but I allow for freedom, adventure and spontaneity. My husband calls it “planned spontaneity” and it works for us! We are creating those crevices of life rather than paving them over with stringent plans or expectations.

The same goes for how I view my boys and their emerging young adult personalities. Guiding them with general moral principles and allowing them to develop the rest gives them ownership in their “person.” They are being who they were destined to become and have truly invested in that destiny.

In my recent travels down memory lane, I came across a letter I wrote Ethan on the eve of his first birthday. I had forgotten about that letter. It talked of our first year as a family, the growth Ethan had that first year and all the excitement for the future. But today as I read it I realized the last paragraph summarized my ultimate expectation for all my kids…happiness, joy and love.

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“My hope for you as a young adult is to find those things in life which make you happy. I want you to know only happiness, joy and love. Although, you’ll only appreciate those things
when you experience sadness, pain and heartbreak at times. I am sure we will have our differences throughout life, but please know that I honor you and respect your decisions. I love you more today than yesterday and I’ll love you more tomorrow than I did today.”

For all of you who are embarking on parenthood, you have lots of decisions and choices to make. Everything from your doctor and birthing facility to the name of your baby and what brand diaper you’ll use! These are important choices. You may have certain expectations for them all, but take some advice from someone who has made the journey…be humble, flexible and accepting! The reward? Giving your precious child happiness, joy and love.

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This blog is sponsored by #Providence as part of a campaign to raise awareness about their new, state-of-the-art family facility at Providence St. Patrick Hospital. All opinions are my own. #StPatsBabies

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Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.  Read more of Erin’s blogs about homesteading, farming, homemaking and other fun things at TurnerFarmLiving.com

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