I must admit, from where I sit, here in a rocker in a corner of the nursery, the future looks daunting. Terrifying. Overwhelming.
I have charge of one sweet 10-month old, and already, caring for her sometimes feels like an all-consuming task. Her constant need of me, while certainly endearing, is also draining. Clichéd though it may be, there are times when I feel as though I am losing myself in caring for her.
This parenting thing is taking all I've got, and I know it will only become more challenging as she grows. Today, I always know where she is. She loves me implicitly, wholeheartedly, and she never talks back. My biggest concerns are her sleep habits and that persistent bit of diaper rash; I do not worry about sex or drugs or media influence, about discipline or bullying or whether my parenting choices will result in her needing therapy later in life.
I have but one child. I can use her nap times to rest and to write and, when I'm feeling especially ambitious, to catch up on the housework. I think of those that have multiple children and my breath catches a bit. How do they do it all? How will I manage it all?
I know nothing about parenting a 2-year-old or an 18-year-old or anything in between, nothing about caring for multiple children while maintaining my sanity. Toddlers and the capriciousness of their ways terrify me. There are so many pitfalls and potholes to navigate in high school. Don't even get me started on junior high.
This moment, though-the one where my girl sleeps peacefully in her crib and I scratch out these words on my laptop-is one I can handle. I've got this, and I've got the next one, too, the one where she wakes, stretches plump little arms into the air, reaches for me until I pick her up. Though I often feel as though parenting consumes me, I know what to do today. I know how to love her and how to hold her and what to do to meet her needs. I know her cries and her smiles and just the right place to tickle on her belly to elicit a laugh. Ten months I can do.
Ten months I can do, but it occurs to me: had you asked me when she was born if I knew how to parent a 10-month old, I'd have looked at you askance, perhaps chuckled out loud at the thought. A newborn who slept all the day long felt like as much as I could possibly handle.
Perhaps, then, the antidote to my fears is this: to take this life one day, or one hour, or even, when necessary, one moment at a time. To trust that I will be given what I need when I need it, and perhaps not one moment earlier. To face each step in this parenting journey with love and hope and laughter and grace and prayer.
I do not have what I need for tomorrow's challenges, but I will grow along with my daughter, along with my family, little by little, changing and adapting and learning as I go.
From the rocker in the corner of the nursery, the future still looks terrifying. But loving a 10-month old is the task in front of me today, nothing more or less than that, and this, this I know how to do.