Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A first-time expectant parent's fear of the unknown - myself

I'm expecting my first child.

I'm not very far along yet; there's still seven months to go. Apart from starting to have a look at our financial situation, I haven't done any of the things that expectant parents do to prepare for the birth of their child. I haven't painted the nursery (AKA the soon-to-be-former guest room). I haven't picked out the perfect crib/carseat/receiving blanket yet. I haven't bought the toys or books I'll need. I haven't even told the prospective grandparents about their impending grandparentosity yet.

That doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about all those things. I've checked out how much diapers cost. I've started thinking about paint colours. I've been to ToysRUs and strolled through the aisles looking at all the stuff I may or may not need. I've been frightened by the fact that I couldn't identify something that was hanging off of every crib in the store. It only served to enhance the knowledge that I have deep down inside me that I can't possibly be ready for this.

I'm not mature enough. I'm not responsible enough, and if I can't even figure out what that...that thing on the cribs is for how could I ever have thought I'd be smart enough for this?

Okay. Deep breath. I can do this.

I believe I'm experiencing the fear that every parent-to-be has no doubt felt since our species became capable of (ir)rational thought. The fear that I'll be completely responsible for an utterly dependant human life and that I'll screw it up. I can't predict how I'll react to the situations I'll soon encounter, because I've never been in them before.

Then I read this: Open letter to the family I saw at Target last night, while my sister and I were buying a mop.

The first example in the letter is of a mother who, after her younger child almost runs off into a busy street, spanks him a few times with a Nerf bat. This is the type of thing I'm afraid I will do. That fear or rage or helplessness will make me lose control and I'll do or say something I'll regret.

But the point of the letter, a telling-off of the atrocious parents that the author saw the previous night, actually relieved my fears. Not that I was in any way pleased by what I read. That poor child will grow up brutally in a house full of people that don't care about him, which will have lasting negative implications throughout his life. No one deserves to be treated that way, especially not a child and especially not by his own parents.

No, the reason I was relieved is because I cannot by any stretch of my imagination see myself behaving in a way that approaches this behaviour. I can sympathize with the mother with the Nerf bat. I can laugh at Homer Simpson strangling Bart because they are fictional characters doing things that all of us have at one time or another wanted to do. But I can never, ever imagine telling my child that not only do I not love them, but that no one does.

And I hope that if I ever do behave in such a manner that someone around me will call the police as the author of the letter did, because my child doesn't deserve that. No child does.

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