Parents might have good intentions when sharing child-rearing stories, but telling me that I’m fortunate to have missed certain phases of my child’s life is rather thoughtless.
I understand the difficulties of breastfeeding. And having 4 a.m. feedings. And weaning a kid to a bottle. Or weaning a kid from a bottle. And sleep training. And endless nappy changing and potty training. Parents have been sharing their experiences with all of these challenges with me for decades (and I have welcomed them); but now, when some mums look at me earnestly and confide, “You are so lucky that you didn’t have to go through this,” their words strike a nerve.
Yes. They are correct. We didn’t have to go through whatever baby or toddler phase they are dealing with, because we adopted A when he was nearly 5.
But would you tell a parent that they should feel happy to miss their child’s first steps? First words? First spoonfuls of solid food? Or see him or her sprout from an infant to a toddler?
Rather than skip the hard parts, I would have much rather experienced all the challenges along with the more joyful benchmarks — as well as seen A’s height chart on the wall start when he was a year old.
Don’t get me wrong. We get to enjoy lots of firsts. The hard ones and the happy ones. First snow. First taste of ice. First English words. First pizza. First day of school. First merry-go-round ride. You get the picture.
And, we are all grateful he got to spend the first four years of his life with his birth mother and his brothers and sisters in Ethiopia, so he has clear and happy memories of his home there. As his mum, however, I am sad to have missed any of his early years.
I know parents aren’t trying to be hurtful — they simply didn’t think about how I might regret missing potty training, because it is a challenge. Really, they’re probably just blowing off steam and/or trying to connect. They would be mortified if they realised they had made such a flip remark, and probably wouldn’t even remember doing so.
Yet, try to imagine, not knowing exactly what your child was doing for the first five years of their life. Every waking and sleeping moment. It’s sad. Isn’t it?