If you had asked me as a teenager whether I wanted to have kids some day, I would have approached the question as the foreign territory it was. Most of my time back then was spent just trying to make it through each school day without feeling too embarrassed or awkward. The future was a hazy concept, and at best, I knew that I wanted to travel. Kids? Probably not.
I’m glad we change as we age. All that stuff people say about becoming more comfortable in your own skin as you get older seems to be true, at least for me. And while not everybody comes to the decision that they want offspring, I have. It’s hard to say exactly when the shift occurred. There were times, after visiting family members with kids, that my husband, J, and I would exchange glances as if to say, “How do they manage it??” Other times the visits would remind me of my own childhood, and I would think about all the fun things my parents did with me and my sister when we were young. Wouldn’t it be nice, to participate in those experiences from the other side?
One day on a walk I asked J, “What do you think? Do you want kids some day?”
J was quiet for a minute, then said, “Do you?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I think I do.”
“Me too,” said J. Another pause, then, “It’s part of the whole life experience thing, isn’t it?”
And that’s how we decided.
Even after that conversation, I continued to wonder how well I would be able to keep my sanity as a parent. My fears were allayed to some extent a year or two later when I needed a babysitter to watch my dog, and my landlady needed a babysitter to watch her one-year-old.
Dogs are easy. Yes, my dog is the world’s most efficient hair producer, which means that I have invested in a more expensive vacuum cleaner. Yes, I daily pick up steaming dog poop with only the shield of a thin plastic bag. Yes, I’ve cleaned up dog yak from underneath bed and desk, and I’ve spent hours plucking ticks off of her with a pair of tweezers. That stuff isn’t a lot of fun. But mostly? My dog is a 50-lb ball of enthusiasm for life, who enjoys nothing more than going on a long hike. Since one of my favorite activities is walking, we get along great.
When I first began babysitting Brayden, I was worried that I would be stuck in a messy room with a bunch of obnoxiously noisy toddler toys for hours and hours. Instead, we went outside. Because Brayden’s parents didn’t own a baby backpack, we were limited mostly to the paved walking routes that his stroller could handle. In addition to baby, the stroller carried a diaper bag with changing materials, water or juice bottle, snacks, and extra clothing for kiddo if the weather was cold. I would strap my dog’s leash to my waist, and dog, baby, and I would be out the door. We made circuitous routes all around our small town. We walked along the river trail and ran errands. I usually tried to find a park somewhere along the way to stop at. There I would get Brayden out of his seat, let him toddle around on the grass, help him on the playground equipment, and prevent him from eating the sandbox sand and rocks. On almost all of our walks he was a good sport, and would only fuss when the weather turned cold, or when he needed a change or wanted his bottle. From his stroller seat he would stare around at the scenery or take a nap. Meanwhile my dog was getting some exercise, and I was content.
Of course Brayden and I spent time inside as well. I quickly learned that what little kids want most is to get into the things that you want them to stay away from. I moved dishware out of low cabinets, placed baby-gate barricades, and yes, I’ll admit it, I also resorted to television. Within an hour of bringing Brayden into my home, clean rooms became strewn with toys, blankets, and cracker crumbs. I could do chores like making dinner and washing dishes while he was around, but everything took longer. I was always glad to hand Brayden over to his mom at the end of the day, but at the same time, watching him wasn’t quite as difficult as I’d feared it would be. He even surprised me sometimes, like when he actually handed me a book to read to him, and then sat still in my lap through the entire story. It was a short story and it didn’t have a plot, but nevertheless — It was nice.
Now that I’m pregnant with a kiddo of my own, I worry about everything: Will the baby be healthy? How will we manage financially? Will my husband and I find a balance between work and home? I still wonder how well I’ll manage to keep my sanity as a parent, but I worry about this a little less than I used to. The more I read and search online, the more I realize that people who love the outdoors don’t have to give up that lifestyle when they become parents. They modify their lifestyle, yes, but they continue to find ways to do the activities they love, and they introduce their kids to those activities from a young age. That is, after all, why we wanted to become parents, wasn’t it? I refuse to allow myself to expect too much until our own kiddo is here and we find out first-hand what we’re able to accomplish, but I hope very much that, come next summer, I’ll be hitting the local trails, baby, dog, and husband in tow.