However imperceptibly, rites of passage change us, preparing us for new opportunities in life. Here are just a few rites of passage, both painful and joyous, that are requisite in parenthood. Which of these events have you gone through, and which do you have to look forward to?
Ask any parent what the best day of his or her life has been. Chances are, the days their children were born rank right up at the top. Childbirth is frightening — full of risk, and it's unlike anything else you've ever gone through. It is utterly life-changing to enter into the valley of the shadow of death to bring forth life. A few minutes after I had my first child, I was struck with a powerful and humbling thought: "I am a mother."
Sleeping through the night
Our second child had a rough time in the beginning. He only slept through the night one time in his first year of life (appropriately enough, it was on Mother's Day — when he was about six months old). It took another six months for him to do it again. To say that I craved sleep is an understatement. Sometimes, I felt I would never feel like a human being again. Never fear, though. Parents eventually get their personalities back and feel at least somewhat normal again once their children sleep through the night.
Learning to speak
Those first few words are magical, but one real rite of passage is being able to have an actual conversation with your child. The laughter, the silly phrasing and language choices are what make those first conversations with your young child so memorable.
Going to school
I have a love/hate relationship with school. I love all it teaches my children and all that my kids get to experience, but I hate being away from my children all day (although, to be honest, we all need breaks sometimes). Going to school is a whole new world, and it's exciting to see your kids experience so many firsts in a classroom setting.
Humiliating you in public
You haven't earned your parental badge of honor until your child embarrasses you in public. From getting sick and not making it to the bathroom in time to asking a stranger an inappropriate question, my kids have provided my husband and me plenty of opportunities to feel humble. The good thing is, in any situation like this, there is usually at least one other parent in the room who has experienced the same thing.
Learning to read
Books are important to me, so I naturally beamed with pride when my kids began bringing me books to read to them. Learning to read is a long, challenging process, so to witness your child mastering reading, one step at a time, is rewarding. One of my favorite things is seeing my kids curled up with a book. This rite of passage is great payback for all of the hardships we experience as parents.
That moment when your child can gather his towel and clean clothes, turn on the water, soap up, wash his hair without leaving bubbles, turn off the water, towel off and get dressed all by himself is life changing. It seems like such a simple thing, but to parents, it's huge.
Hanging out with friends
Allowing your children to experience how others live and how other households are run can be illuminating. Staving off the "But Mom, Ben's mom lets him do that!" can be annoying sometimes, but I have learned a lot from having my kids' friends over and letting my kids go to their friends' houses.
Caring for a pet
For various reasons, it took us a long while to get to the point where we were ready for our first family pet. When we finally got a kitten, it was a joy to watch the kids care for her and love her. This particular rite of passage is both practical and emotional. Taking care of a pet teaches children responsibility and selflessness, but it also opens up the possibility that they will experience heartache and loss. These are all things that are best learned earlier, rather than later, in life.
Getting that first job
My first real job was working at a potato processing plant. At age 18, I spent eight hours a day cutting rotten spots out of potatoes that endlessly passed me on a conveyor belt. Although it was monotonous and backbreaking work, I'm glad that my parents taught me the value of work by supporting me in my first job. However bittersweet for parents, this rite of passage is one important step toward your child becoming an adult.