In the past few years, our friends who become pregnant often ask us, “What can we do to prepare for being parents?” And of course it always got me to thinking about how, for this unparalleled challenge of raising human beings, there is no government-required certification program, no university or trade school, no fill-in-the-bubble test to earn a license–essentially no preparation at all. For most of us, we’ve had parents, so we just assume that by osmosis, we learned something about parenting, which is true to a certain, very limited extent. But that’s like saying because we’ve all been ON an airplane that we should be able to FLY an airplane–clearly not the case.
Reading books about parenting is awesome, but it’s like reading about a foreign country & not actually visiting it. And trust me, first-time parenthood is exactly like a foreign country–you’re suddenly living with someone who can’t speak your (any) language, & you’re jet-lagged all the time.
Babysitting is probably the closest one can get to practicing parenting, but it lacks the 24-7 effect, the cumulative layers of daily responsibilities & all-consuming focus.
I think the most powerful way to prepare for something is to rehearse it–to go through the actual motions over & over until it feels like something you could do with some kind of familiarity (to say “confidence” would be a bit ambitious in the case of parenting). Since weaning my son on January 1st, just before his first birthday, I returned to working out at my husband’s CrossFit gym (CrossFit 1440), & over the past eight weeks, I’ve developed the attitude that there MUST be a way to train for parenthood, for anything. In CrossFit, they do Workouts of the Day (WODs) that are varied & different almost every time, so that your body always has to keep adapting to new challenges. So, I decided that in the spirit of CrossFit, I would design some Preparing for Parenthood WODs–a number of exercises that parents-to-be could do to get a taste of what they will face, specifically so that they could prepare themselves for the possible scenarios & get a chance to adjust their relationships & their psyches to the challenges that are to come.
Now, mind you, these workouts are going to seem really, really funny, & yes, I’m doing this partially tongue-in-cheek, because it’s the only way I know how to convey what parenting really entails. Parents-to-be may laugh. People who already are parents will definitely laugh. But parents-to-be, if you find yourself not even wanting to try these challenges, then you are not ready, my friends, for a real, live human stranger to come be your roommate for the next 18 years.
A NOTE ON MARRIAGE
The greatest surprise to my husband & me was not so much how parenting affected us as individuals (he is super mellow, & I’m a nervous nelly, among other differences in our personalities), but how fundamentally it changed our marriage. The WODs are designed not just to test each parent, but to also be a dress rehearsal for how they will relate to each other in times of stress & crisis. Who will laugh it off? Who will clamp down & micromanage? Who will refuse to participate? Who will point the finger of blame? Who will console the other & be empathic & supportive? If nothing else, parenting magnifies all that is good & bad about ourselves. Whatever it is that you are now, you will be more of when you parent. It won’t always bring out the best in you, as we are all so sure it will. But hopefully doing the WODs will give you a chance to work out some of those quirks, to shed some of your baggage, to strengthen your communication with each other BEFORE that little peanut arrives…