As a new parent I get a lot of love, support, knowing glances, hugs and advice (some good, some best forgotten) from family, friends and even strangers. And there’s one more thing I hear frequently:
“Just you wait!”
When I heard these words from a mom in the parking lot at Trader Joe’s, it made me realize just how often I hear this phrase as a first-time parent. I was sliding my fussy baby into a carrier before walking in to do some shopping. She was strapping her toddlers into their car seats, ready to go home. She looked at me knowingly, pointed to her car and said “Just you wait … it gets worse.”
My face probably looked like a giant question mark (I cannot for the life of me keep my emotions from shining through my face) before I stammered something like “Oh-haha-yeah-thanks-bye.”
On the one hand, I guess I appreciate the you’re-part-of-the-mom-club-now acknowledgement, but on the other hand, how do I react? Going grocery shopping with more than one kid isn’t something I have a lot of experience with, but I imagine it can be exhausting. So perhaps I caught this mama at a low point, when she felt it was her duty to warn me of the dangerous, horrible, no-good perils to come.
“Just you wait…” is all at once a head nod from parents who have been there before – solidarity! But at the same time, it’s a way of separating the new parents from the veterans. A subtle way of saying “Oh, you think you’re in the parent club just because you have a baby? Pfft. You have no idea what’s coming…” Cue the scary music: duhn dun dunnnnnn.
This phrase can be confusing and even anxiety-provoking. It invites new parents to have a seat at the table and learn at least part of the secret handshake of the parent ‘hood. But it also puts up a wall between newbies and the pros.
Sometimes these little words are paired with the oft-quoted and sweet (but sometimes obnoxious), “it goes by so fast, enjoy it!” But it can also be a little more ominous.
“Just wait… until she can talk back.”
“Just wait… until she’s a threenager, or worse, a teenager.”
“Just you wait… until you have another baby, then you’ll see.”
This gets me thinking, when does it end? Just wait … until she’s walking? Driving? Just you wait … until you have two kids? Until you have three? What happens then, if I wait? Do I get a prize, or better yet, the Official Best Number One Handbook on parenthood?
For now I’m trying my best to focus on the now, the moments I have with my daughter just the adorable, amazing, exhausting way she is right now (at nearly 8 months old.) I’m also going to work on hearing “just you wait” without feeling that stab of anxiety or worrying about my legitimacy as a mom.
I also can’t promise I won’t say these words to a new mom when I have a few more years as a parent under my belt. I just hope this new mom knows that if I say it, I probably have good intentions. A need to share my cautionary, but friendly, tale. Not a warning that she might be one bend in the river away from getting tossed over a giant waterfall. Probably a waterfall of poop. Just kidding. (But not really. There really is a lot of poop, amiright?)