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Milestones to Becoming a 'Real Parent'

By Jeana Lee Tahnk

It's hard to say when one becomes an official parent: Is it when you find out you're pregnant? When the baby is in your arms for the first time? You're officially given the heralded title of "parent" when that baby is handed to you in the delivery room, but for me, parenting is a never-ending journey. The experiences of "real" parenting happen over the course of days, weeks, months, even years.

Parenting is filled with so many joys - too many to count - but there are challenges along the way as well. Especially the first time around, when everything is a question mark. Let's face it: No new parent really knows what she's doing at the beginning. I know I didn't.

While the hugs and cuddles are a built-in bonus for parenting, the real part comes into play for the not-so-rosy times - when you're up all night with a sick baby, for instance - and the constant worrying you'll always do when it comes to your kids.

Being there for those milestones and all those firsts is amazing, but parenting happens not only for those firsts, but also for the seconds, thirds and many more thousands of experiences you have as a present and dedicated parent.

Nine years in and three kids later, I think it's safe to say I've achieved "real parent" status. But at the same time, I have many more milestones ahead of me in uncharted territory, such as parenting teenagers, having new drivers in the house (eeek!), graduations, marriages and so many other wonderful life events.

Becoming a parent is the easy part. It's raising a happy and healthy child and being there day in and day out that's the real journey.

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