By Jeana Lee Tahnk
It's hard to say when one becomes an official parent: Is it when youfind out you're pregnant? When the baby is in your arms for the firsttime? You're officially given the heralded title of "parent" when thatbaby is handed to you in the delivery room, but for me, parenting is anever-ending journey. The experiences of "real" parenting happen overthe course of days, weeks, months, even years.
Parenting is filled with so many joys - too many to count - but thereare 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 realpart comes into play for the not-so-rosy times - when you're up allnight with a sick baby, for instance - and the constant worrying you'llalways do when it comes to your kids.
Being there for those milestones and all those firsts is amazing, butparenting happens not only for those firsts, but also for the seconds,thirds and many more thousands of experiences you have as a present anddedicated parent.
Nine years in and three kids later, I think it's safe to say I'veachieved "real parent" status. But at the same time, I have many moremilestones ahead of me in uncharted territory, such as parentingteenagers, 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 healthychild and being there day in and day out that's the real journey.