There's no instruction manual for this. And even if there was, the footnotes are no help. Yes, sure, there are plenty of books about how to raise a child, how to help a child with (fill in the blank), but there's no one-size-fits-all, here's-how-to-use-your-new-toy instruction manual.
Before you have kids, they're cute. Interesting, with their fresh, untainted perspective on things. Once you have your own, they're fascinating for much the same reasons. But from a mother's perspective, the fact that you played a vital role in creating this little thing, that was once a part of you but is now its own separate little person is incredible. Every little thing they do or say is endlessly fascinating (and no doubt, eventually tiring to other people, if you talk about it too much).
From birth, that little thing is moving away from you. Literally, and metaphorically. It's the way life is, there's nothing you can do but accept it and do what you can to guide it along a safe path. Don't touch the stove, don't lean off the cliff, don't get in the car with a friend that's been drinking; the forks in the road change with the passage of time but the end goal is the same.
But no one warns you about the heartbreak.
Of watching that tiny thing grow up and away, knowing that you can't stop it. Of the sleepless nights and endless laundry when its sick; the boo-boos that a kiss and some Tylendol don't quite fix; the days of panic and fear when the doctor sees something questionable on an x-ray and starts talking about pediatric oncologists (thankfully that turned out to be nothing). Of watching them get hurt by life itself and being completely powerless to change it.
You second-guess so many of the choices you make.
In September, I got them hamsters - one for each kid. The hamsters were brothers, had lived together so far in their lives. The pet store told us they could probably stay together for a while longer, but might eventually start to fight and would have to be separated.
So far, things had been fine. The novelty had worn off a bit, but Noah still took a carrot up to his each night, usually prompting Katelyn to do the same. No fighting, minimal biting of their little owners. And then Halloween night... Katelyn had seen them earlier in the day and they were both fine. I have no idea if it was the doorbell ringing all night or the visiting dog barking every time the doorbell rang, but it seems the hamsters finally got into a disagreement. By bedtime, there had been a battle and Noah's hamster, Harris, had lost. Noah found him when he took him his carrot. Instant mayhem...
Today, Noah's better about it. Harris has been laid to rest under a holly bush in the backyard (I am trying to avoid thinking about what happens when we move). He doesn't seem to hold Katelyn's hamster or me responsible for this, bless the innocence of the young.
I feel terrible about the whole thing. Maybe I should have gotten Harris his own cage (which would have put him at risk from the cat, Noah can't close a door to save his life). Maybe I shouldn't have gotten them hamsters in the first place (why am I looking at rat and hamster cages for a new pet). But on the other hand, grief is something they will eventually have to face. Am I a bad mother for putting my kid in its path at such a young age, or a better one for not sheltering them from reality? It's a fine line, that balance.