The first time I tried to navigate a stroller into a coffee shop, I was at the wrong coffee shop. I say that because the coffee shop had a step in front of it, and everyone looked like they thought I was evil to have a stroller with me.

Also, I had no idea what I was doing.

There was this awkward one-step up, and then a right turn, and an inward facing door, and no way to really hold the stroller and the baby and get inside the coffee shop while opening the door without making a big mess I felt like my hands and arms were discombobulated and I couldn’t possibly do it suddenly it was as though I had three legs, no fingers, and half a head.

By the time I got into the coffee shop—that is to say, inside it—I had mangled the door, banged the stroller, dinged my fingers, and I was sweating profusely. All just to get inside a store.

At that point I didn’t know whether or not to stay or go. At this point, as a new parent with a stroller, just getting outside was my accomplishment. Now, it feels like all of my energy has been spent just trying to do something that, for my past self, had previously been so simple. All I wanted to do is open a door!

Now I not only want coffee. But I feel like I NEED IT.

Over the weeks to come, I learn to navigate the tricky scenario of strollers and doors. I learn how to push with one hand, and how to turn the stroller backwards to pull it in (this, it turns out, is far easier). My stroller and I become one. I can handle this.

Then, a few months later, I realize that I’ve gained next-level status: I learn the ropes of how to push a door open with my backside while holding a coffee, pushing a stroller, AND having a conversation with my toddler.

I am supermom.

But I don’t forget how hard it was in those first days. How clumsy and awkward and strange it all felt. How it felt like I’d never get anything right, how much I had to learn for the first time.

One of the hard things about parenting, especially later, if you’re in your 30s, is that it might have been a while since things were hard for you. Sure, we have hard days at work. Mental frustration is real. But to go back to the ground zero, where you know nothing, and you’re learning from scratch? It’s hard.

Really hard.

Being at the drawing board, regaining basic functionality, struggling through the early steps—and being thrust into the muck of learning so many things at once, all while feeling self-conscious and shitty about how bad you are at them—is really difficult.

My husband tells all new dads that diapers will get the best of you until you put in enough reps.

“It’s not that you’re bad at diapers,” he explains. “You just need to do 30 or 40 more of them and then you’ll master it.

My dad, who fathered four of us, chimes in: “Oh yeah. By the last kid, you can change a diaper with one hand while eating a sandwich with the other.”

Now that’s confidence. (I’d be afraid I’d forget which hand the sandwich was in.)

Put the reps in. Suck for a while. You’ll learn how to do it, slowly. You’ll get the hang of it. The learning curve is real.

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