It could probably fill a thimble, but a number of sweet folks keep telling me that I am doing a bang up job with M, C and V. And I mean, bang up in a good way, not like I bang them upside their heads when they get out of line, except for that one time. . .
Anyway, here a a few things I can confidently say that I know about parenting:
- This shiggity is hard. There are so many great moments, but sometimes, you just think to yourself, “Man, this is work.”
- If you wonder whether you’re doing a good job, you probably are. There are days when I feel like I’m treading water with anchors on my ankles. I have no idea what I’m doing, I don’t want to make another kid friendly meal. I can’t listen to the Teen Titans Go! theme song any more. I’m about to install a regulation sized boxing ring in the backyard and call up Michael Buffer rather than mediate another who-said-what-to-whom or who’s-breathing on-whom-type conflagration. When I’m over saturated with motherhood, that’s when I stop and think, “Am I even doing a good job? How could I be when it feels like I’m in the eye of the storm?” But I have to believe the mere fact that I stop to wonder that, or wonder what I can do in order to survive the storm, makes me think I’m doing okay. And if I need to hide out in the bathroom for 10 or 15 minutes just scrolling through my Instagram feed until I feel better, then that’s what I need to do.
- If you have more than one child, you’re going to need more than one parenting style. Let’s face it, kids are different. With M and C, they are very similar in their temperament and their respect for authority. I haven’t had to really tweak my parenting approach too much. And then came V, the giver of no craps whatsoever. You know what the call insanity? Not that Shaun T. thing. I mean, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That was me trying to get V to fall in line with my parenting strategies. With M and C, what I have been doing has been working. V is a different personality and she needs a different way to be parented. I just wanted to shoehorn her into the old regime, but that’s not going to work because she would get frustrated. I’d get frustrated. Then I’d get wine. That’s not a good long term plan. So, since she wasn’t going to change, I needed to change my approach to her. I’ll admit, there was some stomping of feet and slamming of doors, plus a few wails of “I’m the adult! I’m in charge”. Still, I took my knickers out of a knot and found a solution. We’re all better for it.
- Kids Cry. I used be very vigilant about making sure the girls were on their best behavior, not engaging in big tantrums and crying jags, especially when we were out in public. You often see the stares from other people in the store or wherever your are. It just makes you want to press a mute button on your child. Now, as a parent of three girls, I really don’t care. Kids cry. That’s just a fact. They cry over because their French fries are touching their chicken nuggets. They cry because they’re eating chicken nuggets even though that’s what they asked for. They cry because you told them they couldn’t have any candy. They cry because you told them they could have candy, but then they can’t find the candy they want. Any number of things can set a child off on a crying jag and that’s just the way it is. I really pity the person that approaches me and offers me suggestions on how I should stop them from crying. I used to feel mortified, like there was a giant spotlight beaming down on me, highlighting all of my flaws as a parent. Now? Pffft. Bring it. She’s crying, so what. I don’t owe you any explanation. Don’t try to engage my child and figure out why they’re crying in the first place. Definitely don’t ask “Is Mommy being mean to you again?” Oh yeah, in the middle of the grocery store. If I hadn’t needed those hamburger patties for dinner, she’d a been walking out with some quarter pounder earmuffs and eye patches. The other day, V had a full on breakdown in Target because I picked her up and put her in the cart. What preceded that was her running all around the store like a drunken bumblebee, banging into stuff, taking things off the shelves, and randomly patting people on the arm before asking them their names. I couldn’t keep an eye on her and get the things knocked off my list. And, as I mentioned before I’ve got a different parenting approach with her. While three strikes and you’re out worked for M and C, not so much for V. She gets one shot. I told her to stay with me and keep her hand on the cart. The next thing I know, she’s got a stuffed Minion in one hand and a ballet skirt around her neck like a ruff. Oh, and she’s missing a shoe. So, into the cart she went and then came the tears. Yes, kids cry. More often than not, the kid is mine because I’m asking her to stay with me so she doesn’t get lost or stolen. I know, how unreasonable of me. Cry me a river.
- A Donut is a Donut. M and C have birthdays that are two weeks apart, I decided that we would do big blow out parties on big number years — 1, 5, 10, 13, 16 and maybe 21 if you’re lucky. M turned 10 this was her year and it was her turn to have a party. She had been planning and plotting for weeks, with more cross-indexed binders than Leslie Knope. We went from a masquerade party where guests came as their favorite literary characters to an American Girl party complete with a limo ride to Tyson’s Corner and an overnight stay at the Ritz Carlton for her and her 12 guests (all her idea). We scaled back considerably in the end. She had a lovely spa party with her friends. I took them for manis and pedis, out for dinner to Chipotle and then home for cake, ice cream, movies and so forth. I figured I would get up in the morning and go to Sugar Shack to buy them some donuts to have ready for when they woke up. I was talking to my mom about it the day of the party and she said, “Why don’t you just get the donuts today? Why are you going to get up early in the morning and the get donuts? They’re ten-year old girls,” she said. “They don’t know the difference between a freshly baked donut and a donut made yesterday! Save yourself some aggravation and get the donuts today.” And you know what? That’s what I did. A donut is a donut. I asked the clerk at the donut shop how to keep the donuts fresh until the next morning. She said to wrap the entire box in plastic wrap and leave it on the counter. In the morning, I pulled off the wrap, set the box on the table and let the
locusts swarmthe girls enjoy their sugary treats — except for the one who informed me that she didn’t really like donuts, but she’d eat it if that was all I had. *le sigh*There’s always one.
- Privacy doesn’t exist. It just doesn’t. You’re going to go to the bathroom with an audience. You’re going to try on clothes with an audience. You’re going. to. have. an. audience. It’s like being a reality TV star for a very small local access channel and the audience can interact with you in real time. I’ve been asked why I have hair on my “bottom”. I’ve been asked why I have “lightening” on my stomach. I’ve been asked why parts of my body look the way they do. I’ve been surprised coming out of the shower, bombarded with requests for permission to have a snack/watch TV/brush Barbie’s hair/have a water balloon fight in the playroom because it’s too hot to do it outside (really?). And don’t get me started on the time the Hubs and I learned that the latch and strike plate on our bedroom door must be fully engaged otherwise locking mechanism doesn’t work. Those broads came in like Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld. Awkward.
- Your Food is Not Your Own. I like to eat. I like food. You all know this. However, I will go hours without eating until I can eat my food, uninterruptedly. I’m all for the family meal, don’t get me wrong, but I was starting to feel less like a family meal and more like a relay race. I would make dinner, serve up the plates, and sit down. The minute my buns hit the seat, someone needed something: to use the toilet, more ketchup, more napkins, more something. Because the girls were smaller and couldn’t do for themselves, I was up and down like a piston, stepping and fetching. By the time they had finished their meals, and possibly even dessert, my dinner was stone cold. As the girls got older, they became aware that I wasn’t always eating the same things that they were eating. “Can I have a taste?” became a constant refrain, followed by, “I don’t like it” or “Can I have some more?” This was before “hangry” was in the lexicon, but I was definitely having those feelings. Eventually, I just gave up and decided to wait until they went to bed (back when bedtime was 6:30p) before I ate my dinner. I was relating this concept to a friend who couldn’t understand why I would torture myself like that. Then she had kids of her own. She called me one day and simply said, “I get it.”
- This shiggity is hard. There are challenges. There are fantastic moments. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for every family or for every child. This is what I know about parenting. It’s not a whole lot, but I’m constantly learning and every now and then, I can see that it’s working.