Before you have kids, knowing how you’ll parent is kind of like knowing what you’d do if you came upon a bear in the woods. Hypothetically, you’d like to think that you know how you’ll react (play dead), but when confronted with the reality of the situation, only time will tell what you really end up doing (scream and run like hell…in both situations). As I think about the last 5 years of our parenting journey, these are just a few of the ways that parenting made a total liar out of me.
1. “My kid is going to learn to nap where ever we are and if that happens to be home, (s)he better get used to the regular noise level of the house.” This was the absolute first time I had to eat my words. Parker was such a horrible sleeper that if I had to dance the Macarena while wearing a tutu to get him to sleep, I would have gladly done it. On National TV. Thankfully, he was fine sleeping while out and about (in a car seat, stroller, etc…), but at home, all the conditions had to be just right in order for him to get some shut eye. Lexi is the same way. I go directly to “ninja stealth mode” the second she falls asleep so that I can maximize nap time. It’s the only way that I’d get anything done around here.
2. “I would never leash my child. Seriously, can’t people control their kids without treating them like dogs?” Man, oh man, did I judge people who used those
leash backpacks on their kids. They looked so demeaning and unnatural that my pre-parent instinct was to label parents who used them as either lazy (not wanting to chase after their kids) or paranoid. That was, of course, until we took Parker to Paris when he was 2-years-old. Someone had bought the monkey-leash-backpack thing for us as a gift and I took it with us to use as a backpack. And then Parker almost got flatted by a Parisian cab because he decided to start playing this new game called “Let’s wait until mommy relaxes to try and break her grip and run straight into the street near the Notre Dame cathedral.” Two hours (and a massive parental heart attack) later, the backpack WITH the adjoining leash were out in full effect. I have to admit, I was definitely embarrassed to be using the thing and my face burned in shame when a playground full of Parisian middle schoolers pointed and laughed at Parker (I had to seriously refrain from giving them the finger), but my son was safe. At the end of the day, judgment doesn’t matter, but his safety does.
3. “My child will eat whatever s(he) is served. End of story.” It goes without saying that food has become our biggest battle with Parker. While we have finally gotten firm with him in the last year (he must try something at least once and no desserts or treats without finishing dinner first), he is the typical chicken nugget/mac and cheese/plain spaghetti eating kid. Again, this is an embarrassment to me because I am quite an adventurous eater and pride myself on trying new and exotic recipes. To be honest with you, I don’t even know how this one happened. Well, that’s not necessarily true. I mean, I know HOW it happened (we made him something different to eat than what we were eating). What I meant was that I don’t really know why we started this. The first year of Parker’s life is such a sleep-deprived blur to me that I can’t for the life of me remember the dynamics of when he started eating solids. I can tell you that I’ll be vigilant with Lexi to at least start her on the right track in the food department. With that said, I can’t promise that I won’t eat my words on this one a second time.
4. “My kids will not watch television for the first two years and after that, all screens will only be available in very limited doses.” I will say that Parker did not watch TV for about the first year. But then on one fateful day, I was flipping through channels and passed by Curious George on PBS. For the 5 seconds that Curious George was on the television, Parker sat stock still, staring at the little monkey. As any parents of a new walker knows, chasing after a newly-minted toddler is relentless. So, you can imagine my surprise (and secret glee) over the fact that my child could be entertained for even a precious 15 minutes while I cooked/folded laundry/sat still. Now, there is a secret to the “screens to entertain my child” equation. Screen time really does need to be allowed in small doses or it loses it’s appeal. If we’re going on a long car trip, we’ll buy a new DVD or two to help keep Parker quiet and now that we have an iPad, he’s allowed to play with it for 30 minutes on weekdays and 1 hour on the weekends (unless we’re at the doctor’s office, on a long car ride, etc…). The rest of the time, it’s up to us to play good old fashioned games like Memory and Yatzee or to head outdoors to run or bike (which Parker prefers anyways). Still, it’s nice to have the TV and iPad as a backup for when we need a bit of help in the entertainment department.
5. “I’m not going to bribe my children. I expect them to listen to me.” If I had a dollar for each time I heard myself offer up a bribe in exchange for Parker to eat/sleep/sit quietly, my fortune would rival that of Bill Gates. Bribes come in the form of dessert, special trips and toys. I sometimes like to lie to myself and say that this is a form of positive reinforcement, but let’s be real here. It’s a bribe, pure and simple. The fact of the matter is that parents need to use whatever tools are in their arsenal to keep from going insane.
So there you have it, proof of my childless self-righteousness turned humble parent of two. What’s more is that I’m sure this list will be 43 pages long by the time that the kids are grown and out of the house. Are any of these good parenting practices? Probably not. I’m sure that the experts would say that I’m compromising my authority and instilling bad habits. With that said, in my experience, parenting doesn’t happen in a clinical setting. It happens in the real world, which (in our case) more closely resembles the main tent of a large and unruly circus.
So tell me, has parenting made a liar out of you too? Please say yes and keep me company in my mommy guilt!