I am so tired of scrolling through Facebook or any parenting magazine and being bombarded with articles telling me that I am doing
something everything wrong. Headlines such as “5 mistakes you’re making before 10am” or “Everything you know is wrong” can kiss my ass. We’re all already full of self-doubt. We don’t need to be lambasted with more factors and variations on how we all are doing things incorrectly.
The truth of the matter is most websites and magazines are selling advertising, so preying on people’s doubts (what if I really am wrong?) gets people to click on their links, upping website traffic and hence, increasing income for the website. Doubt is a very lucrative business. You can be introduced to hundreds more doubts and fears that you never even knew existed. Then they get to make even more money off you. Don’t let others dictate what works for your family.
Here’s the thing; if it feels wrong to you, then it’s wrong. If it feels right to you, then it’s right. We’ve all stopped listening to ourselves, our gut, stopped looking at our own family and finding what works for each of us and instead, we check what someone else thinks. As long as a child isn’t being abused, physically or emotionally, then do what works for your family.
I yell. I hate that about myself and I struggle with it. Yelling feels wrong to me. I logically know this, I emotionally know this. But often times, my buttons are pressed to the point where I snap and hell is unleashed (ok, it’s not really that bad). It’s something I actively work on every day. Most of the other stuff I do, I’m content with. I’m not perfect. I will never be the ridiculously unattainable perfect parent according to the books and articles. For that, I am fully at peace.
So stop letting others criticize you. Stop reading every article to check if you are doing something wrong. Trust yourself. Trust that you are doing the best for your child, for the person(s) you love most in the world. Love your child the best you can. Believe in yourself. Family life is so much better when you do.
Amid the chaos of normal daily life, there comes the gift of a day where you don’t have anywhere to go or anything planned. Today was such a day. The kids didn’t get dressed until 1 pm, when I made a fleeting attempt to go to the grocery store, but then I decided could survive without going (see this!). The kids watched a solid 5 hours of TV before I shut it off and now they are playing together.
I have no problem with them watching TV or playing on the iPad. I don’t need to be Supermom and have 8 hours of crafts lined up. Pinterest can kiss my ass. My value as a parent is not defined by whether or not I let them be bored or how creative I am. I’m not here to entertain my children. I am not their playmate. I’m here to teach them, and the ability to amuse themselves is a very important lesson to learn. Not having everything lined up for them means they need to use their imagination and come up with their own games. Inevitably, they always do.
As long as no one is bleeding, I don’t need to get involved.
See that toddler freaking out over there? Yeah, the one that makes you think “Oh dear God,” and all sorts of thoughts run through your head? Or the child who begs for chocolate at the checkout line and you watch in horror as mommy or daddy cave? That used to be me watching and wondering.
When I sat on my childless perch, I could solve any parenting problem at a glance. With ease, I could be your executioner in the parenting battlefield. And then I had a child. Yes, you can snicker. Because no other singular act teaches you that you know absolutely nothing than the arrival of a child.
I walked through the grocery store yesterday afternoon, with my 5-year-old preschooler sitting in the shopping cart wearing her cupcake pajamas. My 3-year-old was manically running through the store. I’m now at the point where I don’t care about the looks I get. I accept now that these people, whom I will never see again, don’t understand that it was Pajama Day in school or that they both had really long days the day before so they are both cranky and tired. However, I needed to get milk. I ignore the looks I get because even if these other people are put out by my kids’ behaviors, I don’t have the effort within me to care what they think. I couldn’t even be bothered to explain. Most of the time when I snap at my children, it’s because I’m the one stressed out. I’m panicking about what other people think. If I take away the fear of other people’s thoughts or reactions, things become a lot less stressful.
Most of the time, when you see a parent that seems like they’re out of their depth, they probably are. That doesn’t mean they are incompetent. It may just be that they’re having a really bad day. You don’t know if a loved one passed away. You don’t know if someone else lost their job. Perhaps the rent is overdue or the mortgage is defaulting. You could be looking at a mother who hasn’t had any sleep for five years. Perhaps a growth spurt is to blame (my two turn into unholy terrors during growth spurts). That possessed devil you see running amok may have been an angel just an hour ago. Maybe it’s a simple as a missed nap. Maybe, just maybe, what you are seeing is someone who is doing their best, but needs help, or it’s a child who has just reached their limit on what they can absorb and contain.
Sometimes, very small gestures of kindness can turn a day around. When you see that baby freaking out in front of you, start a game of peek-a-boo. Begin a conversation with the preschooler to distract him/her just long enough that mommy can swipe her debit card and get everyone out the door. A little nod of understanding or a smile also can go a long way. A look of disdain or disapproval does nothing but aggravate an already stressful situation. When we choose to be nicer to each other, everyone wins.
Something else happens when you do this. Your day gets brighter too.
In striving to be average, I try to keep it real. This parenting thing is hard. So damn hard. But so few people really talk about this. Everything is supposed to be sunshine and rainbows, I’m supposed to be madly in love with my children at all times of the day, have infinite patience, UN negotiation skills, never ending energy, and do it all with a smile on my face.
I am grateful that my children are in my life because my soul became complete when they were born. They have taught me what unconditional love really means, in receiving it and giving it. I am blessed so much. But let’s be realistic. I don’t always like my children.
I appreciate other parents who are willing to be honest about this struggle. Thank you for the nod of understanding when my child misbehaves. Or suggesting “it must be nap time” when my youngest had a meltdown in the grocery store, instead of just assuming he was a rotten kid. Thank you for recognizing that kids have ‘off’ days too and sometimes, we won’t even know what is going on with them until a few days later (sickness hits or a growth spurt, or they are worried about some upcoming event). Overall, my kids are very well behaved, but like us adults, they do have days where they just aren’t feeling right. It doesn’t matter what I do, most times it is beyond my control.
Thank you for the kind words when it becomes clear I’m in over my head. That even though I am an adult, with a psychology & sociology degree, I am still sometimes stumped, frustrated and anguished by the little people I created. Thank you for telling me your stories of how you have struggled, because I feel like less of a failure when you do. Thank you for being real with me.
I am not Mary Poppins, Lucille Ball and Martha Stewart all wrapped into one, and I absolutely don’t want to be. I want to be good role model for my children, I want them to be happy, healthy children, who most importantly, are given the opportunity to be children. I want my children to realize how amazing they are and that’s it’s OK to have a bad day. I can teach them how to pick themselves up, look forward, try again. In my struggle to parent, I can show them that we can always try to improve, try harder when we want to. Because I do share with them when I struggle with parenting (at least my 5 year old understands me), and I let them know when Mommy needs to try harder. I apologize when I am in the wrong – when I haven’t listened properly or I’ve yelled. I let them know I am not perfect and that they deserve to be treated with respect and love. And then I try harder.
I teach them that their actions have consequences, and are also opportunities for learning. That parents are not blank walls that can be subjected to unlimited blasts of toddler and preschool whims and tantrums. That their choices directly affect their day and the outcome of any situation. Just like it does for Mommy and Daddy.
Maybe, just maybe, by being an average parent, I can teach my children the coping skills needed for the imperfect world they live in.