As a new parent, I gave in to the hormones every other day and made “absolute” statements all the time. Like most new parents, I was terrified and in awe of my new baby. She was perfect, she was innocent and suddenly, I had motherly instincts of protection and they were in overdrive. This instinct is where the “absolute” statement is born and it usually begins with, “My children will NEVER….” or, “We are planning to make sure our children always…”
Let’s take a look at some of these statements I made when I was a new mother and see how I measure up to my own expectations, shall we?
“My child will never eat at McDonalds!” – until I am on a long car ride and in a small town that I don’t know and there are only little local dives that look… frightening. McDonalds might be the only reliably awful thing around. I pull into the McDonalds faster than a Nascar racer. McDonalds, in all its unhealthy glory will be the only place I can find where my babies can run free in the play place and get out the wiggles while I refuel on a Caramel Macciato. Not only do I take them there on trips but whenever I need to get out of the house, have very little money and only want to have to watch one exit because when there are two of them and one of me, McDonalds suddenly becomes HEAVEN ON EARTH!
“We are planning to make sure our kids only watch a half hour of TV a day and then only after they have had educational blah blah blah blah and/or while I’m doing their hair so they will sit still.” – until I am crazy tired and one decides to wake up at the crack of dawn and ask for food. I get them a frozen waffle, a sippy of juice a nice long TV show and whew… back to bed for mommy. Not only do I allow them to watch outrageously more TV than I ever planned, but the happiest moment of my life was when my oldest could wield the remote on her own (thank you NETFLIX for giving me the ability to have a queue that I can fill with only children’s programing and no commercials) and make her own frozen waffles in the toaster.
“My kids are never going to have Disney Princess stuff. It gives them all the wrong idea of what’s important.” – until I go into Walmart. I live in a small town and sometimes there is no other option and after many purchases against my former statement, I noticed that although my girls are princesses, there is nothing wrong with it and whatever… they are not being abused or taught to be abusers so… I’m cool with it.
“We are planning to make sure our kids only go into school after they are 7 or 8 and never go to a daycare.” – until we both get jobs, need jobs and can’t afford the luxury of being stay at home parents. We were offered a slow introduction to school for our kids and free childcare by my mother and well… who can pass that up? It’s FREE! And who can say what is going to happen in the future? I’ve seen many a kid come out of daycare and be PERFECTLY HEALTHY! There is just no other way to do it sometimes. The luxury of being a stay at home parent isn’t always practical.
“I will never yell, spank, or freak out. I will always have a discipline plan that I stick to.” – until the first time my child back talked to me and then I was like, “My head is EXPLODING!” Do I make mistakes, change my mind constantly about what we want to do, and deal with completely unforeseen circumstances in the middle of an expensive theme park experience that cause us to think about letting our kid act out without the normal consequences just so we can get our moneys worth? You better believe it.
“We are planning to only have babysitters that we know very well and have had a thorough background check.” – until we haven’t had a date night in months and need to have a conversation without a kid using us as a jungle gym or interrupting us OVER and OVER! “Mommy, um…. mommy, mommy mommy MOMMY?!” “WHAT?! Can’t you see I’m trying to have a chat with DADDY?! Give us a second?! Now… what the hell were we talking about?” That’s when I called everyone I knew and finally settled on a friend of a friend who I had never met and said, “Have at it,” and we went out and never looked back.
I could go on and on about what I planned to have my child learn to read before the age of 3, or how I planned to potty train them to cut down on the cost of diapers (you don’t potty train them, they train you and when they are ready to use the potty, if they are 2 or 6 or 25, you will most likely not be able to MAKE them do it any faster than they want to), or any number of plans I had for them that were completely impractical.
I can’t tell you how often I have walked through the mall and seen children and thought, “Not my kid. They will NEVER do that.” And then they do. And what can I do but deal with it in the best way I know how? I am only human and so are my children and so are those other parents. I hope that parenting is teaching me something important that I never thought I needed to learn… to be less judgmental.
The conclusion I have come to is that I should just keep my mouth shut about the absolutes (usually spoken to a friend when watching someone else parent their children), communicate with the other parent in a fluid and constant way and realize that every situation will warrant a new way of “dealing.” Parenting is not right or wrong… usually. As long as there is no abuse, we are all doing the very best we can and what more can you ask from sleep deprived people growers?