May 30, 2014 by Julia
Jack is very, very two-ish these days, which means some days I feel utterly defeated, and other days I bow down at the chubby toes of his cuteness, with tears of love washing the dirt off those toes. He is just so yummy it KILLS me. What the heck am I supposed to with that?
Kiss him and eat him up. And then yell at him two minutes later when he decides to stomp his Goldfish crackers into the rug after spilling the whole bowl on purpose. The ups and downs. I swear.
And everything is so relative. My wild child may look like a dream come true to another mom, thus rendering me an ungrateful lady for complaining within earshot of her. Or my version of a good day is another parent’s vision of a terrible day. We all have different standards we want our kids to live up to, or that we hold ourselves up to as parents. There is no normal. Is it normal that my son removed his socks and shoes at a fountain today as I was telling him “No, Jack, that water’s dirty,” and then he threw them all into the water and laughed as I fished them out, saying NO, and then he immediately grabbed back a dirty sock and threw it so far into the center of the fountain it was irretrievable? (If you ever see a kid’s sock in a fountain, think of us.)
Am I a bad parent because this happened? Am I a doormat? That is the fear, in my case. I worry that everyone in my life might view me this way. (Except for Dennis, who has witnessed the “other Julie” at home on truly frustrating days.) I let my kids go ahead and do things that I’ve already said no to because I just want to finish my sentence to the mom I’m talking to, and if I try to enforce every single no that comes out of my mouth I will never have another conversation again while Jack’s around. And I don’t even say no that often! (Because I’m a doormat.) My basic philosophy, by default, is to let things carry on as long as possible in public as long as the children are not bothering anyone.
I know my easygoing nature makes it hard for me to put the fear of God in their hearts when I speak. Also, setting strong boundaries is not my forte. I have such an excess of empathy that I am constantly trying to see things from their childlike perspective. These character traits of mine are a blessing and a curse when it comes to parenting. Likewise, some parents set good boundaries but are sometimes too rigid, or some are their child’s best friend but are slacking in the parenting department, or are excellent role models but push their children too hard, or are nurturing but overprotective, and so on. We’ve all got our trouble spots, and yeah, we are all failing our children at times because of who we are.
I am not blameless, as much as I long to be, and neither are you.
I hope that’s not too dark for you. It’s what I’ve been feeling this week: flawed as a parent, flawed as a friend, flawed as a person. And you know what? IT’S SO TRUE. AND THAT WILL NEVER CHANGE. I am going to use a phrase I hate, now: It is what it is.
Now, I love inspiration and aspirations, and I think we can always learn to do better. But somehow, I need to come to terms with my own limitations, my own personality, and stop worrying about what others might think. I will never be the stern mommy, laying down the law and earning the respect of every parent at the playground who has resorted to begging their child off the top of the slide. I also need to believe that despite my flaws, my kids will turn out okay.
And if we start to think we are doing better or worse as a parent than others in our lives, we might as well just drop that idea like a hot potato, because we really don’t know anything about anything. We never know the whole story, and we can’t predict what will work for certain kids. We all love our children and are trying to do what we think is right. If some of us are, in fact, doing a lesser job of it than others, then maybe those parents are up against challenges we can’t even fathom. And we all fail, and succeed, and fail, and the kids will probably be okay, if we are good parents in the most basic sense. The rest is just fodder for gossip, judgment, insecurity, and competitiveness. All of which we are all guilty of, too, so let’s forgive each other that, too, I suppose?
Parenting is humbling. It can certainly bring out your worst qualities, even ones you weren’t aware you had. Especially when your two-year-old is acting very, very two-ish.
Last week, Jack and I got pancakes for lunch with friends. He literally would not stop whining/crying/climbing up the walls pretty much the entire time, despite the snacks and toys I offered him. At one point I poured red strawberry syrup directly onto his paper place mat, in hopes that it would distract him from his misery. Isn’t that an absurd thing for an adult to do? When his food came – Kraft macaroni and cheese and a side of fries (I was trying to play it safe, clearly) – he rejected the macaroni and cheese for no reason (Kraft! It was KRAFT!), and then decided to dip his fries in maple syrup. I allowed my son to eat french fries dipped in maple syrup for his lunch, in the name of semi-quiet. I get that in the big picture, I am a good parent. But these moments are somewhat demoralizing. Tell me I’m not the only one who asks, “how did I get here?”
I have also been known to allow my children to crawl under our restaurant tables, stand up in a booth throughout the entire meal (as long as they aren’t disturbing diners in an adjacent booth), eat something unhealthy before they eat their vegetables or entrees and/or choose not to eat what they’ve ordered, and wander a bit around the table, if it’s in a food court or fast-food establishment. I also let them “graze” – play, eat, play, eat. Maybe I should be raising the kids in a hippie commune, or something. They are certainly dirty enough, and in touch with their feelings enough to fit right in. This morning at the bus stop another mom told Jack not to touch the dirt he was trying to dig up with his shovel. If only she knew the truth about Jack and dirt. Yep, we belong in a hippie commune.
I do love him so.