Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Everyone is the Perfect Parent...

Back when I knew it all!

And now!

A cyber friend of mine (because we now live in the era where we can have what seem like legitimate friendships with folks we've never met in real life) once wrote the following: "Everyone is the perfect parent...until they have kids."

No truer words were ever spoken. Or, um, written on a forum for expectant and new mothers.

As a teacher, I had years to practice being the perfect mom before I gave birth. Ah, the afternoons I spent shaking my head, a bemused grin on my face, telling a fellow teacher about all the things some other mom or dad was doing wrong. I could write a novel of my naivete.

"That kid needs a regular bedtime. She should have started him out on one when he was a baby."

"That child has never heard 'no' in her life. How can she ever be expected to deal with disappointment if she can't handle me taking her candy away?"

"The LAST thing that kid needs is a video gaming system. Like he doesn't forget to do his homework enough as it is?"

"I just want to take a hairbrush to that mop! How can you let your kid leave in the morning looking like that?"

Perhaps I should not write about this here, because I'm sure many parents will be appalled, offended and enraged to find that their kid's poised, friendly and organized teacher has such a snarky side. But really, should they be surprised? Any service job and/or job where you work with the public is sure to make you whine and moan in private. Teaching is the ultimate example of that.

But, as is par for me, I digress. Back to my original point.

While some of the comments slung while cleaning the dry erase board were valid, in all frankness, I really had no clue how insanely difficult being a parent is. Lest I would have held my tongue a bit more.

What's funny is now I feel that same scrutiny from people who don't yet have kids. I think most of my friends, family and acquaintances appreciate the job I'm doing and respect how diligently I try. However, the knowing twinkle in their eyes when I explain how Stella wanted a 10th nursing session last night or how she's crabby because she missed her nap belies their true sentiment: "I will never make THAT mistake when I have kids!"

Here are some of the plans I had for parenthood before giving birth, immediately followed by my amendments now that Stella is here.

1. My baby will sleep through the night early on. Hee hee. Oh, ha ha ha ha ha. Wait, let me gather myself. That was just TOO funny. You see, because I'd been around babies in my life, i.e. babysitting them for 45 minutes to 2 hours at a time, I thought I knew all about them. And I thought all a baby needed to sleep was a dark room, a regular bedtime, a full tummy, and parents who weren't so weak that they would pick her up every time she cried. What I didn't realize was that some babies just have trouble sleeping, period, no matter what type of training you employ, and that I, as a mom, cannot handle hearing my baby scream. It makes my boobs spray and my gut ache.

2. My baby will be able to nap anywhere and everywhere -- whether or not it's quiet. One of my favorite pieces of useless advice we've received is: "Make noise during Stella's nap so she can nap anywhere." Oh, that's just so quaint. Because when you make noise during her nap, she wakes up. Every time. How is it that she's napping pretty well these days, you ask? Because I employ a white noise machine turned up to full volume, I shut the door to her room tightly, and I STILL make as little noise as possible during its entirety. And, really people, do I want my daughter to have the ability to nap during an earthquake? That doesn't seem like the best ability to have.

3. My child will comprehend the word "no" and will not be one of those annoying toddlers running between people's feet in the coffee shop. Stella's not yet a toddler (although we got our first official crawl tonight -- YAY!), but I can already tell this will be a challenge. I do want her to understand boundaries and I don't want her to run hog-wild in public places. I do say "no" to her, although I know as an educator that constantly barking "no" isn't as effective as redirecting and using positive reinforcement. Still, no matter what my master's degree says on it, I can tell that Stella will revel in testing her boundaries. And come on, that's a sign of intelligence, isn't it? Also, getting a toddler to sit quietly on your lap is next to impossible, because they're wired to explore and disrupt and destroy. I've always known that, so I assumed I would just never bring my toddler to public places. Seeing as that would make me as crazy as Jack Nicholson in The Shining, though, I know I will have to find a common ground. So Stella might get in your way a bit as you're buying your latte. But I promise to be right behind her!

4. I will pass my baby off to others early on so she isn't clingy with me. Well, two things prevented this from happening. I physically could not separate myself from Stella for the first 6 months of her life. This baby I had longed for, worked for, dreamt of -- I couldn't imagine trusting her life with anyone else. I knew I needed a break, everyone knew it, but it actually hurt my body to be away from her for any amount of time. The other problem was that we waited WAY too long to introduce her to a bottle, so for many months she only took her milk from its original container. Meaning I couldn't go anywhere. Now that she's older, we do pass her off as much as possible, and thankfully she likes others. However, nobody trumps mama and dada, and she will ask for us by name when unhappy.

There are many, many more, I assure you. But as much as I thought I knew back when my loins were fruitless, there was much more I didn't know. The main one is this:

My daughter will be the most incredible person I've ever met and I will do everything in my power to help her become the best person she can be. That means I might have to change my mind about parenting as I go along to make it work for this individual for whom I'm responsible. Because babies don't come out of a mold.

Oh, and I will be wary of Stella's teacher and what she thinks of me. Especially if she doesn't yet have kids.


David Serchuk said...

It's good you made all these mistakes early on, leaving me free to make none!


Kimberly said...

I feel the exact same way you do babe. and i LOVE reading your blog. :)

alexlady said...

HA HA "it makes my boobs spray" excellent! Duck! eeek ha ha ha ha


Martin said...

This nanny thinks you're perfect. No lie. As always, kisses to Stella Rae :)

Amy G said...

Wow. You totally speak (write?) the truth here. My baby's only 1 month old and already all my teacher wisdom has gone out the window as I realize it's not as simple as I thought. Great post!

Anne Stesney said...

I never thought I'd serve my son canned vegetables. But they're soft, they're quick and he loves them. At least I get the no-salt kind.

Kellygirlnyc said...

Randi....you are awesome. I have to say, not having children that I am now who you were, especially because I am around children all the time in my job, too. Lately, if I ever say anything about the people and their children that I see I always say, "You know, I don't have kids and I'm sure it must be very different than I think it is, but_________." Which I know, isn't much better, but at least it's not as bad! Ha! Thanks for the eye opener. I feel like when we have kids I will TOTALLY eat my words about many blanket statements I've made....