I was a perfect parent until I had kids.
I knew exactly what I was going to feed them (all organic and lots of green leafy vegetables). I knew what I was not going to let them watch on TV (SpongeBob. The horror!) And I knew that my kids would never misbehave in public (A good parent would be able to control their kids).
Yes, looking back I admit that I was Miss Judgy McJudgerson. I didn’t mean to be. I was just naïve to the ways of parenting- because, hello? I DID NOT HAVE CHILDREN.
Since having three little lunatics I have found myself on more than one occasion eating my well-intentioned words.
In my defense I started out strong. When my oldest was a baby, I pureed organic fruits and veggies every week. Poured them in ice trays and re-heated them as needed for a well-balanced baby-diet. Major mom points. When my daughter was born I found that I didn’t quite have the time that I did with just ONE baby, so she was stuck with jarred (albeit organic) baby food. Fewer mom points. And introducing mommy guilt. When my third was born (Surprise!), she didn’t like ANYTHING. Even though I didn’t have the time or energy, I tried making food, buying food, nothing. Oh, and she was a crier. Mad the minute she was born and still has an attitude. (My mom says this reminds her of someone).
Somewhere along the line, my perfect parenting hit an exhausted wall and turned into: survival mode. On date night I would grab little Caesar’s pizza- which is funny because I remember seeing a mother at the pool serving her kids Little Caesar’s when I was without kids (and all-knowing) and I thought, “How could you feed that crap to your kids??”. I’ll tell you how. You’re kids are picky as hell, you’re tired of pleading with them to eat sockeye salmon and did ya’ll know that Little Caesar’s is ONLY $5.00?!? And it’s HOT and READY!?! Dinner. Done. Maybe not many mommy points, but sanity points at this stage in the game are worth more. So, we’d plop the pizza box on the table, point at the baby in the highchair and tell the sitter, “Just throw some crackers at that one.” Then Mommy and Daddy rush out the door flinging children off of our ankles, slamming the door to muffle the sound of the SpongeBob on the TV, and speeding away to enjoy a much more expensive dinner. And much quieter. There is no price for peace.
I also remember saying something along the lines of, ”I am NEVER going to fix 4 different dinners for everyone in this family, I will cook one thing and you can eat it or go hungry.” I’ve finally learned never to say never, because God thinks that’s real funny. It baffles me and my foodie husband who LOVE to eat pretty much everything. My daughter’s tastes in food literally change day-to-day. What she loved yesterday is now “gross”. I can’t keep up. My son has developed a texture issue which has reduced his diet to PB & J’s. That’s it. I’m told it’s a phase and that we should gently encourage him to try new things, but so far The Boy is alive because of peanut butter. (At least it has protein right? Half a mommy point?) The baby still prefers to carb load but at least she’s eating, and crying less. She doesn’t do well with cheese though, so that really throws a wrench in my pizza plans for Friday. So when the babysitter arrives, I tell her, “Pizza is for The Girl, bread sticks for The Little One and just throw a PB&J to The Boy.” And we’re off.
And tantrums. In public. Good Lord that is a humbling experience. I have a big ‘ol space in my heart for mommas whose babies are acting a fool in public. I will admit my kids are good kids, but every now and then somebody loses their freakin’ mind, and you don’t see it coming. The worst one happened to me in Wal-Mart. (I know right? No one probably noticed) One of my children, who shall remain nameless, lost HIS mind in the toy aisle because HE couldn’t make a decision. He had MONEY that he EARNED and CHOICES in the TOY department and all of this JOY was TOO MUCH. Well, we had other errands to run on this glorious day and so I had to start a countdown. Sigh. I told him he had 5 minutes. Was he going to choose a lego set or a remote control helicopter? “BOTH are GREAT choices”, I explained. He looked left, he looked right, he groaned and he moaned and his face began to melt off…and then the time was up. I screw up a lot as a mom, but by golly when I make a decision I stand by it. So I told him we were leaving and we would come back another day. Angst turned into Anger. He screamed at me and held onto the cart with all of his weight and told me we were not leaving. I pushed the cart with my 2 other children in it towards the checkout. Unfortunately I had to purchase something or I would have just left. He screamed and cried and threatened to, “go to a baseball game with the devil”. He knows how to get under my skin: I hate baseball. I made it to the checkout with plenty of looks from EVERYONE. I got behind a sweet lady with two angel girls with her and after about a minute of watching she just smiled. I was too embarrassed to read into it. The lady behind me got out of our line, but not before complimenting my other two for being good. Whatever.
I made it home frazzled and reconsidering my decision to not drink, but we ended up having a great conversation. I told him through tears that mommy and daddy will always love you no matter what you DO or what hurtful things you SAY, because that’s how much God loves us. No matter how good a parent you are, and God is a perfect parent, our kids will exercise their free will to be good or cray-cray. And sometimes they will choose to exercise that freedom in the toy department of Wal-Mart. Have mercy.
My husband was on a business lunch with a friend one afternoon when he asked the obligatory, “How are the kids?” question. “Great. Good. Thanks for asking”, was the response. My husband leaned forward and raised an eyebrow, “Seriously dude. They driving you crazy?” His friend smiled, caught, and said, “Our oldest is about to kill us.” They both relaxed and my husband laughed, “Just checking to see if we were the only ones.” Kids can really complicate your parenting plans. Mine are 4, 6 and 8 and I have no longer have any plans. I have goals and aspirations and good intentions, but I’ve learned to leave the plans up to Him. I believe things will all shake out in the end. In the meantime, I will give my kids love and shelter and feed them the best I can, but that is all the commitment you’re getting out of me. Parenting has been the most exciting and exhausting time of my life, and I am just in the beginning. What I have learned most is that every parent is doing the best they can with what they know and how they are convicted. I will not judge how others parent. Instead I will offer only this advice:
It’s crazy, I know. Pray. We’re in this together.
Guess what else I learned?? Nobody is freakin’ keeping score!! Mommy points only exist in your own head. So let’s all RELAX and ENCOURAGE one another. And laugh at the days to come. And remember, nobody gets it all right. So LET’S DO THIS. Together. No scores.