Things I said I'd Never Do When I Became a Mom

Aug 28, 2009

Yesterday, as I was lying in my son’s car bed with him, trying to get him to take a nap, I began to ask myself, “How did this happen?” By that, I mean, before I had children, or even when my children were younger, I vowed that I would never, ever, ever get them into the habit of falling asleep by lying in bed with them. No. They needed to learn to put themselves to sleep. I was not going to be one of those parents who pacified their child by giving into their pleas of co-sleeping. I was going to be firm.

And yet, here I was, my head resting on a tiny Nemo pillow, holding onto a stuffed walrus, wondering, “How did my life come to this?” I had promised myself that I would never tolerate this pattern of behavior. The fact that I was allowing myself to be kicked in the stomach by a squirming child, however, showed me that somewhere along the line, my plans had gone awry.

When I mentioned it to a friend, later in the day, she said, “The one thing I’ve learned about parenting is that you should never say never. It will always come back to bite you.”

Boy, is she right.

Because, as I pretended to sleep in his bed, I began to think about all the other things I had promised myself (before I had children) that I would never do as a parent, but somehow, now find myself doing .

The length of the list is almost embarrassing.

I once saw a show on Oprah about how parents over schedule their children. Kids today are involved in too many activities, they said. There’s karate and softball and book clubs. Whatever happened to just playing in the backyard?

“Yeah,” I thought. “What’s with these parents? Why can’t they just let their kids have fun at home?”

Fast forward a few years. My daughter goes to Girl Scouts and piano and has Spanish four hours a week. I’m trying to figure out if we can squeeze in dance and gymnastics. After all, she needs to exercise, doesn’t she? And, that doesn’t even include church activities and friends’ birthday parties.

How did this happen?

I remember when my daughter was an infant and attended daycare at the school where I was the counselor. I would rock her and feed her, early in the morning, before I had to be in my office and I would see the other parents drop off their kids. I specifically recall one little girl across the hall. Her dad would drop her off every day and every day she would sob and sob at the door as he walked away. I used to think, “How can he just walk away from her like that? I would never leave my child at daycare if they were clearly so upset!”

Today, I went to pick up my boys from their school and found the baby with his head pressed against the window, watching his brother on the playground, crying his eyes out. I knew he would do this. He’s done it for the past week and yet, every day, I drop him off at the school and walk away.

I said I’d never do it, but I do.

I never thought I’d open food in the grocery store and feed it to my kids before I’ve paid for it. I promised myself I’d never bribe my children to get them to behave. I was going to cut off the bottle no later than 12 months. I wasn’t going to let them bring a drink to bed. They weren’t going to ever have soda in their childhood. I swore I'd never make my kids ride the school bus. I vowed I’d never take my kids to the store without shoes. I was disgusted at the thought of plopping them in front of the TV so that I could get a break.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t, but I did . . . I do.

And, I don’t really even need to ask myself why I do these things – these atrocities in which I judged other parents on and for which I thought I would hold myself to a higher standard. I know why I do them. I need to survive.

Because, when you’re a parent, it’s like you’re in a war zone and every day – every minute – is another battle. Some of the battles are easily won. But some . . . well, sometimes, the thought of surviving . . . making it through the moment with your sanity in tact . . . seems more appealing than anything else. Certainly more important than any of those promises you made yourself when you really didn’t know what you were talking about.

I was a much better parent before I had kids.

Weren’t we all?

I have a friend, who has no children, who vows, every time I mention the word, that she will never allow her kids to wear Crocs. I think she views them as evil. Whenever I bring up the shoes, which I’ll admit, all three of my kids own, she tells me how her children will never be allowed to wear them. I hear about how bad they are for the children's feet and arch support. Not to mention, how ugly they are.

“Never, ever,” she tells me.

“Yeah. Sure,” I think. "You just wait. I used to say that, too."

Never say never.

It’ll just come back to bite you.

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