Remember what life was like before you had kids? I’m not talking about when you routinely slept in on the weekends, or you spontaneously decided to see a movie on a weeknight. We all remember those days fondly. Sigh. I am talking about how you viewed other people with children. If you were anything like me, you were a perfect parent before your kids arrived, and you had opinions on just about everything from nutrition, to discipline, to childhood sleeping habits. And you swore you would be the parent you were in your head once your children arrived.
I remember one time I was on a shopping outing with a friend, when her toddler started running around the store, screaming and pulling things off of shelves. My friend’s response was to immediately pull out a snack and give it to the unruly child. In fact, I saw that child get snacks several times that day, and at that moment I swore to myself that I would never bribe my children with snacks and treats. Fast forward to post-children Darcy, and I never leave the house without being armed with several bribery items. I have learned that it is amazing how far a small bag of Goldfish or a box of raisins can go to calm a crazy toddler.
I remember walking into restaurants and seeing children on their parents cell phones and iPads and thinking, I would NEVER do that. My future well-behaved children, I imagined, would sit at the table with their parents and participate in the conversation while my husband and I ate our meal in peace. Fast forward to post-children Darcy, and when my husband and I are brave enough to bring our children to a restaurant, we never leave home without the iPad, which is fully stocked with Superhero cartoons. I have learned that the iPad is just as much for the benefit of our fellow diners as it is for my husband and me. After all, I imagine one would prefer to eat dinner next to a two-year-old watching a cartoon with headphones, rather than endure a two-year-old running around a restaurant like a lunatic out of the asylum.
I remember watching a family friend feed her child French fries and ketchup for dinner (I believe she even joked that at least he was “getting his vegetables,”) and thinking I would NEVER allow my children to eat junk food, let alone junk food for dinner! Fast forward to post-children Darcy, and in public you may routinely see me begging my picky eater son to eat a hot dog or pizza. We have also been known to order just French fries for him when we are out, since we have discovered that actually ordering meals for him is both a waste of food and money. My child simply gets too distracted around other people to try to get him to eat the healthy stuff, so it’s a task I save for myself at home. I have learned that some children are simply not good eaters, and just because you see a child eating French fries for dinner one time does not mean that the parents are not trying their darndest to get some health foods into the child at home.
I remember meeting a woman who was complaining about how her son slept in her bed every night, and I thought, oh no, that will never fly in my house once I have kids. Fast forward to post-children Darcy, and we have had many of those nights where our children are alternating crying out for us. The constant up and down to comfort a teething baby or a scared toddler can leave you dazed, and you are lucky to get an hour of sleep. While I am not an attachment parent myself, I have been known to let my children sleep in my bed if it means the difference between a restless night and a moderately good night sleep. I have learned that when my husband and I are well rested, we are better parents.
I remember seeing a kid on a leash and thinking, I would NEVER do that. Ok, I still haven’t done that one. But I have run after my children in crowded venues and streets enough to understand. And I am not judging. My children are here, and I am not quite the parent I was in my head before their arrival. But, I have learned a thing or two in the meantime, mainly not to judge. No one out there is a perfect parent, and most of us are trying our very best to raise healthy, happy, well-adjusted, kind little people. And if it means that occasionally our kids skip a bath, eat donuts for dinner, watch a little too much TV, or get to bed well past their bedtime, then it’s okay.
What did you swear that you would never do as a parent? How is that working?