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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Parental Success - How is it Measured?

I always thought I would be one of those parents who doesn't give a *bleep* what other parents think of me.  Due to my *ahem* 'independent' personality I just couldn't imagine myself capitulating to the judgments of others. Not to say that I didn't peruse some books, blogs and the interwebz to learn different parenting techniques while I was pregnant with Ender, and of course there was a mountain of word-of-mouth advice passed to me by caring family and friends.

Rich and I really try not to sound all superior when talking to friends who are expecting their first babies but it's so hard to shut up. We remember what it was like, how hard it seemed, no was!, and have the best of intentions to ease the pain of not knowing something as important as, say, a rough daily schedule.  We never had Ender on a strict 'nap, eat, play, sleep' schedule but we did make sure he got enough time doing all those things to keep him happy and healthy.  Admittedly this was after we made him cry a lot for a couple weeks before our neighbors (whose little girl was 6 months older than Ender) advised us to talk to a sleep consultant.  Turns out we were sleep depriving the poor little man.

Anyways - that was just one example of where we needed help.  And boy were we glad to get it.

Where it sucks is when you have consciously made a choice to parent a particular way and then some parent throws you the side eye because they would never do that with their kid.  Here is the first of several truths as I see them in functioning as a mommy (or daddy - I'm no gender elitist):
No two kids are the same.  My kid is not your kid.  Your kid knows 4 languages.  My kid just pooped in the garden*.  My kid can climb that tree.  Your kid just faceplanted walking across a flat surface. You have to choose and alter your methods based on your kid's personality.  Never forget that they have one and they need to be treated accordingly.  
Then there are the well-meaning purveyors of child rearing advice from 'back when we were kids'.  They really do want to help and think that since it was ok to give a baby a shot of brandy to get them to sleep in the '50's, it's still ok today.  However, this is flawed logic - as with all things, humans continue to evolve and get smarter.  Sometimes dafter.  I guess I'm just saying that just because it was ok back then doesn't mean it's ok now.  Like speeding down the freeway at 70mph with your kid on your lap in the front seat.  Heck, why not let him steer too?  Second truth:
Good parenting techniques did, and will, evolve over time.  Odds are currently at around 95% that should Ender have a child I will probably try to hand over all my hard earned wisdom.  And he will be so annoyed with me! 
Last but not least - are we our own worst enemies?  Do you, like me, judge yourself far harsher than anyone else ever could?  We make a choice for our children and then question the validity of our facts and/or decision making process.  Did we consider all the elements?  Did we consider our child's particular nature?  Am I going to turn him into a serial killer because he had a popsicle before lunch?  Listen, I've come to the conclusion that most of our ability to parent comes on instinct.  It has to, we'd be done for if we had to consult a book or an 'expert' for every single thing that happened in a day.  Especially when your kid(s) move at the speed of light.  Not to mention - who ever gets a chance to read a book when you have your little one trying to remain in physical contact ALL THE TIME.  Except when out of the house - then he is off like a race horse.  My point is that if I can't go pee or take a shower without being interrupted 12 times, I'm going to have to fly by the seat of my pants on a great deal of mommy stuff.  Third and final truth:
You are probably doing a pretty decent job.  Sure you'll fuck up sometimes.  Your kid will cry, you'll get frustrated and sometimes you'll wonder if you just ruined his life.  If you make a mistake (and we all do), fix it.  Admit your faults - you'll be happier for it.  And then, and this is  *important* because a lot of us don't do this - learn from them!  Lose your pride and accept that you're not perfect even though for many of us parenting is the first thing we even wanted to be perfect at.  And if you are perfect, go away.  You're better than me and I don't like that ;)
I think I am going to need a lot more experience under my belt before I can put this plaguing question to rest:
Will my crowning parental achievement be (a) the day Ender has no more potty accidents; or (b) the day he eradicates famine?  
One step at a time, momma, one step at a time.

What is the weirdest or funniest bit of parenting advice that you've heard?  Mine involved someone telling me to bind Ender's legs together to correct his 3 days old bowlegged-ness.  Not really an argument worth having.  

* The worst part was when the dog, in a canine maneuver she clearly believed to be in defense of our hunting territory, ate the poop. True story.  


Anonymous said...

Great post, Tracy. You're so right - it is important to admit mistakes, apologize for them, learn from them and move on. I beat myself up way too often for not knowing what to do, or for doing the 'wrong' thing. I'm sure you've seen my self-flagellation on my Facebook status updates. :-) I always appreciate getting a reminder like this from people whose opinions I respect. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

well written :) LD

Tracy said...

Thanks ladies :)

Tonite I measure my success by the fact that I had Ender in bed with only a 10 minute lead up, before 8:30pm. And no get ups, crying, stalling or hall runnings so far. It's the small things ;)

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