I so clearly remember the days when I was the perfect mother. I really was. I had the answers to every problem that parents may come across. My children never misbehaved in public. My children listened to everything I told them and if not, I would explain things to them lovingly and then they would say, "You're right, Mommy. I'll do what you asked." My children slept through the night in their own cribs and never come into mine unless they were sick or had a bad dream. I let my kids be kids and understood that they may not be perfect (even though they had the perfect mother) but I could quickly remedy any out-of-control behaviors. I also didn't understand why some parents looked so exhausted and frustrated with their children sometimes. I mean, the parenting thing really wasn't that hard. I really had a handle on it all and by God, I was good. And then something changed -- I actually had children. And I was no longer the perfect parent. OK, so maybe I really didn't have all the answers. Truth be told, I quickly felt like maybe I didn't know any answers.
As we'd venture out in public and Cole would talk loud or run ahead of the shopping cart, I would allow him to do so knowing it was fine, but inside I cringed that Other People (you know who I mean - "they") would think that I was a terrible mother. If we went out to dinner with child-less friends and Cole couldn't sit still or complained, even though I knew he was a typical 2 year old, I still worried that our friends would think we didn't know what we were doing (notice how I brought Scott into this with the "we" - hee hee). If we visited someone and he didn't use his manners at the exact right time, I thought, "Uh-oh they are going to think we are raising him to be rude."
I struggled with this parenting dilemma for years. The knowing-what-is-right-and-ok for MY kids (maybe not yours, or theirs, but mine) and the perception that other people may think I'm doing it wrong. It was something that filled up large amounts of thinking time while I was out with Cole. I knew I was not the Perfect Mother, and far from it. But I knew that I was a good mom. I knew I wanted my kids to be kind, polite, friendly, funny and respectful. I knew that what we were teaching and modeling for Cole were things that would help him be that kind of person. But I also knew that kids need to be kids and that talking a little to loud or running ahead of the cart wasn't the end of the world. And eventually (eventually being 4 or 5 years) I came to realize that I am being the best mom I can be and if others have another opinion, then that's their prerogative. They're wrong, but they can think it. Ha! And when I see a mother in Target or at a friend's house whose kid is being a kid, I can relate and nothing crosses my mind other than, "Aw, been there. Will be there again. That sucks."
So now that I no longer care what people's perceptions of my parenting are (that is totally NOT true, I just care less than I used to), I have two stories to demonstrate just how far I've come:
I am loving that Chase is talking now. It is one of the most wonderful sounds in the world. It makes life much easier. It is so sweet to hear him sing. It is also hilarious. The other day in the course of a trip to Target, he informed me - and all the other shoppers - that "I hate this," "That's stupid," and "I had it first". And of course he didn't just say each of them once, it was repeated over and over. Funny that these little things happened to come out while Cole was with us. Not blaming Cole. I'm just sayin'. That older brother influence is so educating. But as he was belting out these lovely phrases, I'm sure other people were thinking what a horrible mother I am, but at that moment I truly didn't care. I was overjoyed at hearing Chase put more than 2 words together, and very clearly at that. Hopefully there was another mother there that heard this and just thought, "Been there. Will be there again. Ha ha."
When my nephew Jim was about 9, he came to Ithaca to visit me. As we were driving to Pizza Hut and bowling, he started telling Scott and me about how he could change his body temperature like a bird. Just by thinking about it. That he never really gets too cold. To this day, Jim still wears tshirts even in winter. Anyway, to this day, we still bring up the "bird theory" and it always brings a good laugh. But now, the last laugh is on us. We now have a 7-year-old that is the same way. It is October 26th and although it is warm today, there have been many days since school started that it has been quite chilly. And on every one of those days Cole has worn shorts. A couple of times he has worn track pants over the shorts, but generally, it's just shorts - and tshirts. In his closet hangs a large number of very nice long sleeved tshirts that just keep hanging out. Never to be worn. I guess Cole is like a bird, too. :o) I have no problem with him wearing shorts because if he gets cold, he will put his pants on or learn to dress warmer - he's smart like that. However, that old parenting fear came back so I emailed his teacher to explain that he gets hot so that's why he's wearing shorts. Felt like I needed to explain because I was afraid she would brand me as a bad parent because it's 40 degrees and he's wearing shorts. She told me her son is the same way, not to worry about it. And she is right. Cole is MY child. He is isn't hurting anyone by wearing shorts. It doesn't effect his learning. He is still a kind boy. He. Just. Gets. Hot. And that's not being a bad parent. It's being a parent who understands her child and knows that her child is capable of making decisions for himself.
Maybe it took a little bit with the Cole example to get to the point that I could let it go, but I got there. Years ago, I would have let him wear shorts but would have constantly made excuses for it and wondered about The Others. But now I know better. Our kids are happy, have personality, are kind, loving, polite and friendly. We must be doing some things right.
And if sometimes I am thought to be a horrible mother? Then so be it.