Monday, February 20, 2012

What they don't tell you in the parenting books.

Being a parent is hard.

At first it is difficult because you want to make sure your baby is growing and developing normally. You spend hours checking to see what the developmental milestones are and if your baby is meeting them. You worry about childproofing and how long to breastfeed and teething. You wonder if your baby will ever sleep through the night and when you should introduce rice cereal. You are consumed with the baby's bowel movements - are they regular? Do they look "normal?" 

And you are sleep deprived. And shower deprived. I remember being afraid to take a shower because I might not hear my baby cry. The baby monitor went everywhere with me. I played Mozart for babies to stimulate their minds and I was positive that I would nurture them and be the best mother EVER. I would never resort to yelling at my precious child or put one of those tacky "leashes" on them when they became toddlers. I used cloth diapers and attempted to make my own baby food.

I was exhausted.

Then, when my babies became toddlers, I worried more. Were they being socialized enough? When should I potty train? How should I?  That turned out to be much more challenging with my son than I ever could have imagined. I read him Everyone Poops and we watched videos about going potty and I sang him songs about going potty. But my boy, my darling little boy, didn't want to. I tried everything. It became a battle of wills and it was a battle I was losing. I worried that he would never be able to start school because he would be wearing pullups for the rest of his life. 

Finally, finally, HE decided to stop wearing pullups and start going potty. It had nothing to do with me or any of my attempts to coerce him. I heaved a sigh of relief and was ever so thankful that that stage had passed.

Except...that he then began to try out his newfound skill everywhere. He peed outside. He peed in his toy chest. He peed in the corner of his room. I cleaned and I cajoled and I pleaded and I threatened.

And I yelled. Me, the one who was going to be the perfect mother. I yelled and I cried and I worried. Was something WRONG with my sweet little boy? Why was he doing this? It MUST be something I was doing wrong. I researched and read, but couldn't find any information about this. And then I worried more. If I couldn't find any information then it must not be common! Oh my child is a freak! It must be because I ate too much Captain Crunch cereal when I was pregnant. Or maybe I didn't breastfeed long enough. It HAD to be my fault - right?

Eventually, this too passed. I relaxed a bit. My boy was bright and sweet and adorable. He loved animals and played with trucks and liked to go fishing.

Then he started school and another set of worries began. I worried about his school and his teachers and how to motivate him to read and to do his homework. He was a happy-go-lucky child and he loved his friends. Homework - not so much. It was a challenge to get him to do his best. He wanted to rush through it and go do something fun. Mr. Wonderful and I decided to limit television and outlawed video games. We read to the children and traveled and talked about current events with them. I prepared healthy lunches for them and didn't let them drink soda and always had fresh fruit cut up for snacks.

But the worrying was always there. And yes, I yelled. And I cried. I had given up on the idea of being the perfect mom - now I just endeavored to be good enough. 

And now, in what seems the blink of an eye, my children are teenagers. They are good kids. They don't smoke or do drugs and they are respectful and polite. I still struggle to motivate The Boy with school. He STILL wants to rush through it and go do something more fun. But he reads incessantly and he is curious and engaged. Now I worry about SAT scores and GPA's and whether he will get into a college and if it will be a good enough college. I worry about what he eats and getting him to tie his shoes and stop picking at his face. I try to get him to wear his retainer and clean his room. And I worry about him driving. Not him so much as the other drivers - but still, I worry. These days, it seems as if I worry more than I ever have before. My stomach is twisted in knots more often than not. My eyes weep tears I'm not even aware of. I still feel that everything is my fault for not being a good enough mother.

I want so much to have a "do over" with their childhood. It went by so quickly and I know I've made so many mistakes. I yelled and I cried and I worried when I should have just played with them and enjoyed them. Because my worrying hasn't accomplished anything. I know that, yet I can't help myself. It's like a disease that has taken over my life, this worrying. And this guilt.

This parenting gig is a lot harder that I expected when I held my little bundles of joy in my arms at the hospital. When I gazed into their eyes and marveled at the perfection of their little bodies and I vowed to be the best mother ever, I didn't realize that I was doomed to failure before I ever even began.

I can't be a perfect mother. I can only be the best mother I can. And I'm trying. 

Mommie Dearest with The Boy

Mommie Dearest with The Princess

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