A few months ago I was asked by Babble to finish this sentence: Before I had kids, I swore I’d never…
“Do I have room to write a five-page, double-spaced essay? One thing I swore I’d never do was let my kids watch TV, revised that to they’d never watch more than one hour a day, and revised that again to an amount of time I’m not comfortable disclosing. Mostly, I just used the word “never” way too much before kids.”
Oh if only this was about the amount of television I allow my children to watch.
I’ve been trying to imagine my twenty-something self looking (down her nose with the wide eyes of SHOCK!) at the thirty-something with two kids me. She wouldn’t understand, of course, that all those lovely and well thought out plans she had for raising children were well intentioned but naive. Her ideas about discipline, nutrition, social-emotional development, schooling, fashion, marriage…oh EVERYTHING, had to be completely overhauled when two little people, with two distinct personalities, were added to the family.
There is no one on Earth who can properly plan for what life will be like once children are added to the mix. We all *think* we know what we’ll do, but until we’re in the trenches, three days out since our last shower, four years since our last full night of sleep, ten years since a child-free vacation…there are things that we do as parents that we’d never have even considered in our pre-kid days.
But with all that said, I truly believe that just because we don’t become the idealistic versions of parents we imagined, most of us are doing a really good job most of the time. Yes, we make mistakes, yes we do things that we regret, but our decisions are based on our ever changing knowledge of parenting our own children. I’d be making my life and my kid’s lives way harder than necessary if I had completely stuck to my original parenting philosophy.
I always said I’d never fight with my husband in front of my children, yet occasionally it happens. I still don’t think it’s the BEST thing that happens, but when it happens, we try to make up in front of the kids. See kids? People have arguments and people make up.
I swore my kids would never drink soda. While we don’t keep soda in our house, they get it as a treat when we eat out. I wish that I’d never have let them have in the first place, but it happened one night at a restaurant that didn’t have milk. To keep the kids from the inevitable freak out, we ordered them soda.
Aaaaaaand we also said we’d never bribe the children to behave, especially with food and candy (and, uh, soda.)
I said my house would be clean, toys would stay in their rooms or in the play room and at the end of each day, we’d pick up toys while singing, “Clean up! Clean up! Everybody, everywhere!”
I swore I’d never let my children waste band-aids on non-existent boo-boos.
My ideal children were going to be polite because I’d teach them manners. They’d understand the importance of respecting their elders because I would always show them the same respect I expected in return.
I keep learning these lessons, the ones about choosing battles, and letting go, and prioritizing. So despite these things that I swore I’d never do and the things that clearly I could improve, there are lots of things that my husband are getting right with our kids. Our home is strewn with toys and books, but it’s their home, too, and I like that they don’t live in a museum quality home. Our kids are fed (EVERY DAY!), they have clothes to wear, and they are loved beyond measure. That love is there, always, even when they are acting like total buttheads.
So to my twenty-something, child-free self: Relax. You’ll be just fine.