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Human, Just Like Us

On looking in the mirror, and seeing your kid.

Human, Just Like Us

If you don’t understand the phrase “do as I say, not as I do,” then you are probably not a parent. This is a parental mantra. We explain to our children why they can’t have sugary cereal, then gorge ourselves on almond croissants at breakfast. We carefully monitor the 30 minutes of screen time we allow our children each day, then stay up until 4 in the morning to binge-watch the latest House of Cards season. Parents say, “slow down,” “don’t argue,” and “please share,” then we walk through the streets at a mind-boggling pace, expressing disdain toward those who think differently, and dropping bows for that last seat on the train.

There is nothing like parenting to make you realize how wretched you are. A baby is born and is the incarnation of innocence and joy. They’re snuggled up, safe from the world in your arms, oblivious to anything that isn’t warmth and love and full bellies. Meanwhile, the very arms that hold them belong to participants of the world’s problems—whether we mean to be or not. We are simply human.

When I had a brand new baby, I had quite specific opinions on how parents were failing their kids and how I would raise mine perfectly. I would hold that baby—the one I mentioned was oblivious to practically everything?—and talk about how I would only feed her whole foods and I wouldn’t let her watch television and I would basically mold her into the perfect citizen, all while eating cookies and catching up on Parenthood and continuing to pass judgment on others. What did she know? In a way, having a baby seemed like a second chance. I wasn’t doing anything right, but I could help her to succeed in all the places I had failed.

Then that baby grew into a toddler. The way she learned the world was through mimicking. She wanted to bake and clean and talk on the phone and pack her purse and rock her dolls, because that’s what she saw me doing. It’s terrifying to view your imperfections through the eyes of your children. Our humanness, we think, just might destroy them.

But here’s a spoiler alert: We are raising humans.

I have considered my own humanness a lot this year. I have considered the ways I see the world, the ways I choose to experience it. I’ve thought about how my personality fits into it all, the emotional tactics I use to respond.

I have considered my kids’ humanness too. Their personalities and experiences may be different than mine, but they possess the same potential for success and failure, and the same emotional building blocks for coping. They need to learn how to use them.

Anne Lamott, author of Traveling Mercies, once wrote about the passing of a dear friend and how it affected both her life and her son Sam’s life. As a mother, her temptation was to micromanage his grief. We bear the weight of our own humanness and hope to not pass it on to our children. But then she realized, “Trying to fix him, or distract him, or jolly him out of his depression would actually be a disservice. I prayed for the willingness to let him feel sad and displaced until he was able to stop slogging through the confusion and step back into the river of ordinariness.”

I have wondered how this applies to my hypocritical mantras. How for all of my chanting, “Do as I say, not as I do,” I am dispensing a far greater disservice. Rather than becoming vulnerable with my children and exposing my bad habits, I’m instead displaying the darker side of humanity: my dishonesty, my hypocrisy, my pride.

Naturally I understand that my children are not my equals, and I fully invest in the right to create the rules and hopefully carve out their best lives for them while it’s within my control. But with little eyes constantly watching and tiny ears constantly straining to listen, with all their humanness already existing inside of them, being molded through experience, I wonder how I might better model a good side of humanity by simply being willing to exist in my flawed state and let them see that from time to time. To let them watch me try to be better.

My four-year-old caught me biting my nails the other day. It’s a terrible, dirty habit, especially for a New Yorker.

“Mommy,” she said to me, eyebrows raised, shaking her head. “You’re not supposed to have your hands in your mouth.

I nodded. “You’re right,” I said. “It’s a gross thing to do.”

“I know that because you told me,” she said. She sat down beside me and I laughed.

“I told you and I should do better at following my own advice. Sometimes mommies make mistakes too, but the things I tell you are to try to help you make good choices, even when I don’t.”

“That's okay if you make mistakes. I forgive you like you forgive me,” she said with a smile and then bounded back to her room to play.

I sat there astounded at what I’d just heard, how she’d exchanged the best part of her humanness for the worst part of mine. And in that moment, I had hope for the world again, even with me and all the other hypocrites running around.

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A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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