Before I became a parent, I had certain ideas of what kind of a mother I wanted to be (don't we all?) Those ideas were vague initially, but nonetheless I had a long list of things I would NEVER do. I wasn't going to be a servant to my kids. There would be rules and those rules would be followed.
Easy as pie, right?
Pre-kids, if I were a good mum, these are things I would never, ever do.
1. Give in to their begging for sweets.
I will not be blackmailed by a 3 foot tyrant!
2. Follow them around the house trying to get them to eat.
If you are hungry, you'll eat sitting down at the table like a normal person!
3. Get drawn into their fashion demands.
You are 3 years old, you'll wear what I tell you to wear!
What do you think I bought your crib for? I painted your room in Bubblegum Blue for goodness sake. That's where you will sleep. That's what the book says.
5. Cook more than one dinner.
You get what you get and you don't get upset. Isn't that what they teach in school?
6. Coddle past the age of 5.
That's the cut off. After that I have expectations of self-sufficiency. Maybe you could get yourself a part-time job or something…?
...but then I actually had kids. And that's when things changed. My parenting ideals got shaken up when theory met reality. The more kids came along, the more the rules went out the window, and the more I free-styled (which was part choice, part necessity.)
And I ate my previous words about what I would never do.
1. I gave into the begging.
Go on. Just say “pleeeeeeeeeeease" again with that cute face and big smile of yours. I know you are trying so hard to win me over. You win.
2. I really want him to eat his food.
So, yes, I have run after my baby—bowl and spoon in hand—when he refuses to sit in his high chair. Because in theory, the more my little guy eats, the longer he will sleep. So mama will do what she needs to do to get that food into him.
3. I don't stress about what he wears.
Unless it has Minions, Batman or Turtles on it, my son won't wear it. He has his own ideas of what he likes and how he wants to look. I've tried to enforce that what I say goes, but another very important lesson in the parenting game is “pick your battles."
4. We co-sleep.
We have co-slept with all of our children. By choice. Then choice became habit. While there are days where I wish we had our bed to ourselves and that one of us wouldn't always end up in the spare room or on the floor, I know this is for a short time. This isn't going to last forever and I know that we are all happy with co-sleeping, and most importantly, we're all getting sleep. So it works for us!
5. I've been cooking more than one dinner for the best part of my parenting tenure.
I have two very fussy eaters and have tried the approach of “You'll eat what everyone is eating" and failed. So, I make multiple dinners. (Remember that “pick your battles" thing?) Now one of my fussy eaters is nearly 5 and I can reason with her. I can tell her about food and the importance of eating her vegetables. She gets that now and we are on the way to one meal for the whole family. (Can I get a whoop whoop please?!)
6. I coddle all of my kids.
Guilty as charged. I will stand outside the shower, holding the towel for my kids. I will make sure their hair is brushed and that they change their socks. I will clean up after all my kids and do their jobs for them. Maybe one day I'll start putting my foot down, but for now, I'm doing what works for us.
As they say, you don't know what you don't know. And so you probably won't understand the allure of co-sleeping or letting your child pick out his out outfit himself until you're in the thick of it with your little ones. And that's okay, because there's a learning curve to this motherhood thing.
These lessons have taught me a thing or two. For one, maybe all of these “parenting mistakes" aren't really mistakes at all.
Maybe they are a chance to learn to trust ourselves, trust our instincts, and do what we feel is right for us and our families at any particular point in time.
Maybe these “mistakes" can teach us how to enjoy riding the waves of parenting; embracing all the ups and downs for what they are without the need to constantly second guess ourselves.
Everything we do in life, we do by choice. It is okay to back down from the society-imposed or self-imposed parenting expectations out there and instead do what is best for us, for our family, and for our children.
No one else knows what we know. No one else knows our children like we do. No one else is walking in our shoes.
All that matters is that we care about our children and that's why we walk the extra mile bent over backwards to make sure we give them all they need…and much, much more.