Crazed In the Kitchen: I Used To Be The Best Mom On Earth. For Real.   

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I Used To Be The Best Mom On Earth. For Real.

I used to be the best mom. I’m not kidding—I was the BEST. I knew how to quiet a crying infant, how to get a toddler to sleep through the night, how to teach a preschooler to behave in a restaurant. As I walked through the mall, the grocery store, or the doctor’s office, I watched the poor, unskilled parents I saw and thought about how lucky I was to be such a great parent. I judged parents who were trying to wrangle tantruming toddlers or unruly school-aged kids. I gave out dirty looks like Oprah hands out new cars to those selfish, lazy parents who couldn’t be bothered to raise their kids right. 

But then, something happened that shook my rock-solid parenting self-confidence to the core. My perfect parenting skills slipped, I started losing control, I….

I had kids.

As I stared at my wailing newborn at 2 am on our first night home from the hospital, I realized with a sinking feeling that I actually knew nothing about raising kids. But, I thought to myself, how could this be true? I had 15 years of babysitting under my belt, and I had read pretty much every baby care book published! I was an ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER, for crying out loud, and I watched Supernanny religiously! Those things made me a freaking expert on kids, right? RIGHT???

Wrong.

Unfortunately, there truly is no way to understand parenthood other than by having a kid. And, there really is no way to know for sure what kind of parent you will be until you’re doing it. If you had described Attachment Parenting to me before my first son was born, I would have nodded politely while screaming in my head, “GET A BACKBONE!” Now that I have kids, I’m mostly a believer. Before I had kids, I thought for sure that I would embrace being a working mother. Now, I’m on my third year of child care leave and loving being a stay-at-home mom.

It turns out parenting is just like any other job. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about waiting tables or performing brain surgery: You can Google it, watch videos, read books, but you can’t truly understand it until you do it. Parenting is no different—except that many, many, MANY people who have never done it seem to think they know just how it should be done.

One problem, I think, for most non-parents lies in the whole nature vs. nurture debate. Before I had kids, I put a lot of stock in the nurture side of the argument. Kids will always do as they’re told and as they’re taught, I believed. For example, I really believed that my kids would love vegetables because I would tell them that we were eating a rainbow of different colored foods. How fun! Fast forward a few years and my 4-year-old couldn’t care less about rainbows and only eats veggies that start with the letter C. My 2-year-old, on the other hand, will try pretty much anything. They are human beings that come with personalities of their own, not robots to be programmed. Yes, a child’s upbringing plays a major role in who they are, but a big part of who they are is just…who they are.
How I pictured my hubby...before we had kids

So, to all the non-parents out there, I ask you to give us parents the benefit of the doubt. Please understand that the mother of three ahead of you in line at Target probably did not teach her 3-year-old to chant, “Vagina! Vagina! Beautiful vagina!” at top volume. Yes, she can encourage him to use more appropriate language or she can punish him if he refuses to stop. But the wonderful and awful thing about kids is that only they are truly in control of their voices and bodies. They often make good choices about how to act, but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they choose mayhem. How you react to their behavior says loads more about you as a parent than how they behave.

Mostly, my childless friends, I ask you to remember what I once overheard another parent say: “The only perfect parents are the ones who have not yet had kids. And the only perfect kids are the ones who have not yet been born.”

This post was first published on the awesome blog Daddy Knows Less. You should go check it out.

13 comments:

  1. love it!! you said it, sista! great read!

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  2. Well said! Love the comments on perfect kids and perfect parents! So true!

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  3. Great post. Unfortunately I know just what you mean. I was a great mom too, but I've been slipping...

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    1. Yes, it's all downhill for the parenting skills once you have kids...

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  4. You babysat for 15 years? I would've called the cops after like a week. That's TOO LONG!!

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  5. So...you're the one who shot me that "look" as I stood in line pregnant with #5 while the other four kids ran around singing the "diarrhea song" ;)

    Girl...I feel ya. All six of kids are TOTALLY different, and each one needs a different parenting style. Hard to do when you're in public, but I've gotten better after 23 years of this stuff. The youngest is six and I'm hoping against hope that someday I can consider myself the perfect parent.

    Oh...who am I kidding? ;)

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  6. I think kids are more willing to listen to a total stranger and mind them compared to their own parents. Every child is different and you have to figure out what works for each one. I agree parenting is very hard and it is a learning process.

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  7. My non-parent younger sister used to drive me nuts with all her 'knowledge'. Then one day she woke up and was the mom to 8 kids....I feel so much better now! LOL

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