May 27, 2010

I’m Not The Mom I Thought I’d Be

There’s a little known fact, well, I didn’t even know it until today.  I realized I am not the mom I thought I would be.  Hey, guess what?  I’m not the woman I thought I’d be either, or the wife I pictured I would be.  But most prominently, given my own experience as a child, I wanted to be the best mom in the world.

I took the “having children” issue to an extreme by thinking of not having them.  I didn’t want to screw it up.  I would rather NOT be a mom than to be a “bad” mom.  And as we all do, we profile what that means to us, a good mom is a nice mixture of great things our mom and grandma did, a couple parents of our friends, that lady in the park that bent down and got dirty just because her child was crying and—NONE of the things our moms did wrong or our friends moms or our cousins’ moms.  Those are the “bad” moms.  The list looks something like this:

*Don’t Yell

*Always speak softly

*Have the Mary Poppins bag on hand at all time, fully stocked

*Smile often

*Praise constantly

*Say negative things with a positive spin so as to instill love of doing right and avoid rebellion

*Do all the chores—with said smile

*Take time for yourself—to maybe read—a parenting book

*Better yourself by decorating Bobby’s room

*Relax and cut out those snowmen pieces for Susie’s class

Did I just hear a huge horn?!  BWAAAAAAA!!!!  Well, with a little embellishment, that’s how I felt a few years back.  I was pretty sure that those people who said things softly and with those little hearts dripping from their words– would have better behaved children.  And I didn’t have a frieking clue what I was talking about.  In fact, I was an idiot.  But I came from the right motivation–I wanted to be a good mom.  I had made the decision after much hesitation and now it was time to bring on the mommy sh##.  Watch out, Mrs. Cleaver.  This b#@@ is gonna bring it home!  I was gonna raise the most loving, intelligent, well-rounded, fine-humored, well-mannered children who knew how to have fun, love life, succeed like crazy and feel a peaceful sense of self during the whole process.  BS. 

Here’s the deal.  Kids come pre-programmed, and I don’t think it has anything to do with how many prenatal vitamins you may have missed.  They come all wrapped up in a package of their own.  Broken down, it’s a parent’s job to make sure they make it through life the best they can, which sometimes is, by definition, far different from what you imagined. 

So you struggle with the realities of each child.  This one’s smart, but the attitude…  Or this one’s sweet, but that little hitting tick…  Nope, dunno what to do with that either.  And there’s a lot of self-loathing in the time before the magic mommy fairy leaves you with the message on what the hell to do.  Hate to ruin any naivety you have left, but there is no mommy wisdom fairy.  You may not like it, you may not understand it.  But I’ve come to this.  I’m not the mom I thought I’d be.  I yell, I scream sometimes, I throw fits because I can’t say something one more time, or my head will literally fly off and eat itself.  I say words that I wouldn’t say in a church (large, sad pause) to my beautiful offspring. 

And then someone told me recently that we probably focus on the 1% of things we do wrong when we’re parents.  We probably don’t realize the 99% of things we do well.  (Thanks, by the way, friend.)  I thought about it for awhile, as I often do—with everything.  I realized I had really been focusing on the things I was doing wrong or trying to figure out what they were and fix them, of course!  I was almost afraid to tell my mom friends the things I do right.  I wondered if we all focus on negative things too much.  And why didn’t I tell the story about the 30 minutes I spent just holding my son because I noticed he seemed tired or the night I got up with both of my kids 40 times because they were sick, and my husband was out of town?  Why didn’t I share the 20 minutes I spend a day with each of my children and call our special time—so they know that nothing that happens will change the importance of the depth of our relationship?  Why didn’t I tell my friends what loving moment I saw my kids share that was well beyond their years? 

Do we feel the need to tell on ourselves for not being perfect?  And who expects us to be perfect?  Probably we just felt like we need to be perfect, and we blame ourselves for everything that goes wrong. 

So here’s the thing.  I’m not the soft-spoken mother who always remains calm and never lets her kids watch TV for too long.  I’m not the best cook, and I don’t always follow through on the rules I set.  I’m inconsistent, the cardinal rule of parenting.  But I do make sure my kids treat each other with respect.  I always apologize when I yell and explain what I was feeling.  They’ll bitch at me about that one, one day over a beer.  I never tell my children they are stupid or attack who they are as people.  I stick to situations and feelings instead of name-calling.  I make sure the food they do get is healthy and fresh.  I hug them and hold them every single day without fail.  I tell them they’re smart and beautiful and have amazing hearts.  I tell them they can do anything.  I make sure they learn or experience something new every day, laugh every day, say something kind and tell them we’re always going to be best friends, so we have to figure things out if we fight.  Even if we don’t know the answer, we can find it, we can help each other, and we always make things right.  We never go to bed mad, and even though I’m a fiery mom, I always forget I’m mad ten minutes after it’s done.  My kids aren’t scared of me one bit, and they are the best kids I can imagine having.  (yes, all parents feel this away about my kids, I mean, THEIR kids.) 

There is a lot we do right parenting, even though it doesn’t always look the way we had pictured handling it when we were busy judging other parents—before we WERE parents.  But we have to remember to stick to some of the basics.  Love and laugh often, apologize when you’re wrong, give your family your best—they matter most, and never say things that attack a person’s soul—you can’t take those things back.  Parenting isn’t easy, and it’s less easy if you’re busy beating yourself up for all those things you’ve done less graciously then you could have.  So stay in the moment, yell every once in awhile, and let those kids know that no matter what-they are the most important part of your life.