We are all experts in parenting until we become parents (except for the people who remain experts and become parents. Usually, their kid is the one on the playground throwing sand at everyone). For me, I went into this parenting business knowing exactly what things I would not be doing when raising kids. Some of those things have stuck, like limited technology time, no spanking, using positive reinforcement, and trying to understand developmental milestones to help me help them better. Still, there are quite a few things I told myself I would never bend on, and I have. Those things are:
Our kids never had any issues sleeping in their cribs and their own rooms. Then, they hit 2-years-old and suddenly our bed was the place to be at 3:00 a.m. What do you do at 3:00 a.m.? You wedge your child in between the two of you like a giant piece of Play-Doh and go back to sleep, because at 3:00 a.m. upstairs might as well be the same distance as walking from New York City to Budapest.
2. Making Separate Meals
Thankfully this doesn’t happen as often as it could. Most nights, I make meals everyone eats parts of. Still, sometimes I like to veer off the “we eat this every week” menu and take a break from hamburgers, spaghetti, and tacos. Usually when I do that, my kids protest harder than PETA at the county fair by the 4-H barn. This means I have to make something else for them.
Maybe you’re the parent out there who says, “My kids eat what I give them, or they don’t eat at all.” That’s fantastic. Go, you! I’m not letting my kids go hungry. Not because I’m morally and legally obligated to feed them, or because I’m better than anyone; it’s because I like to spend my evenings relaxing and not listening to my kid whine about how hungry they are.
3. Letting Our Kids Watch TV
I remember a girl who looked a lot like me, except 10 years younger with a stomach flap much less flappier than a wind tarp in a Category 3 hurricane. (She’s currently working her way up to Category 4 flap status.) This girl once said her kids would never, ever watch TV. I’m here to tell you that girl found TV extremely valuable during the first trimester of her second pregnancy and called her flat-screen a free babysitter.
4. Negotiating With Our Kids
When I grew up, what my parents said was law. And, for the most part, that’s how it is for us. Except when it isn’t. I’m not a perfect parent and I don’t want to be. Some days are long, and I simply don’t care about who is in control when it comes to one more episode of Paw Patrol or eating four more peas. Whatever.
5. Continuing to Do All the Things, Even With Kids
Remember when you said, “Oh we’ll just take the baby with us on vacation,” and it was your first baby. And you took him on vacation, and you cried because your vacation included jet lag and a hostel with a broken bed and a roommate who snored 12 decibels louder than the engine of a backhoe. That was after you discovered — on the 8-hour flight — that your baby had colic. Good times.
6. Being Lenient on Bed Times
This is also called being lazy. We are totally for being lazy sometimes because being lazy means, “just a few more minutes,” which can easily turn into an hour or more. Maybe that means your kid is up 45 minutes past bedtime, but in 45 minutes you can watch an entire episode of Tiny House Hunters.
7. Eating Sugar for Breakfast
There is something about eating Pop Tarts for breakfast that feels breakfast-y enough for most of us. We all want our kids to be healthy, but a majority of parents are too tired to get up an hour before the ass-crack of dawn to make poached eggs and waffles with strawberries just so our kids can say, “My eggs are bleeding yellow. I want Cocoa Puffs.” No one is going to get up and eat anything you prep while singing “Who are the people in your neighborhood” with smiles on their faces. It’s 6:45 a.m. Everyone still has sleep boogers in their eyes and two out of three kids have no pants on. One is wearing a sock on their hand. Pop Tarts have “fruit” in them and everyone eats them, so we try to aim higher than low-ish.
8. Trying to Control Everything
Remember when you were pregnant, and you read all those books on how to raise kids? Then, you made a chart of stuff and a spreadsheet of all the ways you plan to let your child simply be themselves. This was so they could flourish and blossom into a little tiny individual — because we don’t control other adults, so why would we control our kids? Then, you had your baby and threw the book and the laptop out the window because the first time you let your little individual “flourish,” they bit the cat, and then they bit you. Then, they learned the word “no” pairs well with being independent the way white wine pairs well with fresh shellfish.
9. Letting Our Kids Break the Rules
Jumping on the bed is fun. Let your kids be 4 and 5. You only get one childhood. Have coffee while watching them and enjoy your moment and theirs. Also make sure you have an ice pack ready because often, “no rules” breaks foreheads on bed frames.
10. Being Okay With a Messy House
I wasn’t going to be the mom that needed a GPS and a guide dog to wade through the mess that has become my home. But I am. For a while it bothered me, and I nearly killed myself trying to keep up. Then, I decided that the world wouldn’t end if I left the dishes and my husband would let me know when he was running low on underwear. The house isn’t filthy; it’s lived in. Like, so lived in you can’t wade through the living room, but the toilets are clean! And that’s only because my kids have a tendency to want to play in them. If you can’t beat them, at least make sure the bowl is clean.
At the end of the day, nothing is ever permanent. Well, maybe the blue Sharpie marks on your couch cushions are, but all these other things aren’t. One day, none of these things will even exist anymore, let alone be permanent habits. When you’re a parent, you realize all too quickly that some habits are not so bad and worth hanging on to for awhile.
After all, your child won’t always want to cozy up with you at 3:00 a.m. Hopefully, though, they’ll stop playing in the toilet before middle school.