Does anybody else miss the days when they knew exactly how to parent? When their kids were the only toddlers in the world who would not throw a tantrum at Target? You know, during pregnancy, when your little boy or girl was an unborn gift to the world, and then born with unblemished features and manners.
When did that dream die? Was it the fourth all-nighter with a sleep-deprived infant? Or when your child wanted to knock everything off the shelf for no apparent reason other than a hatred for all things orderly? At some point, every parent sits there and goes, “Woah, nobody told me about the behind-the-scenes stuff. I didn’t realize that kid I called a monster in the grocery store had been up three days terrifying the woman I assumed was a bad mother.”
Remember judging parents who leash their kids? “Leash babies? How hard is it to keep track of your child?”
Then, you spent five minutes terrified because when you bent over to check a price tag, your child bolted and was nowhere to be found. You were crying in the store, as a fellow parent who had been there before, helped you find your child knocking things off a shelf five aisles away.
I miss the days when it was easy to judge the family three tables away with the wailing child—the good ole days when I was a perfect parent, before my children were born. Back when I could snottily call on all the times I watched my younger siblings, as if those credentials were enough for parenting. Before my children began refusing nap time just so they could spend an hour crying on the floor while I attempted to soothe them and sweep up the mess around them.
Parenting has changed with children added to the equation. Turns out it isn’t easy. Manners are a lot harder to instill than originally assumed. After so many weekends spent with a fevered toddler, looking enviously through my newsfeed trying to remember the last time a Friday was spent out instead of watching Mickey Mouse, it is time to admit maybe I don’t have all the answers.
The teething trials have humbled. I’m willing to trade my perfect parent card in for a hot shower and 45 minutes to myself without a list of chores to do. The badges of parenthood aren’t what I originally assumed. It isn’t beaming children with British accents who use “please” and “thank-you” while cleaning up their mess.
It’s the spaghetti stain on my jeans, the spit-up stain on my shirt. It is the red imprint on an arm that fell asleep an hour ago from comforting an unruly child. Parenting is grocery shopping with a temper-tantrum throwing toddler, ignoring the glares and stares because your kid needs more snacks to hide in between the couch cushions. Being a parent is helping a distressed parent find their kid because you’ve been there before. It is offering reassuring smiles that say, “You got this!” to the mom trying to calm her crying kid at the store.
Being a parent is getting up every morning to the uncertainty of whether your kid will have a good day or a bad one and smiling at the crayon wall art your offspring drew while you were doing the dishes. It is leaving those wall scribbles up on your once-white wall because of how proudly your child beamed when their little hand grabbed your pant leg and pulled you to see it.
Parenting wasn’t what I previously assumed it would be. Toddlers often don’t want to cooperate with your perfectly planned life. The judgmental stares and ideations of perfection I had are long gone, replaced by the truth.
I have no idea what I am doing.
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