There’s a lot about parenting that is difficult.
Potty training when the only bathroom is a filthy gas station even Britney Spears wouldn’t step foot in. Sleep training at six months. Then again at two years. And again at three years. Dropping your child at day care for the first time. Dropping your kid on their head for the first time.
But the hardest part of parenting is the restraint that you have to show every damn day.
Restraint is not giving in to your toddler’s meltdown over refusing to buy her the LaLaLoopsy doll she NEEEEEEEEEDS, even though that means leaving Target in the midst of your shopping trip. I’ve left carts half-full of toilet paper and detergent with customer service- trust me, they’d rather re-stock than lose the customers that catch sight of your Tasmanian devil tearing up the aisles.
When your daughter asks you to read her Barbie Wants to Be A Ballerina book for the 471314th time, restraint is when you read it to her, even though you can hear your brain cells evaporating as you recite the words. Because it’s still reading, and maybe she’ll grow up to write some decent children’s books.
When your five year old insists he can pour his own milk for his cereal, restraint is when you resist the urge to help and try not to scream as you watch the gallon fly out of his tiny hands.
Restraint is letting your three year old go to day care dressed in frog rain boots and a tutu for six months straight. Though she looks ridiculous, she’ll have years of people evaluating her fashion choices, so you bite your tongue and ignore the women on the bus who roll their eyes when they see the two of you board each morning.
When that kid on the playground pushes your child off the swing, restraint is what prevents you from going all “Hand that Rocks the Cradle” on the kid.
When you are in the midst (ie., hour three) of your exhausting nightly battle with your child over their refusal to stay in their own bed, restraint is what keeps you from letting them sleep in your bed, just this once.
Restraint is not calling your kid’s sleepaway camp every time you see him looking “not sad, just not ecstatic” in a camp photo.
Restraint is when your child suddenly remembers at 9PM that they have a history project due the next morning,making them finish it because they need to learn a lesson about being prepared.
When your tell your daughter that if she doesn’t behave, you’re going to take away her American Girl doll, and she turns to you and hisses, “Let me go get it for you,” restraint is what sends you into the bathroom for a self-imposed time out before responding in a way you might regret.
After over a decade as a mom, I still don’t practice restraint with grace. Generally it involves me channeling Fat Amy and thinking “hmmmm….better not” as I bite my tongue.
But I practice it, every damn day.
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