I wrote this post a few days ago for another blog I am a guest on but thought it would be appropriate to post it here.
Once upon a time there was a mom who thought she was “all that”. She read lots of stuff and had lots of theories and had a cute little baby girl that was so perfect. This mom raised this perfect little girl and was quite pleased with the results. There was no need to baby proof the house, they could eat at any restaurant without embarrassment, the little girl never hit or bit or screeched like other children did. She said her pleases and thank-you’s and when there was a problem it could be solved with calm dialogue.
Then age 3 and 4 happened and that pristine beautiful world began to drip a little bit. There was some yelling, some intense tantrums, some back talk. Bruised ego mom went back to the drawing board and read more books and “presto” everything was back to perfect (sort of).
And along came a bouncing baby boy and the whole world came crashing down…
I went to dinner today with a friend and her daughter at an Italian restaurant in Fairhaven (a yuppy, snooty type of town). I have no idea what I was thinking. Since we have been tight on money we haven’t been to real restaurants lately and it didn’t even occur to me that I should be concerned.
Oh, the horror. If you ever want to be humbled in life at your parenting skills please take my son to a sit down restaurant. Please, I beg you. He was everything I was horrified at when viewing little kids at restaurants before I was a parent and even while I was a parent to just Camden. I take back any judgmental thought I’ve had towards other parents and their children in restaurants.
He screeched at the top of his lungs, threw food, pulled a glass of ice-water down that cascaded all over the table and onto the floor, banged a fork on the table which resulted in me yanking the fork from his hand only to be met with the loudest scream I have ever heard erupt from the mouth of something so adorable which caused embarrassed me to flick him on the mouth (which I’ve never done and is so NOT me) which resulted in an additional scream and kicking legs. I managed to eat a few bites of my portabella mushroom alfredo before conceding and taking him outside. Outside I was able to chase him around and try to keep him from dashing out into the street, which of course resulted in more screeching. He did that cool limp body trick every time I tried to pick him up. My dear hearted friend came outside to take over when she was done so I could go eat my meal. That lasted all of 2 bites. He would have none of it. He wailed at the top of his lungs for me and so my meal was then boxed up and I took it to go. In irony of all irony’s several elderly (and obviously deaf) individuals came out of the restaurant and commented about his preciousness and how amazingly adorable he is. Then a nice lady came out and commented about how cute he was until he then made another mad dash for the street which resulted in me (for the hundredth time) snatching him up which (of course) was met with more screeching. Her comment, “well you know it’s always the tough ones that are the smartest.” Which I felt like sarcastically retorting, “How can I dumb him down a bit?”
On the walk down to get Gelato my friend laughed the whole way about Garrett. She has been in major baby fever mode and admitted that going to a restaurant with Garrett put it in perspective for her. I offered her the privilege of babysitting my son whenever the baby fever struck her. We both marveled at how the same basic parenting approach to two different children could produce such different results and recognized that sometimes what we take credit for (in regards to children’s behavior) has very little to do with us. Sure we can do some basic things to increase the outcome of the behavior we desire but in the end they have free agency to do as they please.
I now find myself baby proofing every possible nook and cranny of our house. Our toilet paper never gets to be on the roll anymore. We can never find the remotes or the cordless phone because he steals them and hides them. He eats every possible fuzz, crumb and choking hazard in the house and frankly I just don’t care anymore, I’ve learned he spits it out. He bites, hits, pulls hair, screams, breaks things and thinks the word “no” is the funniest word he has ever heard. All of this and only 13 months old.
Now, I must add that he really is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen (ok, maybe only in the top ten) and his sweet kisses and hugs melt my heart, he keeps me laughing all day and he really is a smart little guy. He is good natured despite his brute and stubborn will.
But this post isn’t about Garrett, this post is about me. It is about the misconceptions I held about parenting and the false assumptions I made about what was mine and what wasn’t. You can own every parenting theory book in the world (I think I almost do) and you can apply the best of the best methods but in the end the result isn’t necessarily yours. The relationship between parent and child is just that, a relationship. It goes both ways. Just because your child behaves doesn’t mean it is a direct result of your prowess as a mother and just because your child misbehaves doesn’t mean that you don’t have a clue about what you’re doing (even though that is how I feel right now). In fact, defining what “misbehavior” is, is a debatable subject in and of itself. Raising Garrett has been an amazing way to humble me right down to the core of my being. Not only with his behavior but with the health issues and ongoing allergies that he struggles with. I’ve had to learn to let go of the outcome a little bit and to stop parenting out of fear that he’s going to run loose with a bunch of gang bangers when he’s a teenager and trust that he’ll come around by example. I’ve had to force myself to see that actions and the example I set are more important than trying to conform my children to my will.
It doesn’t mean I’m going to passively sit back and let him turn into a wild banshee but it does mean that I’m going to be that red faced mother when you hear that ear piercing screech.