Monday, 31 December 2012

Stuff I swore I'd never do

I was very smug and sure about what to do and what not to do as a parent when my first son was born and during his infancy - you know, before I'd ever had to do any actual parenting. There were things I swore I'd never do, things I judged other parents for doing and looked down on them for, smugly self-assured and superior in my knowledge.

I would never let the fact that I'd had a baby change the way I presented myself to the world. I would still be fashionable and fit, I would still get together with girlfriends for coffee or drinks, my sweet, cooing, freshly-bathed wee one curled up in an adorable outfit in a carrier at my feet. I would be put-together and up on my current events and appear to the world as a confident, well-dressed woman-who-has-it-all - including a child. No lengthy stories about the minutia of my baby's day to bore my childless friends to tears. No track suits or bags under the eyes or unwashed hair tied in a knot on the top of the head for this new mom, thank-you very much.

I would never use a pacifier for my baby. My child would be soothed by snuggles and songs and soft shh-shh-shhs. Babies only cry because they want or need something - right? Using a pacifier is simply a lazy parent's way of settling a fussy child with minimal effort - right?

I would never use the television to entertain my children. I would never plop them in front of cartoons just so I could get a few things done. I would never pop in a DVD and let them zone out on the couch just to get a few moments' peace and quiet. My children would be stimulated without electronics using educational toys and interaction with Mom all day, every day.

I would never bribe my children, but would rely on the trust we'd built up and the lessons I'd patiently taught them over the years to ensure that they'd always do as I asked - and if there were any conflicts then a clear, rational explanation would persuade them. Never would I make empty threats or use a chocolate or toy or treat to bribe them into stopping a tantrum or being patient for five more minutes while I finish the shopping.

I would never raise my voice or yell at my children, because my children would never misbehave - and if they did, it would be for a reason and I would speak to them with kindness and understanding until we got to the root of the problem. My children would never throw temper tantrums in the middle of the grocery store. My children would never hit one another or say mean things. My children would never say no to me. Children are a product of how you raise them, and I would raise them to be polite and respectful and kind little human beings.

Are you bloody well kidding me?

I live in yoga pants and tank tops. I rarely manage a shower until late in the day. I do my hair and put on make-up perhaps six times a year - about as often as I put on real people clothes. I see my girlfriends once every several months, and am quite sure I bore them beyond words with my endless, detailed discourses about my boys.

I don't have a single photograph of my second son as a baby without a pacifier in his mouth - we called it his plug. And I actually don't know how I would make dinner for this family of five every evening if it weren't for the TV. We have a one show limit and no video game rule on weeknights - and I swear to God it's a much harder sacrifice for me than for them.

I constantly bribe my kids. Constantly. My purse is filled with cars, crayons, word puzzles, sippy cups, granola bars and fruit snacks to be used as methods of distraction in an emergency. Not having yet developed the ability to complete a grocery shop or teach a fitness class in under fifteen minutes or to be in more than one place at any given time, I bribe and distract the boys to buy myself extra minutes to get things done.

My boys have thrown temper tantrums in the middle of the mall, the middle of the street, the middle of the schoolyard. They say no if they don't want to do something, they throw things if they're angry, they antagonize each other on purpose. I scream at them at the top of my lungs.

I was so sure I'd never do all those things I saw other parents doing.

But somehow, eight years later, here I am on four hours' sleep in my track pants and tank top and mismatched socks, screaming at my six-year-old for body slamming his brother and pointing out that Santa's watching in the hopes that the threat of fewer gifts will terrorize him into behaving, yelling at my eight-year old for intentionally provoking him and trying to get him in trouble, TV blaring in the background and dinner burning on the stove and Baby's entire bowl of Corn Flakes overturned underfoot while he happily removes the ornaments one by one from the Christmas tree in the corner.

And I'm blogging about it, so that not only my friends, but my thousands of readers worldwide have to hear about it.

Sigh. Live and learn.


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