Do you ever take a step back from your kids while you’re in the midst of a no-nap day, record breaking tantrum, or public outing gone awry and ask yourself the question “what am I doing wrong as a parent?”
Followed by… Why won’t they sleep better? Why is it so hard to get them to go to sleep? Why aren’t they better eaters? Why aren’t they listening to me? Why is this a battle when we do the same thing every day? What aren’t they doing this when I see other kids doing this? Why do other parents seem to have a much easier time than me?
Then you question every decision you make – am I too strict on this? Am I too lenient with that? Do they have too much sugar in their diet? Am I not pushing vegetables as much as I should be? Is their screen time getting out of control? Am I playing with them too much rather than fostering independent play and their imaginations? Am I not playing with them enough where it’s getting downright neglectful? Does the baby get the pacifier too much when I should be stopping to give her actual maternal comfort? Am I doling out too much praise and not enough for the hard work that’s going into completing that puzzle? Etc. etc. etc.
Then you go down the worm hole and start Googling and stumbling onto the ever helpful (insert sarcasm here) parenting articles. One article in and you have your confirmation that you are definitely doing everything wrong and royally screwing up your kids for life. Forget the 529 plans, start saving for their therapy.
I feel like I am in a constant state of saying “no”. On the other hand, I feel like I’m getting to a point where I’m no longer “picking my battles” and saying f it and letting them run around like shiftless wild things because I lack the energy to try and make every single thing in their life a teachable moment. I read about these parents already teaching their kids the importance of “no means no” or how to start their own charities and care about their carbon footprint. How do they find time to do all of this? My entire day is taken up by keeping them alive. Is HuffPo Parents lying to me and creating some unattainable fairytale parental model that none of us can live up to?
Example of my recent motherly shortcoming. Today I pulled the trigger and bought a second one of these Leap Frog alpha pup things because I seriously could not summon the strength to listen to another second of the kids screaming at each other because they cannot share this particular toy. I don’t have the resolve to get down to their level the 10-12 times per day to explain to them in a calm voice that they have to take turns – especially when one of the perpetrators is 15 months old and has a 10-word vocabulary and the other is an intelligent, but emotionally unstable 3-year old that wants what he wants, timeouts be damned. I lack the fortitude to take away a toy that occupies their time for a blissful five minutes so I can prep dinner for myself and my husband or simply try to grab another sip of coffee. So I bought another one and praised the Lord that Amazon Prime will have it here in two days. This decision was made for the sake of my own sanity and I have zero regrets. Even if deep down it feels like it was the easy way out.
So what am I doing wrong? Everything? Nothing? Somewhere in between? If you know and you’ve seen me parent my kids, please tell me. I actually thought to myself the other day that daycare did a better job raising AJR while I worked than what I’m doing with Olivia now. That’s crazy talk, I know, but I’m tired and often times I feel helpless. Like when AJR is so out of his mind delirious that he won’t listen to even-toned reasoning, timeouts, or yelling. Or when Olivia, the very definition of stubborn, decides nodding off in the car for 20 minutes makes for an adequate nap and is perfectly content to scream in her crib for an hour despite obvious exhaustion. What do you do in these moments? Where am I going wrong?
The rational part of me knows that it’s not me doing something wrong, but rather my kids are behaving in ways that are entirely appropriate and normal, as infuriating as that may be. That they are good kids and even the best kids are going to be carried out of a public place underneath your arm like a loaf of bread on occasion. That everyone else, despite what social media shows, has kids that drive them to the brink only to suck them back in with a cute quip or kiss.
I’ve thought about how doing the wrong things, like just buying the damn alpha pup, might be more beneficial for everyone than feeling like I need to take some parental high ground to feel like I’m doing what’s right. That if cutting a corner here or there to make myself more relaxed wouldn’t somehow rub off on everyone so we could all CTFD (calm the F down) and enjoy our days, rather than battle our way through them. I’m not about to let my kids become total dicks like the d-bags I’ve been watching on Bravo’s Summer House and abandon discipline and structure, but maybe there is something to not sweating the small stuff and letting go in little ways. That sort of perspective is hard to keep in the heat of the moment, but what do I have to lose except my final shreds of sanity? Thank goodness there’s always tomorrow and a chance to try again.