Sometimes it makes me laugh on the inside when I hear someone without children proclaim an absolute about how their future children or children in general should be raised. It's not that I'm trying to be condescending or mean. I'm actually laughing at myself. You see, I had quite a few pre-motherhood absolutes that are kind of hilarious when I think back at them now.
- "Our child will be sleeping in her crib in her own room after just two weeks."
I remember telling my mom this as we put your nursery together before you were born. I had just heard stories about co-sleeping that were appalling to me. Your daddy & I had talked about it & decided co-sleeping was not for us. In fact, we were going to have you sleeping soundly on your own by the time you were two weeks old. That's how confident we were in our parenting skills.
Seriously, does that sound as ridiculous to anyone else as it does to me?!
When it came down to it, your sleeping had noting to do with us & everything to do with you. In a sleep deprived state, I'm pretty sure we would have done just about anything to get you to sleep. During one week, you would only nap soundly if I was holding you. So, I held you on my chest & enjoyed every moment of the sound of your deep breathing (& doing things one handed). I remember your daddy coming in after work one day & almost scolding me. "If you continue to let her sleep in your arms, she's going to want to only sleep that way." I gave him a death glare. If holding you was what got you to sleep, then holding you was what I was going to do...& I was going to relish every second of it.
What happened to our two week plan? I think I forgot about our two week plan the moment I first held you in my arms. You slept mostly in your swing right next to our bed. At two weeks, I was nowhere near ready to move you to your own room. At three weeks, I cried when we moved the swing a little further away from our bed. At six weeks, you cried & cried one night when we put you in your swing. In desperation, we placed you in your crib in your room & you slept soundly there from then on. You may have been ready to move into your own room, but I was not. I was practically hysterical. I missed being able to see your little face whenever I opened my eyes or hear the sound of your breathing. I may have thought about moving our bed into your room. But we made it through that first transition even with our original plans quickly being thrown out the window.
- "Our daughter will not be all girly & decked out in tons of pink."
I had a hard time at my baby shower. It's just that so much was pink. I kind of roll my eyes about the pink & the frills I wore as a child. I've never been much of a pink person as an adult. I wanted you to wear all colors: greens & yellows & blues. We filled your room with those colors too. It surely wasn't a traditional girl's nursery. I wanted to dress you in clothes that were comfortable & you could really play in. I hoped you would be the type of girl who wasn't opposed to getting a little dirty while you played.
A month after you were born, I had finally had enough. I can't tell you how many people asked how old "is HE?" I realized that if I didn't deck my child out in pink & lace, people automatically assumed my baby was a boy (seriously, if you don't know, try asking "what is YOUR BABY'S name" or "how old is YOUR BABY.") It probably shouldn't have mattered, but it just got under my skin that people assumed you were a boy. That's when I started introducing more pink & lots of headbands to your wardrobe. Before I knew it, your closet was filled with pink, & I had a toddler who adamantly loves pink. We have daily battles when I try to dress you in other colors.
It may not be what I originally had planned for you, but you do look so stinkin' cute. Plus, almost all of your girly clothes are made of cotton. They may be frilly, but they're also comfortable for play & we don't freak out if they get dirty or stained. A little bit of dirty is good for you.
- "We would never let our child kick the back of some one's seat on an airplane."
Having the back of my seat incessantly kicked by a child whose parents did nothing to stop it was one of my biggest pet-peeves. I felt like the parent's of said children needed a lecture on proper parenting.
That was before.
I now realize how impossible it can feel to keep a child still/quiet on an airplane. It's literally exhausting. You are like a little ball of energy & trying to bottle that up on a four hour flight seems like an eternity. Plus, your legs never stop moving. They never stopped when I was pregnant with you & felt you playing soccer with my internal organs. They don't stop now.
On one of our most recent flights, you kept kicking the back of the chair in front of you & I kept asking you to stop. We went back & forth for half the flight. You kicked. I gently placed my hand on your legs, praying that you would somehow fall asleep, & reminded you we don't kick other people's chairs. Finally, the man in front of us turned around & said, "Really, I can hardly feel the kicking so you might just want to choose your battles. It's really fine." Apparently, my reminding you not to kick the seat every 35 seconds was more annoying than the actual kicking.
I now look at parent's who fly with their kids like we're part of the same club. It's like a badge of honor or something. We look at each other with eyes filled with pity as we think back to the days of solo flying. Back then, we could read our books & magazines with music playing through our headphones. Back then our biggest worry was if the child behind us would be kicking the back of our chair. Oh, how times have changed.
- "My child will never throw tantrums like that."
I was so sure of myself before being a mom. I was so sure of the superior parenting skills I somehow knew I had even though they'd never been tested. There are times when I smile & want to go back in time & kick the person I was. You know, at times like when my amazing toddler is tantruming on the floor in a public place & my face is hot & red with embarrassment. Who was I to think that if I was a good parent, my child would not throw tantrums? Now I know that tantrums are what happen when your child is two & doesn't know how to appropriately express what she is feeling. The way we react to tantrums will play a part in whether the tantrums continue long into the future. Until then, you're still learning how to express yourself & uncomfortable, embarrassing tantrums are a part of that no matter what kind of parents we are.
- "I will never have a gross mom-car."
I used to pinch up my nose in disgust at the condition of my mom's car. Food & toys & dirt everywhere. "No way," I thought. Someday I will have a sophisticated & clean car. Fast forward to my life with a child. I opted for a car with sliding doors (Ok, but seriously those doors make everything easier. Larger things can fit through them. You could be parked 2cm away from the car next to you & not have to worry about hitting the car with your door. EVERY car should have sliding doors). It wasn't exactly a minivan, but it was close enough. Cheerios, sand, & a sticky substance we're not sure of cover my car on any given day. My car looks more like a zoo than the sophisticated mom-car I had once assured myself I would have.
- "Our child won't watch TV all day. Instead we'll fill her day with play & activities."
This still holds true. Kind of. We do try to limit your TV time. With that said, sometimes TV is our best friend. Like when you wake up at 6am on a weekend & your daddy & I can hardly pry our eyes open. You snuggle into our bed & watch the Spout Network while Daddy & I drift in & out of light sleep until normal waking hours. There are also days where we're all exhausted. I'm not ashamed to say (ok, I'm a little ashamed to say) that we've had some days where we've almost felt too exhausted to parent. On those days, we let you watch TV, a lot of TV, & you couldn't be more thrilled on those days. We're probably not going to win any parenting awards on those days, but you're safe & healthy & alive. So, we're going to call that a win.
- "If a parent tells a child they won't get to do something/get to have something if they're not behaving, they need to follow through."
This is something I've struggled with a lot lately. There are days when I've tried everything else & your behavior is still all over the place. So, I resort to bribery. In my heart, I'm so sure that telling you "if you don't do A,B,C then we won't do X,Y,Z" will get you to do what I've asked you to do. Or maybe that it's just that I've tried everything else. Unfortunately, much of the time the bribe still doesn't get you to do what I've asked you, & I'm not always prepared to follow through. Like when I tell you we're not going to a family BBQ if you don't pick up your toys like I asked you to. You defiantly tell me, "fine, then we won't go." The problem is, we've already RSVPed that we would go & I really want to go.
It's just that sometimes as a parent, I just don't know what to do or if I'm doing the right things at all. I do know that I need to get better at not telling you something that I'm not prepared to follow through on.
- "I will never have an only child."
So, this is the biggest change as of late. I remember thinking of only children in such a negative way. Only children seemed to be people who couldn't share or be by themselves or learn to compromise. In my mind, only children were mostly spoiled. As the oldest of five siblings, I felt like I had learned & grown in ways I never could have without siblings.
We never planned to have five kids, but we always planned to have at least two (possibly a third). Then it came time to plan for our next child & I realized I didn't want to have another child. I was happy & to me, our little family felt complete. Actually, the only reason I wanted to have another child was so that we wouldn't deprive you of having a sibling. I just don't feel like that's a good reason to have another child.
I told your daddy about how I felt. He was surprised. Really surprised. I had always been the driving force behind pushing up our timeline of having kids. He couldn't believe how my feelings of having multiple kids had changed. Except your daddy felt similar to how I felt. While he would have liked to give you a baby brother as a sibling & someone who could have carried our last name, your daddy was also happy with the way things were & felt complete.
Financially, it would be more difficult to have another child. Practically, we're at a place where we can do more traveling & go on more adventures without having to worry about lugging a bunch of baby gear. Maybe that sounds a little selfish on our part, but I'm OK with that. Other people may not be able to understand our decision to only have one child. That's OK too. I wouldn't have understood either a few years ago. We're at a place where we're just happy & that's that.
So as you can see, our thoughts & plans have changed quite a bit since becoming parents. For me, one of the gifts of motherhood has been the lesson of not being so absolute. We still have some absolutes, but mostly I've learned to go with the flow a little better. I've learned that what works for our little family is going to be different from what works for other families. As long as there is love, that's what truly matters. I've learned that we're going to have to constantly rewrite our plans, & I think it's made me a better person.
I've also learned to laugh at myself. A lot. So, thanks for that.
I love you so,