I’ll admit it – before kids I took a hard line on things I knew nothing about. I read a lot of books, I watched a lot of movies, I had everything figured out. I used words like “never” and “always” as though I had a finger on the pulse of something that other parents, throughout centuries of child-rearing, knew nothing about.
I was going to nail this parenting thing because I was an expert.
At being a complete jackhole.
As you read, know that you will never judge me as hard as I’ve judged myself. If I could go back in time and punch myself in the neck, believe me, I would. Here’s a list of the “nevers and always’” that just didn’t pan out for me.
I will never let my child meltdown in public
I used to glare at parents who “let” their kids act up in a grocery store or throw tantrums in a restaurant. I’d look with derision and think “Pfft, my kids will never do that.”
I invite you to insert laughter here.
I get it now. Those parents aren’t ignoring their kids, they’ve actually gone dead inside. There’s a point where the non-stop needing, wanting, asking, begging, yelling, maddening repetitionrepetitionrepetitionrepetition causes the psyche to collapse in on itself like a dying star. It happened to me once, at a birthday party with both kids and no help. I couldn’t do anything but drive erratically and ugly cry the whole way home.
I know now that you can’t control a child’s behaviour any more than you can control the weather. All you can do is control how you respond. At almost four years old, Nate is pretty awesome to hang out with. He would never have learned how to behave in public unless we actually took him outside. These days he rarely acts out, and when does reach critical mass, we leave. Period. I’ve left movies, live theatre, concerts, family functions, play dates, you name it, we’ve bailed on it. Restaurants work if we can keep him seated for longer than 10 minutes, which leads us to…
I will never let my child watch too much TV/play with my iPhone/Tablet/Technology
Oh those poor, disengaged children. It’s so sad to see the breakdown of the family unit. See how that child just gazes at that tiny screen while his parents ignore him and eat hot food while enjoying adult conversation for five whole minutes without interruption or having to placate him with a duffel bag full of toys, books, crayons, crafts and a diorama of The Last Supper featuring characters from Sesame Street and a glow-in-the-dark Big Bird Jesus, all while engaging the restaurant in a rousing rendition of “Old MacDonald Had A Farm” (E-I-E-I-Oh-my-god-kill-me!) Evil technology! It’s not our first go-to, but I keep an arsenal of PJ Masks and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episodes on my phone at all times.
I will always feed my child healthy food
When Nate was ready to start solids, I bought organic produce and grain-fed poultry. I steamed, chopped, pureed and roasted the healthiest combinations you could imagine. He ate almost none of it, because no one told him that effort = appreciation.
His tastes have ebbed and flowed over the years, loving one food, then hating it in the time it takes me to buy a lot of it. His younger brother has a broader palate, and will gladly try anything you serve him, as long as it’s out of the garbage can after I’ve wiped it off the floor. As long as they’re putting on weight and not suffering from scurvy, I don’t give it a second thought.
I will never bribe my children
Yes you will. Often.
I’m all for parenting to achieve long-term goals, but once in a while, there is nothing wrong with immediate compliance, even if compliance looks like ice cream or a trip to Jungle Land.
My children will never sleep in our bed
Replace “never” with “every night” and you would have our current sleeping arrangement. The first night I brought Nathan home, I put him in the co-sleeper beside the bed. We watched him scream himself purple for two and a half excruciating minutes before I picked him up and announced to my husband that I was never doing that again. Sleep training doesn’t work for us. It is an unholy nightmare and I’m done with it. My boys like sleeping with their mama. How much longer can I say that? How many nights did I lie awake, sobbing into my pillow while they wailed in their cribs? Who wins?
So there you have it. A crash course in how not to be a know-it-all super jerk. A lesson in empathy towards parents, those superheroes charged with caring for tiny, adorable despots. An elegy for a retired Judgey McJudgeyPants who learned never to say “never”.