I do not think of myself as an ideal parent. I’d like to think I have standards, but I often fall short of them. I don’t think I fit into any one particular “parenting style” and find myself borrowing from each of them. I believed in scheduling my first son, B, and was very successful. I exclusively breastfed him for six months, he took two naps at the same time everyday, and he went to bed at the same time every night, pretty much no matter what. I think we all found comfort in our schedule and knowing what we were suppossed to do next and he was very cooperative. Then, at some point, when my husband finally dragged me back into the world of friends and adult fun, I went to a Dark Star concert and I saw a lady there at the concert wearing her baby who was Gasp! awake at 11pm! What was this hippie lady thinking? That baby couldn’t possibly do that! SHE couldn’t do that and expect her baby to happy! And yet, mother and baby seemed so happy and at peace and comforted by each other it was impossible to deny. I was appalled. And intrigued. No, I’m not that naive, I know it was a Dark Star concert and I know *some* fans do partake in substances that can make you feel “at peace”. STILL, my most precious memories with my first born were the wee hours of the morning those first few weeks, when it was just me and him and Conan reruns. I can still picture those times, when my sweet little infant baby nursed every two hours, right on schedule, just like he was suppossed to. I still see that perfect little face, those skinny little legs and tiny fingers. I still remember his kitten-like cry, the warmth of his tiny body snuggled close to mine and that newborn smell that I can’t possibly describe. Looking at that mother and baby in that impossibly loud venue at an impossibly late hour for a new Mommy to be out and about, I was taken back to that most wonderful time with my baby.
Fast forward to today. B is five. His little sister, NK is 2. His little brother, L, is 11 months old. To say the least, life is radically different. I thought things changed when we had a baby. Now that we have three young babies, life is a constant blur of diapers, chatter, messes, hugs, nerves, laughter and tears. I wanted to be that mother who researched every decision before I made it, who studied the success ratios for everything from potty training methods to Pre-K. These days, I’m lucky if I manage to make sure my son is wearing clean underwear and my daughter’s hair is brushed. With each child, the philosophy changed. Child number one was on a strict schedule and did not eat anything but baby food until he was about 15 months old. He never had any food until his Pediatrician approved it. I made sure to complete all the suggestions on the informational card you get with each well-child visit. Child number two fought me a little harder on the schedule and won, except on the bedtime. She refused to eat baby food anymore at Thanksgiving when she was 10 months old. She still has a pacifer at two years old, only goes to the potty if it’s strictly her idea, and bosses me around all the time. Child number three… suffice to say he has four people running around serving his every need, trying so hard to keep him from crying, he doesn’t have to (and is not interested in) doing anything – other than eating. He demanded real food at 8 months and still isn’t really good at napping or sleeping through the night. Since I didn’t make him do the tummy time as suggested, he just started sitting up and hasn’t started to crawl or pull up yet.
Now, I just want my children to know they are loved and appreciated. And my schedule be damned. Whatever causes us less tears and more laughter — that’s what makes a sucessful day now.
It’s funny how sometimes what you picture doesn’t happen at all… Not that *sometimes* I don’t miss the days my home was organized and peaceful as it was when it was just me and my husband and my one scheduled baby, it’s kind of nice not feeling like a slave to a schedule. And watching my youngest baby’s face when he eats ice cream or his big sis sneaks him a french fry. And having my oldest sleep in my bed on friday nights, eat cereal bars for breakfast and popcorn with his Dad at night (waaaay past his normal bedtime). And letting my daughter put lotion all over her and go up and down the stairs to get whatever she wants by herself just so she feels like a big girl. I’m in love with the chaos that has become our lives.
I have to remember when I am stressed out to look into those little eyes and tell them just how much I love them, because I don’t know what I’d do without them and their messes.