Oh to be childless and have strong opinions on parenting. I remember it so well — harshly judging “horrible” parents as you watched them ignore meltdowns or hand Oreos/cellphones/keys/ narcotics to their precious monsters to quiet their screams in Target.
I remember the disapproving shake of my head and the words that would flow so easily out of my mouth after bearing witness to such atrocities: “I tell you one thing, when I have kids, I can guarantee you this, I will never let them do (fill in the blank).” Followed by another shake of the head from side to side to punctuate the sentence and my obviously brilliant parenting philosophies.
Fast forward five years and two kids later and oh how I have savored eating every last one of those words — sometimes scarfing them down suddenly and unexpectedly, gobbling up the whole sentence in one moment. Other proclamations have been eaten letter by letter and digested more slowly over time, like a deer in the belly of a Guinness-World-record-setting gator.
The following is just a small tasting menu of all the words I have eaten thus far…
1. Our kids will never sleep in our bed.
This is the first “never will I ever” we tossed out the window. Mainly because it was the only way we could get any sleep. I don’t think my son ever spent a night in his crib. Or even took a nap in it. He would make himself throw up before he would stop screaming in said evil crib.
In a way, I admired his determination. And don’t even bother preaching to me about the dangers of him sleeping in the bed with us. I know. Trust, there was never much “sleep” involved in those early days — at least for the parental units. It was shift work — one person in bed watching the baby sleep and the other on the couch sleeping. We tried the “sleep training” stuff but it just wasn’t for us, although I had friends who had great success with it.
But you can find a scientist and a book to back up whatever “sleep theory” you end up subscribing to (or pretty much any parenting technique), full of veiled threats you will turn them into zombies or Charles Mansons if you don’t follow their brilliant method to the the letter.
But really, you just have to do whatever works best for you and your family. And then not get all haughty that your way is the only way. Because every kid is different. And so is every parent.
My daughter was always better, but they both took tours of duty sleeping in our bed at some point. But now they both sleep soundly all night in their own beds and do not seem to be on the road to kitten mutilation and/or serial killing. We still hear the pitter patter of little feet around 4 a.m., as one or even both of them will run to our bed occasionally and snooze with us for a couple of hours before we all get up and start the daily grind.
And I love those two hours of snuggling, it makes said grind a lot more bearable. Even if it involves the occasional ol’ kick to the kidney.
2. Our kids will eat only the healthiest of foods.
This is the one I have struggled with the most. I have one kid who eats pretty well and one who would prefer to survive on a rotation of PB&Js, chicken fingers and pizza. Fighting with the latter child ends up in frustration and hunger strikes.
My childless parenting genius-self would have said something like, “Well, if they won’t eat what I put out for them, then tough. If they get hungry enough, they’ll eventually eat.”
This sounds really awesome in theory. In practice, it’s a lot harder and every meal presents a new battle in a long war. And I’m not going to lie, after a long day at work, we sometimes wave the white flag before the battle even begins. I mean, peanut butter and pepperonis are chock full of protein and the cheese has calcium, right?
3. We will not just slap “screens” in front of our kids’ faces to shut them up.
We don’t take the kids to restaurants all that often, but when we do, if they start to get restless, we will shove absolutely anything in their faces to shut them up. And that usually means our phones, but we would consider gags and/or blindfolds as well. Guilty as charged.
We can’t have all those childless parenting wonders judging us for our kids’ screaming or just laughing loudly in said restaurants! “I would never bring little children to a restaurant. It’s just so rude for everyone else. “
I know guys. We try to keep them in the cave as much as possible, but they have to come out for light every now and again. And so do we.
But I do promise, we won’t let them smash crackers all over the place. But that’s my former server self talking, not my former awesome childless parenting self. I do have some lines I won’t cross!
These are just a few of the examples of the preconceived parenting rules I made for myself and have broken. I feel even more are in our future involving “participation trophies,” video game system buying and playing, social media and cell phone use, ear piercing, leg shaving, make-up wearing and probably more rules we don’t even know we need rules for yet. The only one I know for sure I can now keep is “never say never.”