I recently caught myself doing something involving ice cream that went against everything I thought I would be as a parent and I had to laugh. Seriously, I wasn’t disappointed in myself or guilt-ridden, I just threw my hands up in the air and said, “Ha! Well, look at me now!” And then I wrote this post.
Before I had kids, like many of you I’m sure, I had some ideas about how the whole parenting thing would go down. Mostly, I looked at all the kid chaos around me and thought, that will never be me. I envisioned myself with perfectly-behaved, nicely-groomed, non-backtalky kids. Who ate three healthy, homecooked meals a day without protest or unnecessary mess. In the beginning with Alex, who was a great sleeper and eater and super-happy baby, Nick and I actually started saying, why do people think this is so hard?! And then he started crawling. And then walking. And then talking. And then talking back.
And then we had Nora. And, well, Nora went from newborn to tween in about two weeks. And so the further I get into this gig, the more of my words I eat. There are far more meltdowns than I had planned for (both from the kids and from me and Nick), far more spilled milk, far more unwashed laundry, far more last-minute homework projects, far more icky, sticky messes and a lot more boxed macaroni and cheese. (There is also way more joy and love than I’d anticipated but that’s not what this post is about.)
In the earlier years, I was hard on myself for not living up to my crazy standard of perfect mom with perfect children. I felt sick to my stomach every time I left the grocery store with two screaming children under my arms (I swore this would never be me! I’d think as I drove away in shame). But I’m over that. And my sub-par parenting moments honestly don’t bother me now because I know they’re totally normal and that I’m doing my best—and by “my best” I mean the most I’m capable of doing while maintaining some identity outside of my Mom role and not losing my mind.
Plus: Stuff My Kids Ruined
And despite the list below, my kids are pretty great and we’re all quite happy. Still, I think it’s funny to note just how off I was on some of my ideals. So here, in no particular order, are the things I’ve done lately as a mom that shock me most:
1. I drive a junk bus: I have a large SUV that is pretty much always covered in crumbs, littered with sporting equipment, old clothes, junk mail, sand, shoes, wrappers of all kinds, kids’ art projects and a few coffee cups. And, when I stop short, water bottles and sippy cups that have been missing for weeks unearth themselves from under the seats. It’s a hot mess and Nick is repulsed. He's no longer allowed to mention his disapproval to me because I am very sensitive about it. I used to turn my nose up at my sister’s car all the time, so I think this is God’s way of punishing me.
2. I brake for ice cream: Monday I took both of my kids to Carvel at 5 p.m. and let them not only get drippy cones before dinner but toppings. Toppings! AND I let them eat the ice cream in the car (see junk bus, above). And it was my idea. I was craving soft serve from Carvel (don’t ask) so I suggested it knowing full well they’d be all over it. And that it would be all over them. This is not something I plan on making a habit but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to go back ASAP. What’s wrong with me? I don’t even keep sweets in my house and now this?! I took the above photo of Nora and thought, OMG if my kidless self ever saw this she'd freak.
3. I offer my children TV: My kids were riding their bikes happily in the driveway the other day but I was cold and wanted to start dinner so I actually said, “please put your bikes in the garage and come in and watch some TV.” I cringe even thinking about it. Especially since Alex protested by saying this: “Mom, our PE teacher says that we’re not supposed to spend a lot of time playing video games or watching TV, we’re supposed to be outside getting fresh air and exercise…” D’oh!
4. I eat food off my kids’ plates: I do this a lot. And I ask them for bites all the time. When Nick and I eat dinner after the kids go to bed, I treat the kids’ leftovers as my appetizer. Nothing says amuse bouche like a little mac and cheese, right? Also, in the spirit of confessing: Alex came home from school the other day with only half of his bagel eaten. And so while we were on the way to his speech lesson, I ate the other half.
5. I dress my daughter like a ragamuffin: Yesterday I took her over to my mom’s house for a visit wearing piggie pajama bottoms, a pink turtleneck and no shoes. It was 4 p.m. And her hair was pulled back in an unbrushed bun, which is our go-to look. My mom was all, "um, does she have shoes?" I wouldn’t have let her go to school like that obviously, but I left the house like this. And I’ll do it again, I’m sure. It’s weird because Alex always dresses well and looks put together and, if anything, errs on the formal side (he’s never worn track pants or sweatpants to school, for example) but with Nora, I got nuthin. It's not like I envisioned pink ruffles and flower headbands (so not me) but I certainly envisioned matching clothes and brushed hair....Part of it is that I don’t want to fight with her (every morning she begs me to stay in her pajamas all day), part of it is that she needs some new cute clothing options and I’m not a big shopper and part of it is that I just don’t care. And clearly neither does she.
6. I say the following: If you don't do X, you’re not gonna Y. Do you want me to tell daddy? Timeout! Please don’t make me mad. Please don’t make me yell. Please don’t make me count to three. OK, I’m going to count to three. One…..Two…..Two and half….Two and three quarters….Nora, get your butt in your seat NOW!!!
7. I use iThings as travel crutches: We are heading to Florida for a mini vacation soon and the second we hit 10,000 feet, the electronics will go on. I feel like we’re pretty good with limiting TV and iPads at home, but I’ve definitely softened as the years have ticked by. Alex barely watched anything until he was two and then it was just Thomas and Diego occasionally. When Nora was about six months, we were like, “Nora, meet Dora. You two will get along great.” The car trip/airplane ride thing always gets me because we didn’t have electronics as kids and we traveled so nicely. I always envisioned my kids being the ones who were so well behaved on planes that strangers would stop us to compliment our parenting. Well, that hasn’t happened yet and since we’ve been the recipients of a few eye rolls before, we’ve caved to the iPad. And I'm afraid there's no turning back.
8. I go out in public looking like crap: This isn’t so much about being a harried mom—I am one of the least harried moms I know—as it is about being me. But I'm sure that doesn't stop people from assuming I must be a frazzled mom, a cliche I hate. I work from home alone which means there is no one to impress but the UPS man and he’s already seen me at my worst. I just like to put on workout clothes in the morning in the hopes that I will eventually workout (that has happened much lately and yet I still dress the part). But these days my workout clothes kind of suck and it’s been cold which means I wind up in black yoga pants, an old T-shirt and Nick’s oversized red Patagonia fleece. And like my daughter, my go-to hairstyle is an unbrushed bun. I’m sure the other moms at dropoff must think I have it rough or I never sleep or I just spend my day at the gym. None of those things are true. The only upside to this is that on the rare occassion that I do get showered and dressed and made-up before drop offs, I look extremely glamorous. At least that's what my kids tell me.
Plus: Awkward Pregnancy Photos
OK, that’s my sub-par parenting list for now. As you can see, I've broken plenty of my rules and not quite lived up to my own standards and I've lived to blog about it. Life goes on! Please share some of your own doozies. And come visit me at erinzammettruddy.com.