Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Parenting 101

On the day my first child was born, I said to myself that I would be the best parent ever! I would make all the right decisions and my child would grow up to be the most amazing adult that ever walked the earth- all b/c I was so good at raising her.

On the 8th day after my child was born, when I took her to the doctor all dressed up in a cute-but-ridiculous little yellow duck outfit (complete with webbed feet and a bill) but without a pacifier, a bottle, a cloth diaper and an extra outfit, I said to myself Ok, well I messed up already, let's just start over, she won't remember this.

Today, I've been a parent for about 3,830 days. I have 2 kids. I average about 8 mistakes per day per kid. That's a lot of mistakes. I have a habit of wishing I could make a fresh start. When they were babies, I always had the excuse that they wouldn't remember. Now, I often catch myself thinking, Ok, if I make no more mistakes from here on out, how screwed up will my kids be by the time they reach adulthood. In other words, if all the mistakes only occur between birth and age 6, will my child remain unscathed or is it too late?

I once had an ongoing competition with a coworker to determine who was the World's Worst Parent. Sometimes she would show up at work and say "Michele, I'm the winner today. I am THE world's worst parent". And she would tell me what she did and we would laugh together. And sometimes, I was the winner.

This morning I would have been declared the winner after I "raised my voice" at Emily b/c she moved her head when I was installing 2 state of the art ponytails for spring picture day. As you can imagine, it wasn't really about the ponytails. It was about how I stayed-in-bed-too-long-hadn't-had-enough-coffee-couldn't-find-an-outfit-for-spring-pictures-needed-to-take-beverages-to-the-girl's-school-for-the-faculty-meeting-needed-to-get-to-work-on-time-really-needed-more-coffee.

My guilt is the same no matter what the offense might be. Sending my kids to daycare for 5 years while I worked leaves me with just as much guilt as buying Koolaid at the Salvage Store. If my kids become delinquents, I'll never know whether it was from daycare or the discount Koolaid I let them drink.

Or maybe they remember the duck outfit.


Anonymous said...

Several years ago when I was agonizing over some (probably) trivial parenting mistake, a friend told me not to worry about it b/c "we are all going to screw up our kids, it's just a matter of how much." So, I am shooting for the low end of the spectrum! LOL! I frequently refer to scoring "World's Worst Mom" points. Matter of fact, I scored some yesterday when I was the ONLY mom that was not there when the dance class got their costumes and tried them on. I had picked a bad time to dash off to Wal-mart to run an errand. Oh well, I don't think I scored any points today.

amyaj said...

I am right with you! I have a line that I comfort myself and others with: "Well now I don't have to keep competing for Mom of the Year. It's out!" Sometimes just giving up on perfection lets you embrace the great things that are left. I think you are a fantastic mom and an inspiration to me at every turn.

Linda said...

OMG! I so could have written this post! I am constantly having an internal dialogue of, will he remember this as an adult? What are my early memories? Do I still have time to make it up? My kids already need therapy so that is not a good sign.

Anonymous said...

I have decided if I get my kids through school knowing the importance of God and family, no matter how many other screw ups I have done, hopefully they will still talk to me when they have children.

Antique Mommy said...

I think I loved this post because I related to it so much! There's always the second guessing. I'm banking on the fact that love will cover a myriad of mistakes.