Always and Never

When you’re a struggling infertile deep in the midst of treatment, you fantasize about what life will be like when you finally bring a child home. You watch moms around you and you create this mental list of thing things you’ll “never” do (or “always” do, as the case may be), and you’ll silently chastise the moms you see violating this invisible list of musts and mustn’ts in your head. You think that these moms you see must not know what a gift they have in their children. Surely they must be fertile, because if she had to work for her child she’d know how precious and amazing her children are and never (or always) do x, y, or z. We all do it.

“I’ll never speak to my child in frustration. My child is a gift, and I will not waste words on him/her that are anything less than positive.”
Really? When your beautiful gift decides to scale the washing machine in order to get to the bleach up on the shelf, manage to open the childproof cap, and dump said bleach into the DRYER filled with her own clothes, I’m sure the only words out of your mouth will be calm and collected. You know what’s fun too? Finding a bathroom mirror covered in hair spray because your five year old daughter can’t control the irresistible urge to spray any spray bottle within a 50 mile radius of those precious little fingers. Frustration? No. I love when my house smells like febreze, hairspray, and every perfume I’ve ever owned all at one time.

“My child will only eat organic food I make myself. I’ll never let my child eat processed sugars or McDonald’s.”
Right. And when your littlest gift is barely on the weight chart and refuses to eat anything you put in front of her, you’ll drive through the golden arches every freaking day to get her some chicken nuggets if she would only eat for chrissakes. What? Gogurt? Have 10, kid. For the love of all that is holy, please EAT.

“I’ll never (or only – depending on your leanings) co-sleep with my child.”
Really? For a good few months my son slept in his carseat. And the swing. And laying next to me nursing. For crying out loud just sleep. I almost don’t care where.

“I’ll only breastfeed.”
Good luck with that, and by God I hope you manage it. But guess what. Breastfeeding is fucking HARD. Made harder when you’re anemic from blood loss in delivery, a baby in the NICU, and being exhausted. And your milk never actually comes in. How about, “I’ll breastfeed if I can, and not beat myself up if I can’t, and for eff’s sake I’ll never judge anyone else for their ability or inability (or CHOICE) to breastfeed.

“Plastic toys made in China will not be in my home.”
You might not buy them. But someone, usually a grandparent, will. And before you can say “lead content” your lovely little one will have shoved that officially licensed, anything-but-gender-neutral, plastic piece of crap in his mouth and decided it’s his favorite toy in the whole world. Soon you’ll be posting pictures on facebook of how cute he is asleep with it.

“I’ll never bribe my children with food/toys/treats for behavior.”
HA! I should have bought stock in M&Ms before we started potty training. Sometimes, food works. Whether it’s potty training or promising ice cream if they behave in the grocery store, food can be a great motivator. And really, you’re doing the other shoppers a public service because that ice cream promise is keeping your little guy from a royal meltdown in the middle of the produce aisle.

“I will never use the tv as a babysitter, and when/if my child watches television, it will only be educational and positive programming.”
Do you ever want to take a shower longer than 15 seconds? Shave your legs? Figure out if what they say about removable shower heads is true? Then guess what? The tv is going to be your friend. And eventually, they will learn who SpongeBob is. Because when they go to the dentist and they give them a balloon and a bag of goodies there will be SpongeBob toothpaste in there, and it just. Happens. And then they’re 5 and the last thing you want to do is watch another freaking episode of Caillou. So you don’t mind that your son would rather watch ESPN and your daughter asks you to watch House Hunters (or Glee) because it’s nice to watch something with them that doesn’t require you to want to jam a pencil in your eye.

Have I made my point? Raising children is HARD. It doesn’t matter if you got pregnant in the back of a Chevrolet Impala on prom night or spent 10 years and furnished your RE’s house twice in order to have a child. Yes, make no mistake, children are a gift. And we shouldn’t speak to them in frustration, and we should feed them nutritious food, and we should monitor what they watch, and make sure we protect them at every step and turn as best we can. But for crying out loud don’t believe for a second that whatever that list of “nevers” and “always” in your head isn’t going to go straight out the window as soon as that kid(s) shows up. (PS, this also will happen with your “birth plan.”) Sometimes, that mom in the store telling little Susie and Johnny to get over here RIGHT NOW FOR THE LOVE OF GOD is just sleep deprived, overworked, underpaid, and doing her very best. And more often than not, she’ll finish in the store, load her littles up in the car, and spend two or three minutes crying at the steering wheel for violating her own inner list of “nevers” and “always”. She’ll look over her shoulder and tell them “Mommy’s sorry for being frustrated, she loves you very much.” And she’ll try to remind herself not to be so hard on herself. She’ll climb up the stairs and check on them while they sleep and promise to try harder.

I might be trying to be funny on some of this, but the reality is, it’s SO EASY to judge other people’s parenting. Sometimes I think infertiles are the best at it. I’m guilty too. So I’m making a new promise. I’ll focus more on MY decisions rather than second-guessing someone else’s. And I won’t use “always” or “never” when I talk about things I will and won’t do with my kids and remind myself that it’s ok to make mistakes.

My kids are an amazing gift. They’re gifts that can be sweet, and loving, and frustrating, and button-pushing, and tiring. Kids are all those things no matter how easy or hard they were to come by. I hope you can live up to every “always” and “never” on your list. I can’t. And I’m a better parent because I’ve given up on some of those “always” and “nevers”. If I hadn’t, I’d never known the joys of co-sleeping, learned how to support fellow moms who couldn’t breastfeed, watched my daughter’s eyes light up at the sight of a hideous plastic princess vanity on Christmas morning, or enjoyed singing along with my kids to the songs from “Glee” because I let them watch it with me. Is it perfect? Nope. And it’s much better that way.

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6 thoughts on “Always and Never

  1. You rock. I’m laughing because I recently sucked it up and bought my daughter a princess scooter — because she quit sucking on her binky at night — and I reeeally hate princess stuff. She loves it. I also was that mom two weeks ago who yelled at her kids, got in the car, and turned around with tears in my eyes telling them that I love them very much. You nailed it. Good luck on your journey!

  2. I am frankly disappointed with the whole “sleep in momma’s bed” thing. It is not as dear as I expected it to be, in fact, it sucks. No one sleeps well. Sure, my heart swells when I roll over and see her sleeping face but it takes SO LONG to get there. Eek.

    Bye. I gotta go shower now.

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