I’m sitting at the kitchen table forcing Jack to eat peas and microwave thawed turkey meatballs while I eat two pieces of last night’s pizza. We ordered it because I hate to cook.
He’s making all sorts of faces, all of which imply he is not having a good time. I am, so I share a piece. I’m gonna go ahead and say with near certainty that I’m still in my pyjamas. It’s not the picture of perfection that most of us mothers try to paint. “My child is three and still hasn’t tasted refined sugar.” Shut Up.
Mothering was not something I had imagined myself doing but sometime during my pregnancy (after the puking) I knew I was going to be okay. The second I held him, the whole world was a scene straight out of a Terrence Malick movie. The ‘Tree of Life’ (minus the Dinosaurs) way. The ‘It’s so beautiful but I can make no communicable sense of it’ way. The ‘I didn’t know hair could get this greasy, when do you find time to shower, but look at his perfect toes’ way. Who needs to shower anyway.
The morning I woke up with him in the hospital (not that I slept), I remember feeling like the person I was before I had him was so far away, like I couldn’t identify with who I was one day previous. It was unsettling but I didn’t hate it. It just changed me and it was so immediate. It was falling in love instantly without knowing why. I think someone told me not to do that once.
People like to tell Matt and I that Jack was a trick baby. He slept like the dead at 3 months, he has never cried when we’ve left him with a babysitter, he took a bottle, he eats almost everything (a lot of everything). They’ll go on to tell us what real babies are like. The end of these conversations usually go something like ‘So do you think you’ll have another? Two is often easier than one.’
Nowadays, I’m usually too worried about whether I’m doing a good job of raising one than inviting another to the pack.
When Jack started moving and decided that he had rights, things got more complicated than the initial few months had implied. I was still in love but then I knew why, because I knew him. So when ‘Trick baby’ turned into full-fledged, we need a bomb shelter, hurricane Jack toddler, there was still love. Although, I quickly realized that loving him wasn’t providing the instinctual ability to effectively parent, so I turned to the experts…‘experts’
Teach them what no means.
Don’t say no often.
Be confident when you say no and always follow through.
Be respectful, treat them like you would treat any adult when you speak to them
but make sure you put them in time out when they don’t listen.
Time outs create frustration. Frustration creates an angry child who doesn’t listen.
Frustration is good for children, they should learn to work through it.
Be flexible with your children, routines bore them.
Children need routine and structure. A lack of routine breeds insecurity.
Don’t have high expectations of your children.
If you don’t expect enough from your child, they will not mature at a proper rate.
If I could, I would host a book burning of all parenting material.
You start to realize that children are aware of more than the physical things. The hugs and kisses, your presence, it’s no longer enough. They are aware of your emotions and reactions. They have their own and sometimes yours’ and theirs’ clash.
He’s a person now. Sometimes we say that.
In a relationship with a person, things are trial and error. There is no manual.
But oh, don’t we wish there were.
It’s why we buy the books and read the blogs. “How Not to React to a Tantrum” that’s rich. How about “How Not to React after Reacting to a Tantrum”? I need that one.
Sometimes Matt and I argue. Sometimes we forget Jack has ears. I tell him he is generally irresponsible and remind him about the lack of shoulder checking. Don’t you know there are blind spots! We have a baby! He reminds me of the dents I may have caused in both vehicles. There’s a lot of sarcasm, a bit of teasing but a hint of real irritation is in there. This is how most of our arguments go.
I see Jack watching us with the puzzled look again. Perhaps he’s on to us. Perhaps he knows we are a fraud. We are not what parents are supposed to be.
He loses interest and asks for more Cheerios, chirping away in that weird ewock voice he uses on occasion.
I want to be without mistakes. I want to be the always thoughtful, always mindful, always careful mother. The supportive mother, the ‘just stern enough’ mother. The mother he won’t grow up to criticize around a table with his closest friends, airing my bad habits. Retelling the times I’ve yelled, ignored or held him back from things he needed to experience, to which they will furrow their brows and shake their heads and apologize on behalf of me. That is a picture constantly in my head. It’s my biggest fear. When he pushes me away or protests my protection, when he doesn’t want a hug, he doesn’t want held, I think of these things. Always wondering if it’s because he can already sense that I will fail him somehow.
But maybe it’s okay to argue in front of your kids.
Maybe he just needs to see that we’re a bickering kind of couple that are still obsessed with each other, that still pinch each others’ bums and snuggle on the couch and enjoy gossip in the car. Maybe it’s okay to feed him pizza twice that week. Maybe it’s okay to skip 4 pages to get to the end of that obnoxious book about trains. Maybe it’s okay that you put Peppa Pig on so you could take an extra long shower. Maybe it’s okay that he sees your flaws. Maybe that’s what makes him learn and understand and empathize. It just might be that the fraud you fear you are is created by the expectation for perfection you cannot reach.
Maybe there is no such thing as the mother I’m supposed to be.
Maybe can be such a loaded word.