I was pregnant with my oldest.
I had a plan. I had a plan for everything. Baby’s schedule, Bible reading, discipline. I was prepared. I was confident that I had learned from the mistakes I had watched so many parents make, including my own. I made it my goal to learn “the right way” to parent.
By 9:00 a.m. the same day, I was beginnning to understand how much I didn’t know. What had changed? I had given birth. I was now where the book-learning met the road. It wasn’t a smooth ride. The road was full of bumps and sharp turns.
Things like…. the Nursing book had SAID the baby would root and naturally “latch on” to nurse. Mine took a while. And some help from a lactation consultant. (who was wonderful) The Nursing book also failed to mention that nursing would (for a while) cause my C-section to feel like someone was “un-zipping me” from the inside out. My Lactation consultant suggested lamaze breathing for the pain…. it worked. Kind of.
The books failed to communicate that giving birth would introduce me both to the most immediate and intense love I had ever felt- and the greatest fear. The fear of wrecking my child.
At first- I held onto my books. I moved from the month by month pregnancy book- to the child’s first year version. Upsetting myself every time my child lagged, and convinced of his “supernatural baby abilities” every time he excelled. I made home made baby food. (some of which was pretty good.) I followed the rules. I was committed to doing this parenting thing “right.”
We moved to the “toddler” guide. I choose my methods of discipline well. I carefully watched his intake of sweets and “junk cartoons”. (FYI: in your endeavors to be the perfect mom- please, NEVER give your toddler sugar free-gummy bears. There is NO brand of diaper that can contain the mess. Some, is too much for a tiny tummy.) Anyway- We read together. Watched PBS together- for educational purposes, not entertainment. I taught him to read by the time he was 3.
I was pretty sure I was the perfect mother. My child was well behaved. He was talkative (like talking to a little old man, actually) polite and incredibly smart. I was pretty sure it was thanks to me. Super Mom.
In 1992, we decided we had reached the optimal age-to add a sibling to the mix. We planned to get pregnant again. I did. The plan continued.
Apparently- no one had informed our second son of “The Plan” or “The Books”. He followed neither one. He was noisy, inquisitive and sick much of his first few years. If something was taller than him… it was a mountain, that must be climbed. He climbed it. (And frequently fell off- the ER kept a bed open for us just in case.)
Homemade baby-food wasn’t on his “To Eat” list. He wanted big boy food. Hot dogs , macaroni and cheese (from a box) and cookies. LOTS of cookies. (also from a box… the ones I made that were sweetened with apple juice were fed to the dog)
My second son struggled with severe asthma- we did whatever it took to keep him breathing and taking his meds. Including giving him bottles during breathing treatments, and yes- letting him fall asleep with them. (Big no-no in the “Books”)
The “books” and my “plan” were NOT working. I was ready to throw the whole library thru the front window. I think I planned a book burning. Censorship started to sound pretty good. I mean- how can they get away with printing stuff that doesn’t WORK with every kid? Isn’t that false advertising or something????? I wanted to protest. To riot. I was starting to crack.
Had I been left with my books-and my plans, I’d be mumbling in an institution for crazy perfect moms somewhere, even now. Probably with my food processor, making fresh strained peas, and watching Barney.
Those things weren’t bad- but the pursuit of perfection- that was a bad thing. It was an unattainable goal. It will drive you crazy.
The stuff they leave out of parenting books. Stuff like: Mommy’s cry too. Perfect is crazy. If you don’t take care of Mommy, she can’t take care of her kids. Daddy is still number one. (although he sometimes feels like he comes #3or 4 right behind dishes and vacuuming) And good enough- is good enough. Oh— and pictures of homes in magazines are models- no one lives there- that’s why they look like that. As a matter of fact- MODELS in magazines are also models- they are airbrushed and made up to look like that- real moms don’t.
Real moms have puke on their shoulder and cheerios in their hair and they are beautiful. Real moms know there is a time for everything- including cartoons and cookies. (in moderation of course— and not necessarily for the little ones- sometimes a cookie will get you thru till naptime.)
I still read books. I still do my best to learn and to manage my home and family in a way that honors God and is healthy for us all.
I just don’t let the books (and schooling) in the way of my education as a Mom.
Dear Lord- I pray that you will lead each mom in they way she should parent- the needs of our kids are so different. I pray that we can get past the idea that there is ONE right way (ummm usually our own) and learn to learn from each other- accept each other and challenge each other- I thank you for the knowledge that we can learn from books and school- but I even more thank you from the heart to heart lessons we can learn from each other- God I pray that you’d bless MOPS International as it reaches out to Moms all over the world, I pray that women will find you, at MOPS. in Jesus name- amen
I should mention- that years later- God blessed us with a surprise- a third son…. who at the moment is eating yogurt for breakfast (good) and watching “Sonic The Hedgehog” (ummm not so good) on TV……we go for balance at our house now;) Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to post, or write.. which would probably push me over the edge to eating the strained peas myself. Just sayin;)