I became a mother 2 weeks shy of my 21st birthday. My firstborn spent 9 days in the NICU, learning to breathe and eat on his own and battling jaundice while sporting a very groovy pair of sunglasses while tanning beneath a strange UV lamp of some sort. Once he was home, and in my possession without the beeping monitors and machines and nurses….oh man I went hogwild.
(I’m not very certain what “hogwild” actually entails. Look, I’ve been living in the South going on 7 1/2 years now. Sometimes stuff just comes out.)
Anyway, I was put in charge of raising this teensy, scrawny little red headed child. Which resulted in my stress-o-meter going right off the charts.
Charts you say? Oh yeah, I had ’em. Kept dutiful track of how many times a day my precious angel pooped and peed. Wrote down how many ounces he drank and how much solid food he ate each day. Organized the damn baby food jars on the shelves so as to ensure he never had to repeat the same flavor of pureed mush more than once in a four day period. He never got dirty. I propped him in his highchair at age 1 and began flash cards and arts and crafts and reading time and playdough and maybe even Greek and algebra. I did this EVERY DAY. I took him on nature strolls through the neighborhood. He wore name brand clothes. We took him to museums. Art shows. His hair was always combed neatly to the side. He didn’t have a tv in his bedroom. I swore to make no mistakes with him ever ever ever not EVER.
Then his brother was born. And I put a tv in their bedroom. And I learned that children can play by themselves at times without being under my feet constantly. But I still did weird stuff like keep track of bowel movements and dress them in matching outfits. In fact, that matching outfit crap? I did that when I had 3 kids too. By the time I had 4 kids I was desiring for them to learn some independence. But not too much. Because I somehow, in my sleep-deprived demented way of thinking, believed perfection was attainable as a parent. So, I let them begin to pick out their own outfits from their dresser drawers each morning. My way of making this a genius, fool-proof compromise was to fold and put away all of their clothes IN MATCHING OUTFITS. Yeah. I took the time to match up adorable, matching, color coordinating outfits and put them all away that way.
WHO DOES THAT????
A crazy woman, that’s who.
If I have learned nothing else from the past 12 1/2 years as a mom, it’s this:
LET THE LITTLE STUFF GO. Don’t waste all of your energy or time focusing on crap. Literally. Crap. Those pages of obsessive chart making on bowel movements really weren’t all that important. I wish now that I had had better retrospect at what was truly important in life, especially when raising kids. More time to snuggle and laugh and love and listen. Less time lining up tiny glass jars of pureed baby food. I think we as parents get caught up in a two fold game of proving ourselves. the first part comes from all the damn experts and books we start reading and listening to before we even give birth. All the “shoulds” and “Ought nots” and milestone charts that make us scramble in a panic to be sure if our offspring truly measures up properly. The second part is other mothers. The ones who brag about their perfect can-do-no-wrong child. Newsflash: Those mothers are full of crap. And we walk around thinking our kid doesnt add up to little Miss Perfect down the block so the easy thing to do is to tear down OTHER moms to make ourselves feel better. We call the formula feeding mama selfish. The homeschooling mother ignorant. The disposable diaper using mommy lazy. The non-vaxxing mom irresponsible. Its all this petty go-round and the only way we can find to make up for it is to prove ourselves as moms by keeping charts of sleep schedules and banishing tv’s from bedrooms and matching up adorable outfits so we can wave our hand with Vanna White flair and say “See!? See all this??? This proves I am the PERFECT mother.”
Perfect is an illusion. A dull one at that. And a really really exhausting, stressful one to upkeep. It frankly blows.
So, I am 6 kids in now. Today, my 4 year old ran around the entire day wearing nothing but a pair of Thomas The Train undies. We even had company over. The baby found a piece of stray cat food on the kitchen floor and ate it. While I watched and kept chopping carrots for dinner. Because i figured it was protein. Theres a mountain of clean laundry in my room that needs to be folded VERY soon or it may eat me. And guess what? I haven’t written down the last time my now-12 year old crapped in a solid 12 years.
Put the damn pens down. Stop keeping pointless charts. Quit worrying so much. Follow your hearts, your guts, your instinct. Whatever you want to call it. Start paying it a little bit more attention. Hug your kids more. Hold your spouses hand more. Sit down and write out what you have learned in the past decade and then blog about that junk. Because even if no one else ever reads it or pays it any mind, it’s proof that you as a person have grown and changed. And thats living.