Friday, April 05, 2013

parenting

There are a lot of things that chap my chodes but lately the one thing that really sets me off is people who are smug and righteous about parenting, especially those aspects of raising children that have everything to do with the kind of people said children are and very little to do with the skills of their parents. I think the worst of it for me was in the baby and toddler years, which is a time when parents are deluded into thinking they have some control, when they really don't.

Thank goodness those years are behind me.  It was rough.

I can't tell you how many times I was told subtly and sometimes outright that my kids would sleep through the night/take a bottle/have regular nap times/use the toilet/stop picking at their food if only I would establish a routine and simply insist upon it. As if I were stupid and hadn't tried that already, as though I had some control over these things. In other words, I was led to believe over and over again that I was inadequate as a mother because my children did not do any of those things in a timely manner. Let me tell you, when you are caring for a newborn right around the time your 22-month-old son decides that naps are for wusses around the same time he learns to climb out of his crib, there's not a whole hell of a lot you can do about that. Except cry a little and drink an extra cup of coffee.

The fact is, as a parent, you don't have much control over the person your child will become. Your job is to set boundaries, teach right from wrong, insist upon respect and responsibility, but that other stuff? The developmental stuff? The personality stuff? You've just go to roll with it. The fact is, kids are individual beings with minds and wills of their own and the sooner you accept that, the better.

It's just so irritating when someone whose kid will eat any kind of vegetable you put in front him takes credit for it. This is just one example that I'm particularly sensitive about because my kids are picky eaters. At ages 7 and 5, they are at least picky in the normal sense of the word. Let me tell you, this is progress. Three or four years ago, the picky eating was so extreme we ended up seeing a professional dietician (who told me to chill out and be patient...and what do you know, it worked. Progress has been made, and I take very little credit for it.)

As it turns out, it's not your fault if your kid is a picky eater. It's probably just genetics, or texture sensitivity, or something. And I did everything right - I ate all kinds of stuff when I was pregnant (I was lucky enough not to have too much trouble with feeling sick or sensitive to certain foods), I made most of our baby food (which Daniel insisted on being spoonfed well after he should have been feeding himself cheerios and Anya refused to eat. at. all.), and I have a little garden and cook everything from scratch - and I make sure they participate, at least during the summer - and offer all kinds of good, wholesome stuff that My Kids Won't Touch. So if I hear one more person say "I just don't let my kids be picky. I'm not a short order cook after all!" I might just throw a plateful of rejected kale chips in his/her glowing, self-righteous face.

OK, OK. Obviously, I'm a little sensitive about the picky eater thing. We're working on it. And actually, things are improving on this front.

I didn't mean to hijack my own post here and talk about picky eaters. In fact, I could go on and on (and on) about my kids' current dietary issues, but for the sake of their privacy and your sake, I won't.

My point is simply that parenting is really more about getting to know your own kid(s) and preparing him/her/them for the world the best way you can. You learn as you go. And the only part of it that is guaranteed is this: the more you learn, the less you know.

2 comments:

Lisa said...

I feel like your unknowingly wrote this post just for me. The last few weeks have been rough all around. Sometimes Ellie won't eat anything but graham crackers. And there are often times, after I put her to bed, that I think, "That moment when she cried when I wouldn't go color with her because I was doing dishes...is that going to harm her forever?" I know there are huge rewards in being a parent, but sometimes the difficult parts sit with me for too long.

Jessi said...

Kids are gonna be who they are gonna be. No amount of demanding that they be something else will change them. You know, one of the reasons that I instituted the "Peanut Butter Sandwich Act of 2006*" was that when I was a kid I was forced to eat things I didn't like and I think that made me a pickier adult eater. I've just in the last couple of years become adventurous about what I'll try.

*The act states that any child, having tried and rejected what mom made for supper, may make her own peanut butter sandwich, with or without jelly.