Yesterday was a really good parent day for me. I managed to take my daughter from crying about even sitting on her new big girl bike to giggling and riding around me in circles. This is a big deal for her, and I know it give her confidence in her own strength that will help her in many other ways. And, I admit it, I was really proud of me, too. I didn’t know I could do that!
And that was just the morning. In the afternoon, I had a lovely moment walking around the park with both kids, picking flowers (weeds) for a bouquet for their daddy. All day, the kids were charming, I was happy. It was just a good day.
As I walked around with them, I had this thought about what a bad-day-me would think if she saw me and the kids across the playground. Because I don’t always have the energy or the desire to be the fully-engaged, creative, fun playmate that my kids would love to have all day, every day. No one does.
It’s one of those stay-at-home mom myths that we’re down on the floor looking our kids in the eyes and planning the next fully-engaging activity all the time. Moms who aren’t at home full-time are always telling me how they could never do that all the time. Neither could I. I don’t know anyone who does.
I’m sure there are times in the day when someone watching would think I’m Saint Mommy (some days, anyway) and other times when I look like THAT mom whose kids your kids are most certainly not like.
I try to remember that when I look at other moms and kids.
The mom whose kids are screaming at Target and everyone’s staring like this has never happened before. Everyone has been there. She’s yelling at them for doing nothing other than being kids and you’re thinking. “There are better ways of handling that, where no one’s screaming” blah, blah. But some days that’s me.
Some days I handle things the way my best self knows they should be done. And some days I’m too tired or frustrated or anxious about some unrelated thing.
And then there’s the mom who’s playing ring around the rosy, keeping her kids happy, keeping other kids happy and making it look so easy. And I try to see myself in her too. Even if she’s annoying me. Actually, especially if she’s annoying me.
Someone was looking when I was playing in the leaves with my kids at the playground last fall and actually enjoying it, actually being in the silly moment and making one of those amazing memories that make the other stuff fade away. And if someone was looking, maybe they were thinking I’m always like that, my days are just full of happy memories, infinite patience and endless play.
No mom (and no kids!) are the sum of what we see as we pass by them.
I get so frustrated when, in the course of the Mommy Wars, we build up straw men (or straw mommies) just to knock them down. This article was the latest one to make me mad.
When I read about “helicopter” parents or “free range parents” or whatever the latest insulting label is, I used to fall into the trap of thinking, “I know someone like that” or “I’ve seen someone like that.” But the truth is that no one is like that.
We all have helicoptering and free range moments. With rare exception, we’re all just doing our best. Sometimes our best kinda sucks. That’s reality. Sometimes our best amazes even us.
We don’t know if the parent that seems too close to their kid on the jungle gym is there because their kid recently had a bad fall and they’re feeling cautious. We don’t know if the mom who baked the too perfect cake for the bake sale just happens to love baking and doesn’t in fact think our box of chocolate chip cookies is lazy parenting. Even when we know the parents better, we still don’t know what we’d do if we had their kid.
My second kid was really great in helping me figure this out. With my first, I had a lot of “I’ll never…” One of which was: I’ll never give my kid a pacifier. Well, baby number two got one on day two. He needed it. That I never gave one to my first may have been more a product of her temperament than my principles.
I don’t know how I would parent anyone else’s kids but my own. Even that’s an ever-evolving experiment. I’m just doing my best. I know you are too. So, let’s not knock each other down.
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