Can I take you back 7 years?
Seven years ago, my children were ages 4, 2, and 1. Seven years ago, I had things all figured out for "older" children. See, once diapers and whining and incredibly long bedtime routines were over, it was going to be smooth sailing for me and my kiddos.
And here is my confession: I judged the crap out of parents of "last children" or 3rd, 4th and 5th kids with older siblings. I had a few bones to pick with all of you. I was appalled by many things, including but not limited to:
- Your children's access to inappropriate shows like Sponge Bob Square Pants, iCarly, and Spiderman.
- Your complete disregard for bedtime, especially during the summer.
- Your refusal to baby and toddler proof homes by placing important items in unreachable places.
- Your family's ridiculous habit of giving in to that youngest child when he or she needed or wanted anything.
- Your choice not to make a train with your child on the large twirly slide or play duck, duck goose when they asked at the park.
- Your quick, "I am having a conversation right now. Please don't interrupt," when your child obviously wanted something.
- Your decision to not pack 6 different, healthy snacks just in case of hunger or boredom.
- The way you dismissed the newest parenting techniques and studies.
- The words you allowed young children (or any children, for that matter) to say like stupid, butt, crap, and heck.
My list could probably go on, but I will stop there; you get the gist. And so, here it is:
I FORMALLY APOLOGIZE FOR EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS.
You see, I am now THAT mom; the one I wondered about; the one I quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) critiqued; the one I tried to give pointers to. My boys are 11, 9, 8 and my little straggler just turned 3. So, I wanted to take a moment to share a few thoughts with my former, incredibly young, immature self.
My 3 year old rarely watches TV, but when he does it is not PBS. He watches with his brothers who are pretty into Star Wars, Chopped, and action movies, like Spiderman. While you may find these shows "too mature" they are what we are watching together. He is a part of family movie nights and rainy Saturdays on the couch. We don't have different televisions going to suit each person's fancy, so he bends on this one, plays trains when he is bored, and tunes in for the action.
He also goes to bed at about 10. I know, jaw droppingly late...you are correct. But, it works for us. Lots of nights we are at sports or school events until 9 pm, so by the time we get home, read scriptures and say prayers, it is 10 o' clock. He wakes up around 7:30 and still takes a nap every day, clocking between 12 and 13 hours of sleep most days. He is happy, silly, and easy to be around and we love our crazy nights with each other. Do I sometimes wish he were in bed at 8? Of course! But, it just doesn't work for our family.
I never baby proofed or toddler proofed anything with him, besides the stairs. He learned early what was touchable and what needed to be left alone. To be honest, it was rather incredible.
I swore I would never give into the youngest child...but I do. It's not the best habit and I often try to change my ways, but when he is throwing a public fit about something, it is natural to ask your 9 year old to "Stop," or "Give him what he is asking for." Not saying it is right, just saying that it is what happens.
I used to go to the park to play with my kids, but now, I go to the park to give us both some social time. My toddler is absolutely capable of playing without me hovering over him and I love time chatting with other moms. He and I get plenty of one on one quality time together, an hour or so without constant connection is perfectly okay with me and with him!
My kids used to interrupt and pull me away from what I was doing all of the time. I was at their beck and call at all hours. I thought that made me a great mother. It took years to realize that it actually made me an exhausted mother with very needy children. My youngest knows that sometimes he has to wait. He doesn't love it, but after some practice, he handles it just fine. It is good for both of us.
I no longer carry a diaper bag. I don't usually fill up bags of snacks before we head out. No one has withered away yet.
I don't put toys in time out. I don't read Parent's magazine. I don't carry hand sanitizer. I don't have a strategy for every obstacle we encounter. My 3 year old still drinks a bottle before bed and sucks a binky during nap time. I don't talk to him like I am a therapist. Sometimes I say only 2 books and read 6 and sometimes I don't notice when he has eaten 5 sticks of gum out of my purse until it is in his hair. I don't drill him on his letters and sounds and have not even considered any Pinterest toddler crafts or learning activities. This is my 4th rodeo, and I have a decent idea of what works for my children. I don't mind suggestions or new ideas, and at times, I need them, but don't feel badly if you don't see me put your well intentioned research into practice.
And, my last one. I know certain words are really "bad" at your house. When you have only littles "Stupid" is the "S word" and "Potty Talk" is strictly forbidden. Hours and days are spent reforming speech and having conversations about "kind" words. I appreciate all your efforts; they are important, but in our home, things have changed. You see, my 11 year old knows and hears the real "S word," so if he wants to say, "Ugh, practice today was so stupid!" I let it fly. This at times results in a frustrated 3 year old exclaiming, "Ugh, this train track is so stupid!" Maybe I should correct it, but I usually giggle. The same goes for potty talk, which I try to regulate, but listening to my 3 year old's extensive bathroom vocabulary, I am pretty sure my boys tutor him in secret on exactly how to pronounce diarrhea. And, I must be honest, when the youngest member of the family exclaims, "What the CRAP!" We all dissolve into giggles, which adds fuel to his comedic fire. It is now his favorite phrase.
So, I am on the other side now and I am eating my words...funny how often that happens in parenting. Those women I judged and worried so much about now have productive teenagers, selfless missionaries, and college graduates. They are fabulous mothers who are in tune with their children, kind, loving and supportive. Their youngest children seem to be navigating the world just swimmingly. And here I am, in their spot hoping you don't decide to cancel a play date after all the potty talk or hearing that your son had 4 packs of fruit snacks under my watchful care. I wish I would have climbed off my high horse. I should have looked for the good, appreciated the differences, seen the fun you were having with that little one, learned from your example and anticipated the need for a few extra snacks at the park.
I would much rather chomp on Goldfish than old, ugly words.
(Note: I am in no way demeaning the way I used to do things or the way newer moms or younger moms raise their children. It was all just right for the season I was in. Now that our family has such a different dynamic and new needs, things have changed. I am okay with that and absolutely enjoy it. I just wish I would have been more understanding and willing to recognize how different each family and mother is and refrained from judgement early on.)
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