Friday, November 20, 2009

Flashback Friday: Nobody's Perfect, Except Our Newborns

Hey Hey Hey, you know what day it is! It's Friday! Time for FLASHBACK FRIDAY!!!!


Dig up that old post that needs dusting off and repost it for another go-round with your readers. And come back here with Mr. Linky so that we can all enjoy each other's posts!

I thought this post was appropriate considering that I'm due to have baby Violet on Monday. I can't wait to show you pictures. And, yes, I'm still going to TRY to keep up with NaBloPoMo even though I'll be at the hospital. I'm pretty sure they have Wi-Fi there.

Nobody's Perfect, Except Our Newborns
(Originally Posted August 1, 2008)
Y'know, when I was pregnant with Peppermint Patty, I was just sure I was gonna be a great mommy. I read all the books, I went to the birthing classes, I talked to other moms. I really believed I was all ready to get this mothering show on the road.

Then I had a baby. And she was perfect. And I was not.

I have many many oh so many memories of those first few weeks, looking into her eyes and asking, "What do you want to do today?" Her answer usually came in the form of a scream, until I would sit down and position her face-down across my lap close to my knees, so I could gently bounce my knees up and down while keeping a hand on her back and gently patting and comforting her. This usually soothed her but confused and exhausted me. She would not be content to be held. She would not be content to be rocked. Or swung. Or bounced. Or exersauced. She wanted that time on her tummy. I can't really blame her considering, looking back now, she must have had reflux. I read a book called Colic Solved by Dr. Bryan Vartabedian in preparation of having my 4th baby. Nothing like getting prepared AFTER the assault is over, eh? Anyway, I flipped page after page and kept saying to myself, and sometimes to whomever was listening, "This is exactly what Peppermint Patty was doing! These are the symptoms she had! This is how she acted! Why didn't I know this sooner???"

I was filled with fears about being the perfect mother to this child. Like any mother, I feared her getting sick, I feared being in a car accident with her, I feared losing her somehow. I understood these fears but felt like they were somewhat out of my control. But my biggest fear of all was that I would harm her while actually trying to help her. Like, giving her medicine but mistakenly giving the wrong dosage. Or giving her food that caused her to choke, or have an allergic reaction. Or even insisting that I would breastfeed even after noticing that she wasn't gaining weight. Being a mom is filled with so many heart wrenching choices that are not really choices at all. Like, for example: vaccinations. Get em? Risk Autism. Don't get em? Risk getting a deadly or near-deadly disease.

The choices I had to make were making me crazy. Every day I would wonder if I had screwed up my baby that day, or if I were just postponing the inevitable until tomorrow, or the next day, or the next... And since I was already feeling so low about my parenting choices, it was fitting that I would also be sucked into the comparison stuff. Like, that little girl always looks so put-together with bows in her hair and cute little shoes, my child looks like all her fashions come from Goodwill; or that little toddler always looks fresh as a daisy but my kid always seems to have a stain on her shirt or her face or BOTH; or that child seems so content with his mom and the mom seems so calm and in control of everything. Why is my child running around like a banshee while I am on the brink of meltdown?

So, how did I get through it without losing my mind? Well I did it in the only way that I could, the way that no one could have taught me. I did it through experience, and tears, and prayer, and finally giving up and letting go. I did it through allowing myself some humiliation and letting the chips fall where they may. I did it through more of lets-do-this-and-see-what-happens and less of lets-do-it-this-way-because-that's-what-the-book-says-to-do. The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was myself. I have always been what is called a global thinker. I want to know the whole plan, how it's supposed to all turn out, so I can prepare my game plan from step one. So, trying to figure out the game plan for a baby is, well, pretty much impossible! But of course all the books don't present it that way. They say, "Breastfeeding should be...." or "By this age your child should be able to...." or "You should watch your child's signals for...." That last one always cracked me up. For someone who has never had a child, who knows what "signals" are? So the baby is crying... does that mean she's tired? or hurting? or hungry? or wet? or itchy? or has a hair in her mouth? WHAAAAAA???? I couldn't read my daughter's signals any easier than I could read Japanese.

But through the grace of God I mothered her without breaking her. I only hit her head on the door frame once as I passed through. I still remember how that moment was the end of the quest for perfection. I cried and sobbed and told my husband, "I'll never be able to do it. I just don't have it in me." He asked "Have what in you?" I responded, "The gene to be a perfect mom." He said, "I'm glad you finally realized it." I was so insulted, so he gently explained, "Now you can relax and just do your best. She doesn't expect perfection. She just wants your love."

And, through the grace of God, I've mothered 3 other children too. I've made mistakes along the way with all of them. I continue to make mistakes every day. Many nights I whisper unheard promises into their ears as they sleep in their beds. I quietly assure them that tomorrow I will be nicer, or more patient, or more fun and less busy. Although I realize perfection is not necessary, I feel myself slipping further away from it every day. But it's strange to see how amazing they are turning out when I think, "Oh, today was terrible! Let's erase today and have a do-over tomorrow. I'll get out the finger paints and I'll do flash cards and I'll read books and there will be NO TV and NO video games." Then tomorrow comes and before I can crawl out of bed they ask, "Can I watch Arthur on PBS?" and I say, "Yes."

So many moms have seen me with my 4 kids and say, "My God, how do you do it?" **DISCLAIMER** If you have more than 4 kids I know it must be exponentially harder but I am only relating my experiences thus far. And my answer usually is: "Many days, I don't." What I mean by that is, please don't think for one minute that my kids are all in matching clothes, that their rooms are clean, that I have dinner ready at 5pm, and that my house is spotless. Usually I'm lucky if I'm 1 for 4. Getting out the door on time takes much planning. Getting anything done around the house usually involves corralling the children in front of the idiot-box (TV) or sending them outside. The baby must be taking a nap in order for me to iron or fold laundry. What I want any mom to know, any mom who thinks that "that other perfect mom" is doing a better job than she is, IS NOT PERFECT. She has problems of her own, but she's not showing them to you. No mom is perfect except in the eyes of her child. As long as anyone searches for perfection he or she will be forever disappointed. The only logical outcome will be that you will toil away at everything that someone else considers important only to miss fulfillment in that task, and your child will lose out on time with you just being relaxed and being yourself.

So for tomorrow, don't promise perfection to anyone, including yourself. Don't expect it. Set realistic goals, like "Today I will play Uno with my kids for 30 minutes and I won't yell once." Or "Tonight I will read whatever book they want - no matter if it's long or has tiny print or has no pictures - and I won't complain about it." Or even something simple like "Today I will tell my children I love them. And that I think they're perfect." Because to you, they are.


Jen said...

I loved this post when you first wrote it!

Jennifer said...

Yes. Exactly. I wish I had written this.

I remember when I was pregnant with Baby Girl from the very beginning I would ask the doctor, so what's the plan? How's this gonna go? When are we going to do this? How is it going to work? I wanted a plan. I needed steps to follow. And he would always respond, "we'll just have to wait and see." And it drove me insane, but he was so right. About all of parenting. Most of the time it is best not to plan, but to just sit back and wait and see.

And just look, even though you didn't have that book or the perfect plan or know the "signals" you still figured out the best thing to make her happy. I'm pretty sure that is how all moms do it. At least the good ones anyway.

A Lil Enchanted said...

What an awesome post! And you know I was just thinking a few mintues before I read it... that I am such a crappy Mom... I have 4 kids... 3 are grown... and I still don't know how to do it right :(... thanks for the inspiration.. I needed it!

A Lil Enchanted,

Foursons said...

This is a fantastic post. I'm so glad I stopped to read it. Thank you!

Tonya said...

I love this post! So very, very true. I try so hard to be the perfect mom, and mess it up so often -- and my kids still think I'm great (at least most of the time) and they are pretty good kids, so even if I'm not perfect, I must get at least some of it right.

Emily said...

What an encouraging post. I've had all those "shoulda, coulda, woulda" moments too. I think it just comes with the parenting job.
Praying for you and a safe delivery of Baby Violet!