A bit less than 2 years ago, I walked into this parenting gig quite confidently. I had the tools in place (the crib, the bouncer, the swaddles – velcro, not loose) and the house in order (no sharp objects, soft carpets, clean vents, humidifier. Check check check). I was ready. I was also full of notions in my foggy yet adamant brain. Like millions of moms before me, I had decided how this baby will be, will act, will sleep, will feed. After all I was a smart, educated woman in her 30s. I could mould this tiny cuddle and make her into the ideal baby. Right? So, so, so wrong. Coming back to the present, I thought it only fair to share some of my plans, and how they miserably backfired.
- My baby will eat what I put on the table. When L started eating meals about a year ago, I was very organised with what and how I introduced new food to her. I researched and read up bundles of books to make the right food choices. Carrots, avocados, sweet potato, pumpkin. Everything. I pureed it and she ate it. But even then, even as a tiny 6 month old button, she made faces. I didn’t think much of it. I mean I’m sure if you gave me an avocado as my introduction to the world of food, I would gag too. But I was calm and collected because I had decided that of course she will be an adventurous eater. She’s my kid. And I eat EVERYTHING, with enthusiasm. But as the months passed, her opinions began to form. Carrots were a hot favourite this week and absolutely abhored the next. Bananas were wilfully ignored today and scarfed down the next day. I kept watching this strange little cuisine jumper with confusion. What was happening? But I had to be the one in charge I kept telling myself. I must take control. But as time passed, I realised how little control I truly had. Toddlers will eat what they WANT to eat. And WHEN they want to eat. I’m guilty of shoving things in her mouth, I’ve sacrificed my fries just so she doesn’t see them, and then want them. But still, she has opinions and she sticks to them. I went down the ‘what am I doing wrong?’ hole of self-pity. I stayed up nights reading about other moms and their food woes. And now I’m realising there isn’t much one can do. I can keep trying to introduce good foods to her, but at the end of the day, she has a right to an opinion as much as I do.
- She will never ever co-sleep. Well that one was debunked fairly early in my motherhood journey. I was exclusively feeding in the first 6 months (before solids) and then after that I was feeding until I got sick. It just became easier to take care of her in bed, rather than do wake up 5 times every night. Now, we are transitioning her out of the room, but it’s been a challenge. More for me than her at times, because I can’t shake the nagging feeling that I’m ‘putting her away.‘ But all I can say is, I never thought i would be that mom. The one who allows her child to crawl into her bed in the middle of the night, and actually enjoy the cuddles. But here I am. And here we are. Like someone wise said ‘Have you ever seen a teenager sleeping with the parents? No, right?’ Exactly! They’ll grow out of it. Let’s virtually slap the old me, for all these misguided notions and let’s cuddle some more.
- She will never throw a tantrum in public. Yup, I was quite adamant about that. I frowned down upon wailing children, lying spreadeagled in the middle of a toy store as their helpless parents look on, darting embarrassed glances around. I would never let my child do that I thought to myself. Proven wrong again! They’re kids. Expressing themselves is what they do. And mine just happens to be a feisty, outspoken one at that. She has yet to throw herself to the ground, but I am no stranger to the ‘I want‘ pleas in stores and the dramatic sniffles when told ‘no‘. What can you do? You can be like me and beat yourself up for days for failing as a parent, or you can move past it and tell yourself, ‘This too shall pass.’
- No, absolutely no screen time for my toddler. This one went out the window when I fell sick. Suddenly she was being taken care of by my fantastic family who stepped in and took over without me even having to whisper a request. But, they’re not her parents. And they needed a break. So they allowed her screen time while mom recovered. And now, I allow her, because to me, I need a few moments to just rest and regroup. Does that make me a bad parent? I’m sure many people think so. Do I want to put a stop to it? Absolutely. When I’m back to the old me, I will actively try to stop it completely. But until then, I haven’t seen it do any harm. She’s happy. She sings all day. Her vocabulary is alarmingly eloquent. So maybe I’m not completely in the doghouse with this one yet.
- I’ll never get upset with her. Wrong! I do. And as she becomes more opinionated, it becomes harder to be that calm parent who constantly says ‘No honey, please, you hurt mama when you throw your food on the floor.’ Sometimes you just don’t have the patience to put together that coherent and kind string of words. Sometimes you do lose patience. You’re human. Not an android to constantly compose skilfully kind responses. I’m against yelling because I never liked it myself and it makes me tense. But I have resorted to saying no when the request is repetitive.
I’m sure there could be a 100 other things I’m still learning as I go, but for now, these are the ones that nag at me. These notions might have been debunked but the point remains, it doesn’t stop you from losing sleep over how you can improve. You think for hours about where you’re faltering and what you can do to improve yourself. But then isn’t that with everything in life? You learn as you go. My only hope is that she emerges a good, kind-hearted girl who takes on life’s challenges head-on. That she’s a better person than I am. Will eating broccoli and not watching nursery rhymes really contribute to that? I’m not sure. But I am sure that having a mom who is trying everyday to be better than before, might.