Parents are funny creatures because they are remarkably different in a great number of ways from the childless person they were created from. Up to and including the last moments before a first child is born, as-yet-child-free people have all these wonderful concepts and ideas in their heads. They know exactly how things are going to be, how they’re going to raise their kid, what kind of person their child is going to be. They’ve got it all figured out.
And then, sometimes a few months, sometimes a mere few days down the road, it becomes painfully evident to the now-parent that they are the world’s biggest hypocrite. You can’t blame the now-parent, however. We don’t set out to be hypocrites. Our completely unpredictable children turn us into them.
“My child’s health is first and foremost. I am going to breastfeed for “x amount of time” and when they start solids they’re going to get all the good stuff, like carrots, and apples, and…”
I’ve said it many times before, but every child is different, and nothing makes that more frustratingly obvious than food.
Starting with the breastfeeding part, yeah, it’s the healthiest option for a newborn, and if you’ve chosen to do so, that’s great. But it’s also not just as simple as sticking the kid in front of a boob and voila…sustenance. Some kids will have a lot of trouble latching. Some mothers will have trouble producing. Some kids will be biters who bring their mothers to tears every time they eat. Some mothers will have skin problems that cause searing pain every time a light breeze touches their boob. All in all, there are dozens of reasons why mother’s will wind up quitting breastfeeding early, and many of them are completely reasonable because how can you take care of your child if you’re in horrible pain all the time, or if it takes four hours of pumping to get a single feeding’s worth of milk?
Moving on to solid foods, you can plan and scheme all you want to create a healthy eater, but if your child won’t swallow you’re pretty much at an impasse. Believe me, I had every intention of feeding my daughter only the healthiest stuff…lots of veggies especially. But when your kid is screaming from hunger, and at the same time keeps spitting out whatever you’re trying to shovel in, you start to rethink your strategy pretty quickly.
As a side-note, the most oft-quoted sentence in relation to getting your kids to eat what you put in front of them is, “Just wait them out; they won’t starve themselves.” I, personally, find this phrase hysterical. No, I’m sure my child won’t starve herself, but I’ve seen her wait me out so long that the food in question wasn’t worth eating anymore. I’ve also heard, “they won’t go to sleep hungry”, but again, I’ve witnessed my daughter refuse supper so adamantly that she went all evening, all night, and didn’t eat anything until the following day, at which point she still refused what I tried to give her.
Every kid = different. I really don’t know how many times I have to say that.
“There’s not going to be any stupid nighttime nonsense in my household. Bedtime is bedtime and that’s it. When the sun goes down my kid is going to be sleeping.”
I’ve seen so many parents who are almost humorously adamant about this particular subject. They honestly believe that it’s as simple as putting the kid in their bed, wrapping them in blankets, turning off the lights, and leaving the room. I can’t honestly say that I ever thought it would be that simple, but I did believe it would be easier than it is. I figured, kids need a ton of sleep, so by the time nighttime comes my daughter will be so exhausted that she’ll probably just collapse.
There are a number of reasons why that idea is so wrong, but I’m going to talk about what I’ve experienced because why claim to know about something that I haven’t experienced?
The thing is, it’s pretty common “knowledge” that kids require a certain amount of sleep. For kids of my daughter’s age, that number is approximately 12-13 hours a day. So you would expect, upon dealing with my daughter, that if she’s been awake for 12 hours she should probably be getting pretty tired, right? Yeah, no. As previously mentioned (about a million times), every child is different, and my child happens to take after her father in that she requires significantly less sleep than average. I’ve witnessed my daughter stay up until almost midnight, sleep for two or three hours, wake up and stay awake for another two or three hours, and then sleep for maybe four or five more. For those who are following along, that’s approximately 7-8 hours. Now every night is not exactly the same, but because of these habits of hers, there are plenty of nights during which my daughter sleeps less than I do, and yet she is bright and shiny and ready to go go go the next morning.
So what can I do? I can’t wave a magic wand and make her fall asleep when I tell her it’s bedtime, and I can’t stop her from waking up at all hours of the night. I’d love to be able to, but unfortunately that’s not the way sleep works. Therefore, yeah, my daughter has a TV in her room and she watches her shows at bedtime and sometimes at 2 am because I need to sleep, and do you have a problem with that? 😛
“I hate seeing a kid trying desperately to get their parent’s attention and being ignored. I would never do that to my child!”
The best of intentions, my friends. The best of intentions.
I’ll fully admit that this is something I used to say all the time, and to an extent I still believe in it. I hate seeing a kid who is hauling on their mother arm and yelling, “Mom! Mom! Mama! Mommy! Mom! Mom!” and being completely ignored. I’ve always hated it because I could never see the logic in it. I’ve always thought, if you’re busy with something, take two seconds to tell the kid that you’ll be with them in a minute and chances are they’ll be willing to wait. If you’re not busy, why the hell are you ignoring the kid? Just answer them and be done with it!
I’ve thought these things a million times, and I still think them, but then, that’s what makes me the hypocrite here.
You see, the thing is, before actually having children and being with them 24-7, a lot of people don’t realize just how much kids talk. Sure there are shy kids out there, there are quiet kids, there are kids who naturally don’t like to talk too much, but I’d be willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of kids never shut their mouths. A lot of the time’s it’s adorable. They’re excited about everything, they’re constantly learning, and they want to share every thought in their head because everything is so awesome that everyone needs to know about it! It cracks me up when my daughter comes running up to me with a piece of paper covered in eighty different colors of crayon and announces that she drew a rainbow. That’s great, babe!
But there’s a limit to most adults’ patience when being presented with the same pointless information over and over and over….and OVER and OVER. I love my daughter to death, but coming on the twentieth time over the course of an hour that she lets me know that Twilight Sparkle has a purple horn, I’m quite ready to sew her lips together until she hits adulthood.
And that’s probably how those parents out in public feel. They’re ignoring their child because internally they know that their little pumpkin is about to point out the cookie display for the thirty-second time since they arrived at the grocery store, and that if those words pass by that child’s lips again they may actually snap and set said cookie display on fire and wind up spending the night in jail.
It’s not “ignoring”. It’s keeping yourself from losing your mind.
“I’m going to read to my kid every night, and I’m going to watch all kinds of Disney movies with them, and I’m going to <<insert bonding activity here>>”
Every parent should have this attitude going in, I believe. It’s a good attitude to have because while you want your kids to be independent and be able to occupy themselves without your input, you also want them to be able to enjoy spending time with you, and you want to encourage things like reading together, and learning, and having “family time”.
But it’s harder than it sounds because kids, particularly small kids, are all about repetition. They crave it and thrive for it because it helps them to learn, and they quite often choose to stick with what they like because, hey, they like THIS, so why try something else? And even when you know it’s good for them (listening to Elmo sing the alphabet a hundred times in a row does, after all, help them learn the alphabet), all that repetition can be hard on an adult brain. For example, my daughter loves it when I read her bedtime stories, but there’s, like…three books that she wants me to read. Over and over and over. If I try to convince her to read a different book she has a fit, and then I get mad because I feel like she’s being a brat. In the end it’s either struggle through “Elmo’s Sleep-Time Stories” for the hundredth time, or refuse to read anything and feel like a horrible meany because I’m trying to force her to do what I want her to do, which isn’t really the point, now is it?
“My kid isn’t going to be stuck inside at the TV all day long. My kid is going to <<insert physical activity here>> !”
I’m all for keeping kids active, I really am. Kids should be playing outside, taking part in sports, learning to play an instrument, getting their hands dirty, or just otherwise doing something that doesn’t involve a brightly lit electronic screen. But when parents make these bold declarations, a lot of them fail to realize that such things require a lot of time and effort from them as well. For instance, do you know anyone who has a kid in hockey? Praise that parent. Give them a pat on the back and tell them that they’re super-mom/dad. Because here’s the thing…it might just seem like a game that you take your kid to and pick them up from, but it actually requires a TON of input. There are fundraisers to come up with the money for gear/tournaments/trips/etc, there are an outrageous number of “away” games that parents are generally expected to drive their kid to and from, there are tournaments that may require that entire weekends be spent somewhere away from home, and as many practice sessions that your kid has to get to as actual games. And that’s not even taking into consideration that your kid is probably going to want you to, you know…actually attend their games. You wind up spending as much – if not more – time on your child’s hockey team than they do.
And the thing is, I have huge respect for parents who do this kind of stuff, who drive their kids to games and practices, who chaperone tournaments or other various extracurricular activities, who bake goodies for fundraisers and drag groups of kids to the playground, who volunteer their time to various groups and projects. I think those parents are awesome. But the fact of the matter is that not all of us have that kind of time or energy, and many of us don’t realize, upon making the kind of claim quoted above, that just taking a toddler outside to play takes a chunk of time out of your day during which you won’t be able to get anything else done.
I’m not saying that it’s not worth it to make sure your kids are doing something other than hanging out in the shadowy confines of their room; I’m just saying that if you’ve got 26 hours worth of other stuff that needs to get done in one day, or you’re so exhausted from actually doing 26 hours worth of stuff in one day, maybe junior can survive inside for another day and you shouldn’t feel like a total ass for it.
I could probably go on for days, listing things that I’ve heard parents say (or said myself) before having the hefty hammer of reality smashed against all their fingers and toes, but I think I’ve made my point. Having a child is a wonderful experience, and it’s great that parents-to-be have all these wonderful goals and ideas set out in front of them when they find out that they’re going to be responsible for a little person. All I’m trying to point out is that the best laid plans have flaws, and you can’t necessarily plan out something as unpredictable as the behavior of a tiny human being. So if you’re a parent, cut yourself some slack, and if you’re not a parent, understand that you genuinely have no idea what any given parent is dealing with on a daily basis.
Has becoming a parent turned you into a hypocrite? Do you find yourself giving in in ways that you never thought you would? Share. Complain. Commiserate. 😀