Friday, March 11, 2011

The things they don't tell you about parenting

I could write a freaking book, y'all. It would have chapter headings like:

Moving When You Have a Baby, or: How Paying a Babysitter Will Save Your Sanity
Human Gestation takes 10 months, Not 9 (Joke's On You, Preggo)
Teething: A Primer in Losing Your Sanity and Sleep Simultaneously
Who Needs a Lover When You Can Have Coffee

I just wish there had been some book or something that could have prepared me for this. Why do we have so many parenting taboos? Where was my parenting sensei? I wanted to be a grasshopper, dammit. I wanted to know what it was really going to be like! Lots of moms say "but you can never really be prepared for what it's going to be like the first time, you just have to do it." Maybe I wouldn't have been able to fully understand the implications of any information thrown my way, but it sure as shit would have been helpful to have it. Like after I got pregnant my mom decided to say "Oh, yeah, all the women in our family are extremely fertile." THIS IS INFORMATION THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN HELPFUL TO ME YEARS AGO.

This begs greater questions: why is there a culture of silence surrounding parenthood and especially motherhood? Why do we feel the need to show an outward face of perfection to even those closest to us? We have these conventions, and then we get online or with a group of other parents and we vent about all the awful parts of parenthood because we have no other outlet. We talk to childless people like our lives are perfect, and talk to other parents like we're on the verge of alcoholism or baby shaking.

These issues are connected to other problems: our parenting culture has started presenting a face of fear mongering and unfair judgment. We scare the shit out of each other, and appraise others' value as parents based on how seriously they take these imaginary or bizarrely perceived threats. Amongst the more offbeat parenting community, there is sometimes an "eco-machismo" attitude. "Your parenting choices are killing the earth, and mine aren't;" "how can you let your kid play with plastic branded crap?"

We are so afraid to honestly and openly talk with each other about our experiences, we're afraid we're doing it all wrong. And that fear won't allow us to seek knowledge to help us on this path; instead, we lash out at others' in judgment to hide our own insecurities. We join parenting sites and forums to dish out our advice to others and quietly compare ourselves to them to feel better about our choices. We have a great lip service: "you make the choices that are best for your family," "if it works for you, that's great." But, secretly, we're thinking how lucky our children are to have us are parents and some of these other yahoos that are procreating without a clue about what to do. Here's the best kept parenting secret: none of us know what we're doing. We just wake up everyday and love our kids and try to make it through. We're doing our best. Our choices are informed by our parenting philosophy, previous experience, and our own needs. I, for one, don't think those choices should be informed by fear of mortification or appraisal by other people - parents or not.

Parenting is a mixed bag, and that's ok - so is life. Some days are great, and you never want them to end. Some moments make up for the bad days. And sometimes it's all you can do to get the baby in bed and have a glass of wine and force yourself to let it all go. The challenges of parenting are nothing compared to the challenge of making hard choices and standing confident in those decisions in our current parenting culture. Go ahead, y'all. Open up. Tell me the bad and the good and let's brainstorm creative solutions to your parenting problems. Let's help each other through this. We're all lost in the woods here - there's no sense in us wandering alone.

I was a great parent (before I had kids...)

Before I had Carrie, I knew I was going to be a great parent. I didn't understand how some people let their kids get so dirty. Bananas in their hair? How could they let their kids do that?

How could some people give their children painkillers around the clock? Sure, the kid is teething, but that level of medication surely isn't necessary.

How could some people ignore their children when they cry? Can't you see that love and affection is a basic human need just like food? Clearly, that child was crying out for a little bit of attachment parenting.

And then I had a baby and went back to work and guess what? It turns out I'm some people, too. Do I wash Carrie? Yes. Every day? HAH! I wish I had time for that craziness. Do I let her get bananas in her hair? Um, she self-feeds now, so she gets all manner of crap in her hair and I'm just happy that some of it makes it into her mouth. Do I dose her with motrin when she's teething? You're damn right I do, or we wouldn't get any sleep. Do I snuggle her every time she cries? Nope. Cause Mama's gotta pee sometime.

I find myself watching Carrie smear snot and apple juice all over herself and everything within reach while I blithely sip coffee and text my best friend about the details of my life. I somehow register the dropping of a sippy cup from a high chair, but I don't stop typing or break my train of thought to pick it up until a meltdown is imminent. On the other hand, I take Carrie to the museum to meet a guinea pig and tell her about the relationship between the animal she's babbling to and a capybara. Also what "ovoviviparous" means. So maybe I'm doing alright, even if I am some people.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lifetime Cribs - Love 'Em or Leave 'Em

So Carrie and I are (finally) moving out of my parents' house and my mother is graciously buying a crib as a housewarming present - score! I went to Babies R Us and picked exactly the one I wanted. When my choices are finite like that, and I need a specific and hard-to-find feature (low sides), choosing is easy. And then my mom asked me to look on and pick something from there (hello, free shipping on this insanely large and heave purchase!) And that's when the (proverbial) shit hit the fan.

See, this is a big purchase. I'm looking at lifetime cribs, they convert into toddler beds and full-size beds; which means I'm looking at a piece of furniture that Carrie will be using until she's my age (Goddess willing and the creek don't rise). That's a lot of pressure to put on me. What if she hates it later on? What if the finish is all wrong for her personality or the headboard just isn't compatible with her favorite pair of handcuffs? How do you choose something for a baby to last them their whole life? This is getting nuts.

Add to that the fact that I'm just over five feet tall and need a crib I can lower her into on the lowest setting - sans stepstool because I'm not a fucking toddler - and what do you get? I'm staring at a selection of 441 different cribs with absolutely no idea which one to pick. Dammit.

In the end, I'll probably pick something I like the look of and she'll just have to like it. And feel terrible about it forever. Ah, the joys of motherhood.