When I met my husband at the nice, young, firm, everything was in the right place age of 30, I boasted that I knew everything. I had been on my own half my life, put myself through college and had a budding career as a Wall Street suck up.
At 33, we married and I found out I was pregnant. I preached again that I knew everything there was to know about raising children. You know, since I had zero experience being around babies and kids. But, I reasoned, I was smart, driven and motivated by not wanting to raise the next Elmer Fudd, so I knew that with the help of the Internet and friends, I would do all right.
My list of “I’ll nevers” was a mile long. I’ll never let her cry. I’ll never let her have sugar before a year old. I’ll never give her formula. She’ll never tell me no. I was so sure of myself I spouted my wisdom’s to anyone who would listen. I got a lot of laughs and then rolled eyes when I told them I was not joking – I would never let my child run around in a diaper! I mean, come on. With all of those cute, clean clothes out there to adorn her in?
Katie was born and I stuck to my guns. For the first five minutes. I’d had to have an emergency c – section after a fun and calming 21 hour labor. I didn’t get to pull her out with my hands, lay her on my chest and, with the gooey mess all over her, have her latch right to my boob like I had planned in my laminated, detailed birth plan. In fact, by the time I held her a good hour had passed and everyone in my family has held her first. So, when I finally, in my drugged blissful state got to see my first daughter, I was thrilled to give this nursing thing a try. But my father was in the room and would not leave. In hindsight, I should have just whipped it out and watched him run simply for the laugh.
Finally alone with my daughter a good 3 to 4 hours after her birth, I attempted to nurse. You know, because formula was not acceptable to arrogant me. I had to nurse! It is the best for the baby, you know! And other blah, blah, blahs.
Well, much to my surprise, and for God’s hearty laughter, Katie would not latch. A sign of things to come, let me tell you. And even after the lactation consultant felt me up several times, she still could not get Katie to latch. Because I knew everything, there was no milk to pump yet so I had to cave in and give my newborn daughter…. formula!!!! I mean, she was hungry, right? She had a whole day without food! Yea, uh huh – I knew everything…
Upon arriving home and consulting my “never” list – crossing off “I will never give her formula” – I realized that I might have to have some flexibility. See, I was learning!
Over the next 6 weeks, I believe I knocked off a few more nevers. It had to be done. I was tired, a tired no amount of Internet searching can prepare you for, pumping like a mad woman because I was never again giving her formula, wallowing in my large, swollen body and trying to remember if I had changed her diaper in the last hour. There goes “I will never be an absent -minded Mom.”
But I am determined little idiot and I would conquer one never. At seven weeks, she decided I’d suffered enough and I woke at 3am with a little Katie happily nursing away. See – I DO know what I am doing! HA!
Yes, arrogance is bliss…
When Sarah was born 14 months later, my list of never was still long and only semi – flexible. My daughters would never fight, I would never not be able to find time for one over the other and I would never be so tired as to not pay attention to my husband at night.
Yea, um, any guess how many nevers I scratched out with an unsharpened pencil before Sarah was a week old? A 14 month old and a newborn and a never list. Was I high?
I was happy just to remember I had two kids, much less a husband! And I could never even find the never list to consult it anyway. So, the first 10 months of colicky Sarah’s life was insane. I believe this is when I celebrated the birth of my complaining habit.
As my children aged, I found my list and – though shredded and haggard looking, I had a whole long, inspiring list to go. I was recommitting myself to what I knew best. And that was raising children. I mean, God gave me two, he had to know I was capable. He doesn’t just give them to anyone you know!
Climbing back on my high horse, I quickly was kicked off when I took Sarah to a birthday party and let her eat some cake. Thus shattering “My child will never eat sugar before a year old!” I excused my slip up on a desire not to fight her reaching for it and got back to adding pressure to my day by even having the damned list.
We found out about Megan when Sarah was a year old. I was going to have three children under the age of three. Now the pressure was really on. I had to make a new commitment, stick to the list and get it right. Because now I would have three children out there who could tell the truth to strangers and have me committed!
The truth is, when I was in that baby having stage of life, I really did think that I could do it all. I could raise all three kids – born really close together -and always keep them clean, changed, dressed, fed nutritiously, with good manners and impressive, nurtured talents. I could stick to my never list as long as I could tweak it a little. My child will never eat dirt… unless it is from the sandbox.
The reality is that a never list is a joke. What was I thinking? My children will never tell me no. Yea, ok, good luck with that! My children will never hit. Uh huh… yea. I will never yell at my children. Seriously, I can hear your laughter from here. Doesn’t have to be quite so loud, ok?
I am a good mother, I know I am. Because I have learned that despite my internal desire to have the perfect children, the cleanest house, the thinnest waist, everything has to give a little, and by a little I mean a lot.
So as I watch my almost one year old stumble around the house in a diaper that looks a little full with an oreo in her hand, my two year old run around the house stark naked screaming NO at me as I attempt to cloth her and my three year old dancing with her imaginary prince in front of the second showing of Cinderella today, I realize that it is ok if they are not perfect.
Because relaxing the expectations I have on myself has given my kids something I never had growing up… a childhood.