Raising children is undoubtedly the hardest job a person can undertake. I knew everything there was to know about parenting and raising a kind, sweet, considerate child; before I was a mom. I knew how I would discipline, and how I would encourage my children to be themselves. I knew that I was going to breastfeed and make my own baby food from scratch. Then, Evie came out of my belly and smacked the ignorance right off my face. No one knows how to parent before they are knee deep in the pile of shit that is raising a child. No one knows what the best way is to soothe a baby hours into a crying fit; no one knows what the best way is to teach your particular child the letters of the alphabet. Each and every one of us is so unique in every possible way.
My children are all under the age of 5, and I can already say with complete confidence that they will all be extremely different from one another. The only thing I am even more confident about is that I am a different mother to each of them as well. I wake up every morning with the best intentions and I become whatever mother I think is best suited for each kid. I try my best not to fuck them up too much.
When Evie was two, maybe two and a half we were walking through a department store together, blissfully enjoying an afternoon shopping trip just the two of us. Like most tantrums, out of nowhere she decided everything was wrong and threw herself to the ground. Between screams I was able to determine that somewhere a few aisles back was something she wanted and I was a horrible person for not knowing she wanted it. I looked down at her limp body and huge crocodile tears pouring from her eyes and decided the best thing I could do was ignore this completely. If I tried to console her, or got her whatever she was crying for, I would set myself up for a lifetime of this behavior. So, I sat down, in the middle of the aisle, next to my screaming toddler. I took out my phone and pulled up the article I was reading earlier that morning.
A woman, in her late twenties I would guess, approached the scene concerned for Evie. She knelt down and said “Oh you sweet thing, what’s wrong?”
Excuse me bitch, do not acknowledge her existence right now.
I decided an annoyed glance in her direction was more appropriate. She stood up and walked away whispering something under her breathe I’m sure along the lines of that poor child and that horrible mother. Guess what lady, Evie doesn’t do that anymore. I may not know everything, but I sure as hell know not to indulge that kind of b.s..
Until Millie. Millie’s tantrums put Evie to shame. Most days I’m lucky if she has less than five MAJOR tantrums. Less than five… if I’m lucky. She is a whole other species than Evie. I try my best to ignore them, to sit down in the aisle like I did with Evie, but the constant tantrums can be too much some days. Recently I’ve found myself desperately digging through their bin of snacks praying to find just one more pack of fruit snacks; anything to calm her down. I’m reading parenting books and reading articles to figure out a better way to parent her. She is not the problem, I am. I need to adapt. I need to acknowledge that I was naïve once again in thinking that just because I was ok at parenting so far with Evie, that meant I would be a master for all subsequent children. Millie makes sure I know how stupid I was for thinking that every morning when she smacks my glasses off my face and runs away laughing.
After several particularly hard days, a passage from the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend read: “Do it now, Dear. Discipline the child now- and you just might survive adolescence.” Of all the parenting books I had been reading, I found just what I needed within a book about setting up proper boundaries as an adult. There was one small chapter about setting boundaries within parenting, and sure enough this chapter was the perfect reminder of what I needed to do.
Later that day I took the girls to the library to pick out some books and movies for the week. We took the elevator to the second floor since I had the stroller. The door slid open and as if we were stepping off directly into hell, Millie started screaming uncontrollably and threw herself out of the stroller and down to the ground. On my right shoulder, angel Julie strummed her harp and told me to take a deep breath and find my inner peace and remember what I had just learned earlier that day. On my left, devil Julie reminded me about the pack of fruit snacks in the diaper bag; fix it quick you’re at the library … you need to be quiet.
I felt my face turn a deep shade of red. The librarians had all looked up from their computers and were now staring at me, my giant double stroller, Evie and Livie, and Millie laying half in the elevator- half out, screaming. I think deep down Millie plots how to make me look as bad as possible. Like on the ride up while her sisters enjoyed the elevators motion flip-flopping their stomachs, she decided she would throw herself down across the elevators doorway to teach me some lesson. She thought I’ll make those librarians think my mom threw me down make it obvious that she forgot to buckle me because she doesn’t care. That will get me hugs and cuddles. Maybe someone will even read me Llama Llama Red Pajama.
I pointed over to the toy section and told Evie to go play with my best fake smile. I told the devil to piss off and only return when she had a Zanax for me, F those fruit snacks. Just as I had done years before, I sat down next to Millie. The fact that we were now rendering the elevator useless as we sat in the doorway never crossed my mind. I was parenting; whoever was downstairs would just have to wait. Several minutes, and yes it was minutes because I was staring at the clock, the library’s police officer walked up the flight of stairs next to the elevator. He looked down at me and Millie, and smiled.
“She’s about a year and half right?”
Oh thank god, I’m not being arrested for neglect.
“Yes, such a fun age,” I said with absolutely no trace of a smile.
“I came up to make sure everything was ok,” he said shifting is weight from one foot to the other, his thumbs linked onto his belt. “I see that it is. You’ve got everything under control.”
So, the angel on my right didn’t deliver a Zanax, but she did deliver a sign of good faith disguised as a cute friendly police officer with encouraging words. Just as I started to feel better about myself as a mom, and woman, Millie rolled over and smacked my face before running off to play with the farm animals. Don’t get cocky mom.
Do it now my dears, do it now.
Song of the day: