Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Geez. I'm now giving parenting advice?

This just feels so weird.

My second-cousin's wife has been having a rough couple of weeks.  They've got two little kids (2 years and 2 months), and between normal life, holiday crazies, and illness, she was about at the end of her rope.

We chatted for a little while tonight, and I think just having another mom's ear to bend, one who admits her own frustrations and occasional desires to cheerfully give away her kids, was a good thing for her.

It's almost astonishing that I've been a mom longer than she has.  I didn't realize that until after we stopped talking.

I remember asking my best friend once, about six months after the girls moved in, if wanting to sell my very cute, very much loved children to the nearest gypsy troupe meant that I was a bad mom.  "No," she laughed.  "It means you're human!"

I think, in a lot of ways, moms get the short end of the stick.  There are so many stereotypes about how perfect we're supposed to be, and how we're supposed to love our children and never be upset and always have a perfect house and...well, I could go on.  Reality is, however, far different from all that.  (Unless you're Martha Stewart.  Which I'm not.  Thank God.)

My downstairs looks like a toy-volcano erupted half the time.  The other half, it looks like the toybox threw up.  The throw blankets are almost never put away.  What the kids don't scatter, the cats do.  I'm lucky if the laundry gets folded, much less put away.

Little kids do not make for a well-ordered house.

Or a well-ordered life, for that matter.

And when your children are sick, you want to take care of them--but you also want them to behave like quiet little sick kids, rather than screaming banshees or, like my kids, being clingy and whiny and needing you constantly and you start running out of lap AND sanity.  I want to be a good mom.  I want to want to take care of them.  Sometimes, I don't.

And when you, as mom, are sick too?  Oh, man, that's a recipe for disaster, and the Doubt Gremlins start talking to you in force.  (Doubt Gremlins are close cousins of Worry Gremlins, whose primary purpose is to drive parents crazy with unrealistic but horrifying worries over their kids.)  You're a bad mom, because they're sick and still driving you crazy.  You're a bad mom for admitting that.  You're a bad mom for wanting thirty seconds of peace.  You're a bad mom just because!

Hogwash.  And, if we were in our right minds and not our own worst enemies, we'd know that.

But we're not in our right minds.  We're moms, and that has forever warped the connections for logic (few to begin with, in my case) that we had in our brains before we had kids.  We worry constantly that we're not good enough at this job, that we're irreparably harming our kids somehow and we don't even know it.  Our worries about what kind of moms we are run almost as deep as our love for our kids.

I can say all this right now, because I'm not having a crisis of mom-conscience.  I'm sick, but the kids aren't, and Hubby is home to take care of them while I rest.

But I've had them.  A LOT.

Sleep and chocolate seem to help me.  That, and the reassurance of my husband that I'm doing a good job.

I suppose we'll never really know what kind of parents we are until our kids are grown.

In the meantime, I'll have to trust that I'm doing the best job I can, and that how much we love our kids shows in the way that they come up to us and tell us, all by themselves, that they love us.

And take a page from comedian Jeff Allen's playbook, and have my kids write out their grievances and the date, and I'll initial it.  And then, when they need therapy because of how bad a parent I was, we can breeze through it.

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