Wednesday, April 10, 2013

On Parenting

I wish I was more self-aware and deliberate about how I parent. I read inspirational blogs and articles written by mothers who really seem to understand themselves, their motivations and history and most importantly, their children, while so often I feel like I'm just over here, floundering.

Mostly, I feel like I fly by the seat of my pants in this whole parenting debacle. Sure, I have some ideas of how I'd like to run the show, but mostly I just seem to have a vague notion of what kind of people I'd like my children to become, and hope that somehow we'll get them there. Like - maybe simply by virtue of being part of this family, they'll turn out alright?

I'm pretty sure this is totally naive on my part though. My sister called me the other day to remind me not to be the "bitch who lets her asshole 3 year old run wild through the grocery store screaming." Thanks for that reminder, sis. I'm really hopeful that I won't be that bitch, and mostly that people won't see my kid and think, "wow, there's a lesson in what NOT to do." But I wonder if I'm doing everything I should be doing to keep those results from happening. Eleanor's entering a trying stage, for sure, and we're a little clueless about how to handle her mood swings and tantrums. Mostly though, I don't want to feel defeated at the end of every day, thinking about how rough it was on all of us, and how she's probably glad to be turning the page on this day. I want her to be happy, but recognize that happiness almost certainly lies in (or at least partially with) having the security of having boundaries, routine and structure.

It's funny how parenting seems to be this nonstop game of catch-up, and when you finally wrap your head around what's happening and why, the kid goes and changes and it starts all over again. Maybe that's one reason I'm looking forward to this new baby - a chance to do things from square one, and perhaps apply a bit of what we've learned the first time. Maybe it doesn't always feel this way for everyone. Maybe if you read the parenting books and study up on child development you aren't so caught off guard and can try to avoid always playing defense. I kinda doubt it though.


Side note: I'm feeling reflective in this moment, but truthfully, we had a very good day. Unlike yesterday, she woke up happy and stayed pretty happy most of the day. So that's a win. With a minor scuffle at dinner over her insistence on more cheese (don't know where she gets that from!) vs our insistence that she eat her chicken and rice first, and then she'd get more cheese, it was a pretty great day. She's talking happily through the monitor about puppies as she falls asleep, and while the living room is a slight mess, no one cares.

Other side note, almost entirely so I don't forget: I had to wear a 24 hour heart monitor starting at 4pm yesterday until 4pm this evening. I've had random bursts of tachycardia (one more fun thing about this pregnancy - a surging heart rate randomly throughout the day) and the cardiologist wanted to make sure my heart rhythms were normal. So envision a portable EKG device, and me with 5 electrode/lead things stuck to my chest. Two above shirt line, and three right below my bra, all attached to wires leading to a little pager looking device. Anyway, I told Ellie that they were "mama's owies" and she did pretty well not touching them, but kept saying "hi mama owie!" and giving them kisses. When I removed them, she said, "bye bye mama owie!" and "owie all gone!" and it was just so dang sweet. Also, she thought the pager thing was awesome and kept asking to hold it and use it as a cell phone. Smart kiddo. :)

Glimpse of our girl in a couple of years.
lunch is exciting!!
Doggie is forlorn he will NOT be sharing her lunch


  1. Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with letting your three-year-old run down the aisle in the grocery store? I mean really? If its raining out and your kid has been stuck in the house all day and you decide to go to the store and he wants to run up the aisles to get out a burst of energy, why does that make me an asshole for letting him run up the aisle? I'm seriously asking this question right now because I've been pondering this lately. In fact, I pondered it the other day when I let my three-year-old and one-year-old run up the aisle and got smiles from two women as they watched the kids run by. They didn't seem to mind. It wasn't Safeway. It was Target. We were in the toy aisle. But same idea. My hubs doesn't like when the boys do this either. But I truly truly don't see the harm in it... And I really really don't understand why it's such a horrible thing...

    I love reading your blog Julia. You're such a great writer. You're really thought provoking and honest and real. While I just post picture of my boys and the crafts they do at school, you're pouring your heart out and probably helping to put your feelings on paper (computer). I appreciate you. :)

    1. Oops - maybe I wasn't clear! I *think* the three year old in question was running around while screaming/tantrum-ing/having a fit and being completely unattended. :)My sister says that shoppers were having to avoid going down certain aisles because the kid was lying on the floor kicking & screaming, with no parents in sight. My husband let's Ellie out of the cart too & they have fun & that's cool with me! (I just can't. Cuz I can't run after her. Cuz I'm slightly too encumbered at the moment). Thanks for the sweet words Kim, big hugs to you!

    2. I better chime in! Especially since I'm the big sister Jules is referring to :P

      I was super annoyed (hence the strong language!) and my complaint definitely comes from my Elementary Education/Preschool teaching background! I firmly believe in boundaries for children when it comes to expectations, and that passive parenting sends really mixed and unclear messages. Also, often times when our babes are tantrumming they are crying out for boundaries and a need to emotionally know that "We are the adults, we are in charge and we will keep them safe from the world, peers and even themselves".

      So the Mom in this story was truly being so passive it made my stomach turn. Her daughter was literally on the floor pouting/crying/stomping/throwing fists while she and her partner/husband were looking at their iPhones and ignoring her, only not in the "I'm ignoring this bad behavior Little Julia and waiting for you to make a better choice" but in a "Oh we're such cool hipster parents that we let our kid express whatever she wants to and anyhow, what do YOU want to have for dinner? Because I couldn't possibly express an opinion that anyone might have a problem with..."

      Then Little Julia starts totally tantrumming until Mom gives her something to eat at which point she is still being ridiculously bratty and demanding and then runs away. Like, down the aisle to the right and ... who knows?! Mom barely saunters after her, child not even in eyesight AT ALL. I mean, I am watching her child more closely than she. And Little Julia is maybe 2 years old. Dad is completely oblivious and is even farther behind Mom, and completely looses sight of both of them, so much so that I find him several minutes later wandering around looking quite aimless.

      I see Little Julia tearing through the deli several minutes later, yelling, mom literally no where in sight, and hear another store patron tell her "SHHH!" because it is really a ruckus.

      Truthfully, I have no problem with letting your kids walk free at the grocery store, Target, Nordstrom's, whatever. And even happy running, especially in the Target toy aisle- I definitely admit to adult moments of happy running in a toy aisle myself :P However tantrumming and bratty fits + lazy, entitled, no boundaries parenting = a recipe for disaster in preK-5th grade in my 10 years of experience.

      It's all about setting your kids up for success and helping them feel safe that boundaries are there to give them security and safety, both physically and emotionally.

      Plus when I am done with my 45 hour work week at a fantastic progressive preschool teaching 3-6 year olds, I sometimes want a little peace when I'm in the grocery store after work! :)

  2. I really feel like the longer I am a parent and the more I read, the less I realize I really know about parenting.

    I read a quote somewhere recently that really stuck with me. I don't remember the exact words, but the gist was, "Don't take too much credit for the good. Don't take too much responsibility for the bad."

    Now, I'm not using that to give myself permission to have a Laissez-faire style of parenting. Kids do need and want boundaries. They are new to this world, and need it for their safety at a minimum. But even the "best" kids and "best parented" kids are going to lose it every once and while (daily in my case). Unfortunately, kids don't really care if they are home or in a public place. They are kids after all, they aren't born with social skills and don't have the self-regulation that we have learned and have had years to practice(and we still lose it sometimes, don't we).

    I guess what I am saying, it that our kids are born with their own little personalities and temperaments. We can't change their temperament, but we can help them learn to act in socially acceptable ways. And it's going to take a lot of practice and messing up along the way (both on our part and theirs). I do find the books help though. At least I have a bunch of "tricks" to try and see what works for me and my unique children at each season of their development.

    You are a wonderful mother, and Ellie (and utero baby) are lucky to have you! I am glad I have to you to fumble our ways through this parenting journey together!

    I'll leave you with another quote I really love,
    "I was a wonderful parent before I had children".

  3. And to kids running happily in aisles- no problem with that!