Thursday, July 30, 2015

The 10,001 Ways I am Failing My Children

Some days I feel like I have this parenting thing down. Like, professional level of parenting. Got me some good kids here, got me a sexy husband who (Bonus!) is an amazing father, cooking some pretty healthy suppers, all is definitely well. I get to feeling like, "I. Got. This."   

But then I read a blog.

(Maybe even a blog titled "Savor the Crazy," which is a dumb name, unless you've read the very first post ever, but even after that maybe you still don't get why savoring craziness makes any sense at all. This mess is hard, and I am just getting through, and this insane day is to be forgotten, not savored!)

My online reading generally involves a blog or article on parenting, because that is the bulk of what I've been doing for the last 9 1/2 years. (Even though the oldest girl isn't yet 9, all the barfing I did while pregnant with her pretty much consumed my life. So 9 1/2 years of parenting is where I stand.)

Those parenting blogs and articles really get me. They are all full of statistics, how I should spend my time, how if I don't spend my time that way the outcomes will be dire. I inevitably end up thinking, "Well, crap. I am really not doing that great of a job. In fact, I stink at this! I have nothing to offer! I need to step up my game!"

And since I am totally committed to being 100% real about the struggle here on this crazy blog, I am going to point out for you the ways in which I am failing at parenting according to the world wide web. There are at least 9,991 more ways I am screwing them up, but these are the big ones that jump out. 

1. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises to never lose one's temper or raise one's voice when dealing with a disobedient child. This will escalate the situation.

Right. So this one is obviously not going to be achieved in this house. While the sexy husband to whom I referred rarely raises his voice (except while playing/coaching basketball when he has been known to get a technical or two), my speaking level could be considered by some (ok, all) "a yell." And if I have told a child 87,000 times to pick up the dirty underwear lying in the middle of the living room and yet there it sits, I am really unclear on what other options I have but to start yelling. The AAP says I should reason through the situation, but there are just too many kids not picking up underwear around here to allow for this "reasoning strategy" they say will work. Yelling is much more efficient.

Even worse than dirty underwear yelling, I vaguely remember, in a sleep deprived stupor, yelling at a four week old for refusing to sleep herself. Actually, I think I yelled into the phone at her sexy father, who cheerily called to say he would be a mere 6 minutes late arriving home, which in turn awakened a beast in me because I could not handle 6 more minutes of the four week old who would not sleep.

This leads to another failure:

2. Do not fight in front of your children.

Occasionally Preston will ask me to assist him with directions or even READ A MAP, and there is just no way this isn't going to lead to a gigantic fight. Not a heated discussion or a reasonably spirited debate. A fight. 

The biggest fight of our entire marriage involves a Lamborghini, a map, Hilton Head Island, a fender bender and the F word. Luckily that was prechildren, but the second biggest involves a map, Atlanta, $80 tickets, Turner Field, and a baseball game we never made it to. The oldest was in utero, but since science tells us they can hear everything, and we should talk to them in there, I'm pretty sure she learned her first cuss words that night. (When my babies were still tucked snugly inside, I used to yell at them to quit doing whatever they were doing that was making me throw up. Again with the yelling.)

3. Do not feed your children insecticides, germicides, pesticides sugaricides, yellow number fiveicides, or high fructose corn syrupicides. Also only drink water from a spring in Colorado as your tap water has been infused with poison put there by the government.

I am so inconsistent with this. Sometimes I am on an all organic, all whole foods, all locally sourced, grass fed, 110% homemade kick. I will hike to a mountain spring and fill all the containers with the water of the gods before anyone else wakes. I will drive to farms and inspect their cows and eggs, interviewing the chickens to be sure they are truly allowed to freely range. 

Other times I'm like, "Eat all the goldfish! Drink another root beer! Funnel cakes are life!"

Part of my inconsistency stems from meal planning, another inconsistent area of my life. For a while I followed a blog all about how this woman fed her family real food, (meaning anything purchased had 5 ingredients or less) organic, no less, for several months and on $125 per week. 

Our toilet paper budget is about $125 per week.

But I decided to try it because our total grocery budget is about $150 a week for our family of 5, and that lady only had four people, so I thought I could do it. We can eat organically and clean ourselves with non-harmful paraben free stuff. (Does anyone actually know what parabens are, or did some celebrity just tell us they were bad so now everyone blogs about how awful they are but no one knows why the heck they are awful?) I meticulously planned and shopped sales. But when I found myself counting out beans and yelling at Preston (more yelling) for dumping ten kernels of corn I could have eaten for tomorrow's lunch, I decided this was a ridiculous way to live. We are on a limited budget, and that's ok, and I can't buy butter that costs $5.99 per pound. I have to go to Aldi and stock up when it's on sale for $1.50 a pound. 

So my children are probably laced with arsenic. And maybe radioactive. 

4. Be consistent. Children thrive on consistency. 

See all the inconsistencies in #3 and apply to everything.

5. Wear safety gear when playing.

At the girls' checkups last year the nurse asked them, in an assuming fashion, if they wore bike helmets, knee guards, shin guards, wrist guards, ankle guards, mouth guards, finger guards, goggles, chin guards, shoulder pads, and butt pads when they rode their bikes or scooters. They all three looked at me like, "What is she talking about here?" I kind of nodded at them to answer the crazy lady, and they all muttered, "Um, no." At which point the nurse cut me a look. I nervously explained we didn't require these things and while we do own bike helmets, we live on a farm of sorts, rarely do they ride bikes on paved surfaces, and I cannot possibly monitor whether or not they strap all that crap on every time they pick up their bike to dash off somewhere, usually to run down a sibling or cousin and knock them off the bike they are riding with no protective gear. The whole time I was thinking, "this lady is probably about to call DCS," but luckily she laughed and said ok, while making an ominous note in my chart. 

Look! We are good parents!

Also, we have a trampoline. Merely owning one shows we don't love our children or care about their safety, proven by the fact that the middle girl broke her ankle on it. But the thing about that is although our trampoline can get kind of crazy with sprinklers and hoses and 36 kids on it at a time, when she broke her ankle she was only jumping with one other kid. Just jumping. No tricks or anything. She landed wrong and fractured her growth plate. So she had to wear a boot, which she wore for two weeks and broke. When I called the doctor to explain what had happened, he was incredulous. Was I sure the boot was broken? Yes, I have the pieces here in my hand. Was I sure? This almost prompted the yelling, but I restrained and assured him again the boot was broken. He had never heard of a boot breaking. Bring her in. They took another x-ray and decided she didn't need another boot. It was already healed. Play hard, heal hard.

6. The American Dental Association says that brushing teeth twice a day for two full minutes is the key to a healthy mouth.

Two minutes each time? I don't even know if they brush their teeth. Somehow it came to light the other night that one child was brushing with water only for an undetermined length of her life because her toothpaste made her "mouth taste like fire." And there's a nightly competition to see who can finish brushing her teeth first, so I guarantee ain't nobody up there brushing anywhere close to two minutes. 

7. Put on sunscreen, wear a hat, be fully clothed even when swimming, so as to avoid all the sunlight. Or don't ever wear sunscreen and swim only in string bikinis since the toxic chemicals in sunscreen wreak havoc on a girl's hormones, and Americans are reporting more and more vitamin D deficiencies. 

I can't decided where I stand on this. So sometimes I slather everyone up in an aerosol sunscreen. (Which not only harms the girls' skin, but also the environment and therefore the world at large, but the aerosol is so convenient when all these people are clamoring to "run into the waves already, Mom!") 

Other times I'm like, "Rub this essential oil on, and the sun's rays will just bounce right off you while simultaneously cleansing you of toxins, especially if I use magic coconut oil as the carrier oil." 

And yet other times I'm like, "Run around naked! Get some Vitamin D! And work on your tan!" 

I think we are doing some tan work here,
but maybe they are aerosoled up.

8. Video screen time provides no benefits for children under the age of two. 

So says those sages at the American Academy of Pediatrics. But I beg to differ. Baby Einstein DVDs got me through babyhood. One girl in particular loved them, so I'd stick her in a swing, super close to the TV so she could see it, and hit repeat. And she benefited greatly. If I got 30 minutes of peace, I was much less likely to yell, something we now know we shouldn't do according to #1.

I can't remember what was on TV, 
but we were dying lauging because she 
was breaking her back to see it. 

9. I did not reserve an email address for my daughters when they were born, sending them special notes and memories all along the way, to which I will give them the password on their 18th birthday.

Nor have I done anything remotely resembling this. Baby books? They have a few entries, like their date of birth. I do not scrapbook. I take lots of pictures...which are locked up inside various laptops. I do not remember what they wore to their first birthday party. I regularly trash pictures they draw and "art" they bring home. 

10.  If you let your baby cry it out she will feel unloved and have mental trauma and grow up to be a psychopath. But if you never let your baby cry and co-sleep until she is three she will never leave the nest and bring her hipster boyfriend home to live in your basement while they both find themselves and the meaning of life. 

Can I just say to this one that babyhood is hard? Like, the hardest season of life? ALL OF LIFE? Granted, we haven't had teenagers yet and from the rumors I hear that will undoubtedly be a time during which the drama knows no bounds, but I just can't imagine anything harder than infancy. And especially the first baby. They don't tell you anything! Got carseat? Here's your baby! Good luck with that. 

I am a firm believer in the sleeping philosophy of Whatever Works. Not just in general, but whatever works that night. If I was an emotional wreck due to all the hours of not sleeping and all of the spit up and diapers and general neediness of this tiny person, and I was incapable of soothing the unsoothable child for the 270th time, I let her cry and often cried along with her. No one has ever died from crying for 30 minutes, and honestly it was safer for both of us to have a break. Conversely I might have a night where I wanted to bring that sweet-smelling Bundle of Baby in next to me and snuggle all night long. (In my world those were super rare. I do not like to be hot when I sleep, and kids are always roughly a million degrees in their terry cloth sleepers and fleece.) 

Same thing with nursing the baby versus formula feeding. I did both. And all three girls are healthy. You would never know who got what. Whatever Works. Do that.

So in summary, it looks like I'm kind of sucking at this parenting thing. But if you ask the girls who loves them more than anyone else, they will all three say, "Jesus" followed by "Mommy and Daddy." 

So I guess we are getting one thing right. 

Grace, Grace and More Grace for Parenting,

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