We went to dinner at a local ramen spot with my siblings recently. Dominic is a lover of noodle soup, but when his mini bowl of ramen came out, I had realized that we left our little scissors at home. You see, since Dominic still eats things in fairly smaller bites, we normally bring a pair of small scissors with us to cut up his food when we’re out and about. I gave Dominic some of the noodles without chopping them much, and he was struggling to get them in his mouth. So, for the next serving, I just used my fingers to pinch the noodles to make them smaller bites. Using the cheap plastic fork took forever, and he was excited to eat noodles (aka he would’ve started screaming if I took too long). I told everyone at the table, “I’m sure someone is judging my parenting right now.” Right away, my brother responded with “Let’s be honest here. Someone is always judging no matter what you do.”
Seriously, right? If there is something I wish someone would’ve given me a heads up on when it came to being a parent, it’s that being judged in your day to day life increases to a ridiculous degree. Whether your child gets exposure to screen time or not, whether your child gets homemade baby food or not, whether your child eats with a fork or their hands, SOMEONE is annoyed with you. I’m not saying everyone is, but there’s always someone judging. Sometimes the most harsh people are the people without kids, but I’ve reached the point where if my family is happy and healthy, I’m just going to be happy. I’m not going to pretend, however, that the judgments don’t bother me from time to time, but at this point, I know they’ll exist. Heck, someone is probably judging me over the fact that I’m writing any of this out right now.
They say the best parents are the people that don’t have kids yet. Well, I guess I don’t blame them because it’s not until you have a kid that you realize how much you have control over everything. Well, it’s not much. Here’s a reality check – a list of things I told myself I wouldn’t do when I had a child… but did it anyway.
- We told ourselves no TV until he turned 2… but we allowed him to watch TV sometimes because, well, sanity. We had no idea that interest in toys and games only last about 5 minutes each and thinking of new things to stimulate him would drain us. (Also, Daniel Tiger is pretty much awesome.)
- We told ourselves he wouldn’t own his own tablet… but we bought one because after we exhaust all of our resources, sometimes it was the only thing that would calm him in public.
- We told ourselves absolutely no co-sleeping… but we realized we couldn’t handle the lonely cries and started to fall in love with seeing his angelic, sleeping face when we woke up.
- We told ourselves no pacifier… but after nothing would console him some nights, we gave in.
- We told ourselves no junk food… but after several family gatherings where we found out we couldn’t control everything, we decided it’s okay in moderation.
- We told ourselves no bottle after 1… but he would cry endlessly for it and enjoyed milk from a bottle until he was almost 2 when he quit the bottle himself.
- We told ourselves no fast food until 5… and then he tried his first french fries from McDonald’s and consequently fell in love with french fries.
- We told ourselves he wouldn’t wear cheesy character tees… but then we realized how much they put a smile on his face, and how he has tees of pretty much all of his favorite characters.
- Aaaand… there’s probably more.
After all of this, what’s the moral of the story?
Friends without kids, sit back and relax. Enjoy your time. Don’t waste your energy wondering why your parent friends aren’t meeting your expectations. You’ll get there one day and realize how really freakin hard it is to meet those pre-baby expectations. Instead, maybe ask how you can help or just observe so you can learn what might come up when your time arrives.
Friends expecting kids, try not to worry so much about the nitty gritty. Remember that babies are humans – they’re all different. They have different personalities and different needs. Any book or “how-to” cannot guarantee your child to sleep or eat all of their vegetables just like how there’s no book or “how-to” that guarantees all adults to sleep or eat all of their vegetables. We’re all human, and we all have different personalities. Remember that they’re your child and probably picked up a lot of your traits. You know them better than you’ll let yourself think. Trust your gut.
Fellow moms and dads, please give yourself a break. There is no “perfect parent” book. We do our best to keep our babies healthy and fed. We do our best to make sure they know they’re loved and safe. We do our best with what we know and learn to help them grow up to be good human beings. That’s enough. That’s all you need to do to be a good parent. How you go about doing it isn’t going to change that, and that look of scorn from the supposed “perfect parents” or people who don’t even have kids isn’t going to change that either.
You’re doing a great job. If your child is fed, happy, respectful, thriving, and loves your company, you’re doing what you need to do. Please remind yourself that, because, trust me, I have to remind myself often too.
Family tees from Skeletee Printing