If you’re a parent or a caregiver of any kind, you’ve probably been faced with some of your darkest days. You’ve looked deep into your minion’s eyes and tried to get to the belly of their inner beast, only to find your own. It’s not pretty. Everything you thought you knew about yourself, everything you thought you could take on and overcome like a flawless action figurine, gets pooped on before you even figure out how to say bilirubin. (Go ahead, look it up. I’ll wait.)
But I suppose some of the best teachers are the ones you think are A-holes at the time. Not that my children are ever A-holes. Except a few times I’ve thought maybe they’re practicing for it. Then I feel like an A-hole for thinking that about my own flesh and blood because the moment I’m thinking it is the moment they do something ridiculously adorable or sweet or genius or remarkable or appreciative. And I become the A-hole. I’ll do better tomorrow.
In the meantime, I thought I’d reflect on what my little teachers have taught me about myself so far. I’m only about four years into this parenting gig but I can tell you we parents learn a LOT in that first week. Such as how to refrain from asking the nurse 500 times how anyone expects you to take this baby home and know what to do with it. They really don’t like to be asked that.
16 Things My Children Have Taught Me about Myself
1. I don’t actually want a perfect/better/ideal body.
You know how when you’ve had maybe a little too much wine and you’re happy and laid back and loving life and you’re with your best people and you say things like, “Who cares if one boob is smaller than the other? It’s what makes me ME!” No? Okay me either. Anyhow – I don’t think I got off to a good start with this one so let me re-phrase.
The point IS: I hear many the mom talking about herself like she isn’t good enough or as though if she just lost five more pounds she’d be perfect, and that’s just not the way I want my daughter to think about herself. Nor do I want my son growing up to judge other women by their weight. Therefore, I don’t say it about myself because I don’t want my kids to hear me say it and think I’m not happy with who I am. Not saying it has translated into not thinking about it.
Let’s not confuse this with my other goals for my body – like staying strong, being healthy and fit and respecting what my body can do – those are the things I would like my kids to learn from me. But having children has taught me that there are more important things in life than having a perfectly flat stomach 365 days out of the year.
2. I have no clue what boys are really thinking.
Having a boy has convinced me that I will never truly understand the way my husband thinks. Likewise, I know. But I’m slowwwwly learning to stop speculating. Men are painfully simple. Women not so much. As soon as I think I know what my son is thinking he reminds me how complicated I’m making it. Just the other day I thought he was maybe thinking, “Man I really love playing with dirt.” When in fact he was thinking, “Playing with dog poop is wayyyyy more fun.” Note to self: What you think the men in your life are thinking and what they’re actually thinking are not the same thing.
3. I am a really fun mom, until you mess my $#@! up.
I’m the mom who loves to do crafts with the kids or play with glitter and sand and make galaxy dough and paint windows with colored soap or make elephant toothpaste (it’s all fun and games, though, until someone gets peroxide in their eye). But as soon as somebody messes up my homemade paper mache maraca, I’m no longer stoked about the situation. Call it immature, but the inner child in me still doesn’t like my creative focus disturbed. Which leads me to…
4. Sometimes the only way to save the day is to bake stuff.
It’s a weird thing, this baking love of mine. It’s really evolved. I used to bake to eat the goodies. Now I just bake for therapeutic reasons and then feel shocked when I find two dozen double chocolate chip cookies sitting on my counter. My children have taught me to embrace the tried-and-true cure for a bad day and just bake it out. They’re happy, I’m happy, and loved ones everywhere are left trying to figure out why their trainer friend just pushed 800 calories into their laps and ran away to get back to baking some more junk that she won’t eat.
5. I am better at the hard stuff vs. the easy stuff in life.
I’ve always been this way but my tiny people have really alerted me to this fact. I have no problem quitting a salary-paying job for unreliable income, or accomplishing lofty long-term goals or teaching boot camp up to the day before giving birth. Yet most mornings I can’t put on mascara without poking my eyes out, I get sweaty palms at the thought of clothes shopping and I’m nearly incapable of long phone conversations anymore. Parenting makes you figure out what you’re good at so that you can focus more on those things. I’m hoping to use this insight to get out of helping my kids with their math homework in a few years.
6. I still don’t understand why girls are so freaking mean.
I thought it was a junior high thing/high school thing. I’ve been corrected. Girls can be just as mean at 3 and 4 years old, it’s just that they don’t hold quite the grudges yet. So even though Lila may come home from preschool and tell me yesterday’s friend is no longer her friend, I’ve learned that they’ll forget about it tomorrow and be good to go. Fast-forward to the aggressive line of cars waiting to pick up kids after school: Yep, girls are still mean. And I still don’t get it.
7. I’m not a mommy-group person.
Maybe since I’ve never been a group type of person the whole mom group thing just doesn’t appeal to me. I think they’re great and they can be very useful tools for many moms and kids, especially if they’ve just moved to a new town. When I was pregnant the first time I figured maybe I’d find me a good mom’s group. But the post-partum me realized I already had a pretty great mom’s group – they’re my married with children/married without children/unmarried with children/single friends. And they don’t judge me if I tell them all my kids ate for breakfast was toast and cheese.
8. I will probably never be patient enough.
*Sigh* I want to be that patient person/wife/mom. I do. And I’ve gotten better. But my patience could use some work and I’ve come to realize I may have passed that trait down to my daughter. Luckily my sense of humor gets me through it. But even Jiminy Cricket would deem me a hopeless cause most days.
9. I don’t know everything.
I know, I know, this is shocking to all of us. Becoming a parent makes you sickenly aware of all you don’t know. Want to give someone’s confidence a kick in the jewels? Hand them a baby and make them raise it. “Oh, you think you know everything, do you? Well, Google called and they’d like you to start paying per click.”
10. I have a lot to learn.
This goes right along with the above but I’m so abundantly aware of it, I thought I’d address it all on its own. There are so many things we can’t possibly wrap our minds around and yet having any number of children makes you feel like you must learn it all NOWNOWNOW! And yet, the only thing you truly want to do right now is maybe snuggle a bottle of wine and catch up on mindless television shows (which you haven’t watched for over 4 years, but whatever). From business skills to self-improvement to toddler hair how-to, from fitness resources to recipes to how to make and stick to a family budget – plus all the things beyond and in-between – I’d like to go back to school now because this real world stuff is some restless subject matter.
11. Carbs are NOT my enemy – flu viruses are.
Seriouslyyyyyyy. Let’s re-examine our true adversaries, everyone! Saltines become your FRIENDS when you have kids! Woke up with diarrhea thanks to Junior who came down with a stomach virus last week? Saltines for breakfast. Can’t even summon the energy or desire to eat real food because your princess brought home the ‘ol fever/chills/slow death combo? Saltines for five days. I’ve learned to stop treating any kind of food like the devil because sometimes toast is what’s for dinner.
12. I still really enjoy a good puzzle.
I’m completely ok with my husband making fun of me late at night because what began as me picking up after the kids in the living room resulted in me finishing all their puzzles for 30 minutes. No shame.
13. I am my mother and my father and it’s ok. Usually.
I know what you think about your children sometimes – you wonder if you’ll pass down all your worst traits and hope instead that they only take in the good ones. About that: Both outcomes are inevitable. While I’m actually quite proud I take after both my parents in certain ways, becoming a mother is like walking around with two thought bubbles following you around all the time. It gets super complicated when those thought bubbles start arguing with one another. Many times I just stop and stand there thinking, “Who’s going to win THIS internal battle, Mom or Dad?”
14. Being a wife is easy. Being a great wife takes serious self-reflection.
Fact: I am a serial monogamist. Marriage works for me, I like having a husband and I enjoy being a wife. It was just much, much easier being a great wife before kids. Kids, although remarkable and rewarding and wonderful, can unexplainably take up every room, thought, moment and ounce of energy. Kids change a marriage – sometimes for the worst but optimally for the better. I vow for it to always be for the better, which takes focus, introspection and being humble and putting the marriage first. So put that in your oatmeal and chew on it.
15. Teaching my children to laugh in life is more important to me than teaching them to obey every rule.
Don’t get me wrong, I was a rule follower and I spawned a rule follower (jury is still out on Luke). But sometimes I find it more valuable to teach my kids that laughing at mistakes and moving on is more essential than focusing on what they might have done wrong. Unless what they did wrong was not listening to me. Then that’s crap.
16. Never wipe a crumb off a kid’s face and eat it.
What? You think this one’s a no-brainer? Well let me just tell you that although it should be common sense, sometimes you’re not thinking quite clearly as a parent. So when you wipe what you think is couscous off your son’s face and in lieu of a paper towel you just lick your finger….well, don’t. Because it’s not couscous.
Valuable stuff, right here.