(This picture should be captioned: The walk around the block. Just kidding we only made it to the neighbors house before full on toddler meltdown where I had to wrestle her into the stroller and push her home while screaming.)
I wish I’d had the forethought to write about how I thought this whole parenting thing would go before my first child was born. I had ideas about the type of mother that I would be. I had visions of my life with children. There were early morning and bedtime snuggles; dinners filled with laughter and conversation; travels to exotic destinations and of course, holidays were nothing short of magical. Some people want to be doctors or lawyers or yoga teachers or professors. I had always wanted to be a mother.
So, here I am. Almost 8 years after my first baby was born and things look a lot different than I expected. It’s beautiful but it’s also VERY messy.
Can I get a hell yeah?
Let’s start with dinner time. I pictured lovely meals with beautifully set tables. I guess I thought the kids would set the table or that I would have time for such nonsense. There would be dishes overflowing with yummy food, smiles all around and stimulating conversation. We would learn about our children’s deepest desires and maybe their heartaches and shames as well. We would have the opportunity to offer advice but not in a preachy way, just as a regular part of conversation. We would be so good at delivering said advice that our children would think we were brilliant masters of the universe. (My mom is dying laughing while reading this.) Hmm . . .
The basics would, of course, be covered. They would wipe their faces on napkins, not on their clothes. They would use silverware, not their hands. They would chew with their mouths closed. They would politely ask, “Father, would you please pass the salt?” They would sit in their chairs. (Side note: No one told me that it is very hard for kids to sit still through a meal. My 6 year old still squirms and gets up and down constantly.) I never imagined that there would be crying or yelling or massive meltdowns over the shape of pasta. I never imagined that anyone would flip backward out of their chair or that there would be punches thrown or names called or that they would be anything less than overjoyed (or at least grateful) to eat the meals I lovingly labored over for their nourishment and delight. I know, I know, it’s my job to teach them all of these things. But before kids, I’m pretty sure I thought they’d be born knowing how to act at dinnertime.
Which brings me to my next delusion: arts and crafts. I’ve always loved projects. I have drawers and cabinets full of paints, scrapbook paper, fun scissors, ribbons, etc. I envisioned us sitting around the table making greeting cards by hand. We’d cut out hearts and glue them to construction paper. We’d write kind notes to our loved ones. We’d engage in conversations about how grateful we are to have these people in our lives and we’d list the things we appreciate about them. There might be a fire roaring and soft jazz would be playing in the background.
Alas, we’ve had a couple of successful craft projects but only because I’ve adjusted my thinking about how these would look. They require a ton of prep, patience and post project clean up (that was an accidental alliteration, my brain doesn’t work well enough to form these on purpose. I’m not saying this is my kids fault, but it might be.). They can be fun or they can be a nightmare. You don’t always know which outcome you are going to get before you put in the prep work.
Don’t get me started on homework. I was an education major so I thought that teaching my own kids would be like second nature. It isn’t. At all. My kids are brilliant but when I try to teach them something I feel like we are speaking different languages. (Side note: Show your kid’s teachers all the love. I couldn’t teach them to add 1 +1 but somehow Fleet can do pretty much all of his multiplication tables. Mind blown.)
Snuggles. Oh the snuggles. So sad about this one. I thought we’d occasionally lay in bed (rainy days maybe?) all cozy, watching movies, reading or just holding each other while telling stories. Either one of my older kids would love to do this but they can’t do this at the same time or even while they are both home which is 95% of the time. They will inevitably end up fussing with each other. And two year olds, they don’t snuggle. They are WAY too busy. Elle only sits still if she’s really sick or sleeping. Otherwise, it’s full speed ahead. Newborns are perfect snugglers but at 7 months old, he’s too busy to snuggle anymore. Farewell snuggles.
Since I’m talking snuggles, let’s talk sleep. I remember being shocked that Fleet didn’t realize how rude it was to wake me in the middle of the night. I feel like here is where I drop the mic on my own ignorance about raising tiny humans.
Finally, the holidays, specifically Christmas. In my pre-baby dreams (read: delusions), I channeled Norman Rockwell. Beautifully decorated house, an equal number of wrapped presents for everyone, extravagant displays from Santa, delicious meals, a clean house, graciousness all around. And ya’ll, our holidays have been fantastic. We are so fortunate. But they look nothing like this. Picture a lop-sided tree, fingers crossed that I counted the presents correctly, one gift from Santa, meals that require SOOOOOO much prep and a mess of a house.
But graciousness does abound.
In fact, graciousness abounds everyday. Changing my expectations has done everything for my ability to find joy in the reality of parenting. My dreams didn’t account for the humanity of little humans. In so many ways, it’s better than I could have imagined. But one thing is for sure, it is definitely harder.
Tell me I’m not alone.
If this article is too doom and gloom for you, read my last post here about the amazing ways kids change you.