Forgive me, Fellow Mothers and Fathers, for I have sinned. It has been too long since my last parental confession:
In the beginning before my first child was born, I was a great mom, a text book mom. As I was unemployed during my first pregnancy, I had plenty of time to memorize both of the What to Expect When You're Expecting and What to Expect the First Year books by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel, Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems by the polarizing Dr. Richard Ferber and the gentler Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. Once Cassandra came screaming into the world, it was time to practice all of information gleaned from months of child-rearing cramming sessions. I quickly realized that I had wasted innumerable hours of my life. (I would like those back, please.)
Desperate to escape the suffocating walls of our city condo, Cassie and I discovered the city together. I was elated to learn that I could check-out free museum passes from my local Chicago library branch. We spent hours each week exploring the Museum Of Science and Industry, The Field Museum, The Art Institute and The Shedd Aquarium. We also loved strolling through the free Lincoln Park Zoo. We were an unbeatable, cultured mother and daughter urban duo!
When baby number two, Phillip, was born, my stores of patience were depleted. For as much as I adored Cass, she had horrible toddler temper tantrums, which grew in frequency and duration. Add a newborn to that equation, and I yearned to jump in the bathtub with the lady featured in those old Calgon commercials and sigh, "Calgon, take me away." Thankfully, I had met some mommy friends during my excursions and at a library story-time. Their love, support and laughter during those years kept me sane. Phillip was a wonderful addition to our family, and I adored him. But I was amazed how much that second child changed our lives.
After a year schlepping a toddler, backpack (I was NEVER going to carry a diaper-bag!), stroller and infant on numerous busses, el trains and cabs, it occurred to me that city living was exhausting. The suburbs beckoned with backyards, affordable square footage, public schools within walking distance and neighborhoods filled with other families and young children. We packed up our tiny condo and moved to larger accommodations in Aurora.
Baby number three, Brooks, was born a year and a half later. All of my preconceived ideas of motherhood flew out the window. I struggled to balance school volunteer duties, three children, neighborhood social events and my own sanity. The best example of the evolution of my mothering style: With Cassie, I spent hours peeling, chopping, boiling and pureeing homemade baby food for her. She never tasted jarred baby food. With Phillip, I would remove some fruits, vegetables and grain portions for him to eat before I added any additional ingredients to complete our meals. I would supplement his food with organic, jarred baby food. With Brooks, as soon as he could gum it, he would eat it. My husband and I joked that he should crawl on the floor when we finished eating, so he could eat the food our messy 6 and 3 year olds dropped (yeah, kinda like a dog.) Of course we never actually did that, but there are days when I am appalled by what he actually did eat - think peanut butter before his first birthday and a French fry at nine months, and plenty of baby food sold in bulk at Sam's Club - yikes!
With each passing year, my new evolving sense of motherhood appalls my former self. I would never have imagined that Brooks as a preschooler would watch Spongebob with his second grade brother and fifth grade sister. If you would have told me all those years ago, that each of my children would have their own ipod and Nintendo DS during their preschool years, I would have argued vehemently that my children would not be corrupted by technology at an early age. My idealized version of motherhood would probably call DCFS on my current self.
So in the spirit of full disclosure and hope for absolution, I come to you with a list of my most recent parenting sins:
1. My children's soda consumption is no longer restricted to family parties. They are now allowed to drink soda at restaurants, friends' houses and when it is offered. My dentist loves us. She sent a Christmas card this year. Coincidence? I think not.
2. Even though, Phillip and Brooks have a bedtime of 8:00 on school nights. In reality, I celebrate when they are in bed before 8:30 -- a miracle! The same is true for Cassie's bedtime of 9:00, which actually means sometime before 10:00.
3. On occasion, I beg, grovel and bribe my children into compliance. Add to the list a good dose of Catholic guilt, and they are destined for therapy in adulthood. A lot of therapy.
4. If I am reading a good book (note: hot and steamy romance novel) I do not set the video game timer, especially when I am lounging in my hammock on a summer day. They have played video games until their hands shake, eyes glaze and brain matter seeps out of their ears.
5. My children watch The Simpson's. It started out so innocently: This fall, Cassie asked to watch the show. The Simpson's wouldn't teach her anything worse than a ride on her junior high bus, so I approved her request with the stipulation that her younger brothers not watch it with her. Not less than a week later, I discovered all three children curled up in my bed, watching the show and laughing together. Before I realized the ramifications of my rash decision, I jumped into bed and joined them. It really is social satire at its best, I justified. However, my boys just see it as a show full of naughty words and bad choices. They love it! And if I really admit it, I was more amused than upset when the other night at dinner, Brooks turned to Phillip, slammed his fist on the table and exclaimed, "Beer me!" Thankfully, we didn't have any Duff beer in the refrigerator.
Is the above list complete? Absolutely not! But I don't have time to write any more. I've got two hamster cages to clean. And, yes, I did have each boy solemnly look me in the eyes and swear that they would take full responsibility for cleaning the cages. But, those darn cages really stink, and I cannot live with the stench for one more day! Let's just add it to my list of parenting sins.
Filed under: Parenting
Tags: Aurora, baby food, bedtime, Chicago, confession, culture, Field Museum, humor, library, Lincoln Park Zoo, mothering, Museum of Science and Industry, museum passes, Nintendo DS, parenthood, Parenting, Pets, preschool, secrets, sleep, Spongebob Squarepants, Suburbs, temper tantrums, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Shedd Aquarium, The Simpson's, therapy, urban, what to expect the first year, what to expect when you're expecting