Thursday, July 15, 2010

Selfish, With Just a Hint of Neurotic

A couple days ago, Charlotte and I had plans with our friends about an hour before Charlotte's usual nap time. Even though her naps are becoming less and less predictable, I knew I was possibly pushing my luck. Well, that morning Charlotte decided for no good reason to wake up two hours earlier than usual. I tried all morning to get her down for a nap because she was tired as hell, but to no avail. As it got closer and closer to the time we should have been walking out the door, I came to terms with the fact that I would be cancelling. But when she was still awake and fighting me at the hour in question, I said "Screw it. We're going."

I decided that this instance says a lot about the kind of parent I am. Responsible, but maybe also a little selfish. I mean, if she had fallen asleep at any point during the morning, I would have cancelled. No question about it. She needs her sleep, and I wouldn't have woken or up or even tried to keep her up if she wanted to sleep. BUT. If that fool is going to flat out refuse to sleep, I'll be damned if I cancel my plans for the unlikely event that she naps for me.

I know, I know. She's just a baby! She doesn't know what she's doing. I can't reason with her. I'm a mean mom.

Well, yeah. I guess I am a little.

Maybe it's just because toddlerhood is proving to be so frustrating, maybe I'm inherently selfish, maybe I'm normal...I don't know. All I know is that I will almost always put the needs of Charlotte before my own, but sometimes I just, don't, and I don't always have a good reason.

If I were going to try to justify this (though, I won't) I would argue that I'm just so tired and overwhelmed by the day to day tasks of raising a very precocious toddler. But, really, who isn't tired and overwhelmed? And, there are millions of people out there who will see my one high-maintenance kid and raise me two or five kids, or a special-needs kid, or health problems, or single parenthood, or any number of things, really. Comparatively speaking, my life is cake. And, I'm talking good cake. From a bakery. With buttercream frosting. Not, like, garbage cake from the grocery store.

Still, having a fifteen-month-old who will hear me tell her as I'm washing mud off her face, out of her mouth, and off her hand that, "We don't eat mud. No. That's yucky. Don't eat it", look at me, smile, and stick her OTHER mud-covered hand in her mouth, can take a toll.

You guys, she's so mean to me!

Between the sleep issues, the boundary testing, the "MINE" phenomenon, and the (as yet non-existant) weaning, I'm pretty damn tired.

But, as it turns out, in addition to being a mean nap-depriving mom (She started it, though. Just sayin'), I am also the kind of mom that has a really hard time leaving her kid for any length of time. I guess I'm sort of a control freak, and I am a huge worrier. Not a good combination if you ever want to get out of the house without a toddler saying "Drive drive?" as you approach the car. Then, "Drive DRIVE????" when it looks like you won't be putting her in the driver's seat to play with the steering wheel. And, finally, "DRIVE *sob* DRIIIIVE!!!" as you strap her into the car seat.

But, get away I must, at least occasionally. For my sanity, my friendships, and my freaking marriage. So, I force myself and always have a good time. Like Saturday, when I went to Lilith Fair with my friend and a few people. In case you're wondering, no, they aren't still having that. They're having it again after a ten year hiatus. I didn't know or care too much about most of the acts, but somewhere in my fevered brain that was freaking out about leaving the baby for an entire day, planning organic meals to leave for her dad and outfits to pack for when he took her to his mom's, I knew I needed to be without her for a little while.

And, as usual, I had a great time, met some new people, learned some stuff, and drank some really overpriced beer. Well, okay, so the last part doesn't *always* happen.

The point of this diatribe is that I've been putting some thought into what kind of parent I am and what kind of parent I want to be. I think none of us really fit into a neat category. We all take a little from one philosophy, a little from another, ignoring doubts and sometimes even our better judgment. So, now I ask you:

What kind of parent are you? Or, perhaps even more interesting, what kind of parent do/did you want to become?


  1. I think we beat ourselves up more than we should as parents--you included.
    As for me, I'm a lazy parent, combined with an experimental parent, combined with an overworked/underpaid/just wishes she could spend more time with her kid parent. I worry a lot less than I thought I would about certain things (stumbles and bumps don't faze me 1/2 as much as they faze his daddy) and way more about things I never guessed (food. whether I'm failing to teach him disciple. more food. socializing. more food). Now that I'm in the throes of it, I believe more than ever that parenting is a grab bag--some days you're gonna get the good stuff/be the parent you hoped, and some days you get the dregs/are the parent you wish you weren't.
    As for what kind of parent I want to be? I don't have a good answer for that, other that he thinks did an ok job when he's old enough to look back at it. I don't know what that is, but I hope to god I get there.

  2. LOL, I think that's what we're all hoping for!

    I'm the same way about cuts and bruises. Charlotte has some serious road rash on her face from a fall this morning, and I hardly notice it, while her dad is freaking out.

    But, give her some trans fat, and I LOSE MY MIND.

    I tend to think that the fact that we worry at all bodes well for us. :)

  3. Okay, I have to admit that the freaky obsessive behavior might have come from me, since I'm the parent who took vacation days off to chaperone school field trips so I could be there to pull you off the bus when it got involved in a fiery crash.

    I admire that you understand you need some space and time to recharge. I felt that I needed to spend every free moment with you because I worked Saturdays, that I rarely got any "me" time at all. I couldn't have spent the money to go to a concert with friends because I would have felt guilty.

    It's good that you get away, and good that you usually put her first. Now if you could stop feeling guilty about the times you don't....

  4. Okay, you first. Like Ginger said, you're too tough on yourself. But you know that, we all know that. It doesn't exactly stop us. You absolutely need time away, for the sake of your sanity.

    As for what kind of parent I am...I'm obsessive. I'm a worrier. But I also mix that in with an unexpected dose of "Shake it off, kid!" Like, when E falls down, he has one cry for "This really hurts, help!" and another for "I'm mad and sad I fell down." For the second one, I actually say, "You're not hurt! Relax!" WHEN did I become my mean old aunt, I wonder?

    I had hoped I would become a more laid-back parent, but I wish I were more relaxed in general, about everything.

  5. So glad you got the escape. And I think you should ABSOLUTELY take nap-resistant Charlotte out with you if you have somewhere to go for some carmaraderie or just to kill time. Never feel guilt about any of that!! Sheesh! Life is short!

    And please know that toddlers cry, and it's not the end of the world. Some of them are very dramatic, mini-Meryl Streeps. Not to negate Charlotte's feelings, but it is not the same as if you went crashing down to the pavement and started bawling. Toddlers can't speak, and they want to do EVERYTHING. It's an extremely frustrating time. I used to imagine I had a suit of armor that I could put on when I had to say "no" or when I anticipated any kind of meltdown. Then I could let my babies have their needed tantrums...all their FEELINGS could be released, but my armor would keep me from taking their feelings on, absorbing them and destroying my day.

    You are a wonderfully sensitive mother. Be firm, too. Try to see every outburst, every crying jag, every tantrum as another session of free primal scream therapy. She's not in agony. The outbursts are good for her...hard to believe, but true...

    Take wonderful care of your beautiful self!

    (I was a bit of a perfectionist mother, and a total softy. Luckily, I had a couple of amazing parenting mentors who set me straight in the best possible way.)

  6. Thanks, Janet. I really cherish your advice so much!

    I had a moment tonight where I though about you. Charlotte was trying to put her own pants on, but wasn't quite able. She refused to let me help her, flat out. Then she started getting frustrated and asking for help, but when I started to show her what to do, she'd cry and pull away.

    After a loooong time, I finally told her if she didn't let me help her, I'd have to do it myself. So, I laid her down and put them on. She SCREAMED. She screamed so hard.

    I let her cry. I rubbed her back and told her I was sorry she was frustrated. I told her I knew she really wanted to do it herself, but it was very hard, and she needed my help.

    It was a big step for me to keep calm and acknowledge her feelings and not get upset by her screaming.

    This is a long story, but the point is, I kept thinking, "I bet Janet would be proud!" LOL