The statement I’m about to make is probably one of the cheesiest statements since Jean Valjean sang it; and yet, here goes (cheese and all):
Who am I?
(I’ll give you a moment to get the cascading arpeggios from Les Mis out of your head.)
In my time, I’ve been a lot of things. A baby, a student, a high school movie theatre employee, a teacher, a singer, a runner, a wife, a mom.
I stumbled through each phase of life, learning as I went, until those sweet little terrifying words: “it’s a boy!”
Then I panicked.
All of a sudden, I’m not just responsible for serving someone popcorn. At worst, I’ll give them the burned bits and ruin their day. No – now I’m responsible for a person – a living, breathing, crying, pooping bundle of flesh that has taken me over with those (appropriately named) baby blue eyes. This surely isn’t a “learn as you go” scenario. I can’t make a mistake with an innocent baby. What am I going to do? Breast feed or bottle feed? Cry it out or co sleep? Cloth diapers or disposable? Vaccinate on time? On a delay? Not at all? I dove into books. I watched other parents. I studied. I observed. I decided I would breast feed. I wouldn’t give the baby formula ever. He would be wholly sustained by me. And then here he was, nursing well at the hospital. Nursing well at home. Nursing… constantly. My milk hadn’t come in and I was starting to lose it. And yet, I struggled to satiate an angry, hungry baby. My husband gently asked, around 2:30 in the morning, if he could try the bottle of newborn formula we had been given at the hospital. “NO!” I remember screaming. The books said no! He’ll get confused between my nipples and the bottle nipples! Who knows what’s in that poison? After much argument and crying (more crying from me than the two day old), my first born son drank two ounces of formula from a bottle and fell happily to sleep. The next day, my milk came in, and my son nursed without any problems at all.
There isn’t one way to parent.
There isn’t one way to decide how best to live your life. There isn’t one method, or diet, or book that has all of the answers tailor-made for you. Read the books. Seek out the answers. But ultimately, you must make those choices yourself. For you. Not anyone else.
I believe in real, organic, whole foods that are minimally processed and made, largely by me, into wholesome, healthy, delicious foods. I like to shop at farmer’s markets and natural food stores and get my meat from local butchers. And sometimes I drink too much cheap wine and beg my husband to go out and get me Taco Bell.
I aim to stay within the doctor’s guidelines of two hours of screen time or less in a day, and nothing before the age of two. Many days I succeed at this, and we fill our time with crafts and outdoor activities. Some days my four year old watches eight episodes of Scooby Doo in a row, and on occasion, while that four year old is in school, the baby has caught a glimpse of Cupcake Wars on Netflix.
I drink in moderation, and I do it front of my children. I want them to know what moderation looks like. And for the record, they don’t know what “mommy who wants some fast food tacos” looks like.
I try to have quiet time with God everyday, but many times it looks like skimming through a chapter of old testament genealogy and starting a long, all-inclusive prayer with details and specific requests and ending it with huge pauses and daydreams and finally an “and please watch everyone else.” Or falling asleep before the “Amen.”
I used to feel bad about the “but sometimes.” “I do this great thing with my kids, but sometimes, I…” I thought the “but sometimes” were failures, times when I deviated from the plans that would obviously have otherwise led to perfection.
I think you can successfully parent with tylenol or elderberries, fruit snacks or clementines, TV or bicycles — but it doesn’t always have to be either/or. As long as you have deep, sacrificial, God-given love for your children — you can work out the details.
Who am I? I’m a lot of things. I’m absolutely not perfect. I’m absolutely going to fail at times — with my husband, with my kids, with myself. And that is OK, because I’m expecting it. I’m counting on it. It’ll be hard in that moment, but I can learn, and I can grow, and I can always drink some cheap red, eat a chalupa, and try again tomorrow.