A Chat With My Former Self

You’d think by the time the third kid rolled around, JDubbs and I would be prepared for everything three-year-olds have to offer.  Temper tantrums? Piece of cake. Potty training? No sweat. Transition to big girl bed? Nailed it.  Taking away her Binkie? Um…  I said, Taking away her Binkie?  Well, you see…it’s like this…

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Oh boy.

Like most new parents, we came into this parenting thing with some preconceived notions of how our kids were going to be raised and how they would behave.  We would never raise our voices and we would never say things we would regret.  We would only empower and uplift them at all times, and we would never lose our patience or be one of “those” parents who give in to the iron will of a toddler.  We would parent them as we saw fit, and they would oblige.  Because when it comes to parenting, it’s all a matter of consistency.  Am I right, Former Self?

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Reality: parenting is consistently inconsistent.  Consistently confusing.  Consistently hair-raising, exhausting, rewarding but still confusing, inconsistent and evolving.  Just because you raised one child does not mean that you have any idea what to do with the next.  Or the one after that.  Because these little people do not come with instruction manuals, and they come with a whole lot of independence, opinions, and the beats of their very own (and very loud) drummers.

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Yes, Little H was a great sleeper as a baby.  Yes, she was super easy-going and was down to just follow along on the coattails of Brother and Sister’s lives, spending way more time in her carseat than doing Tummy Time, eating way more take out that organic homemade baby food.  Yes, she transitioned to a big girl bed like a champ and has been peeing in the potty for months.  The perfect third kid.  Flexible, adorable, and fun.

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But then the beat of her own drummer kicks in and girlfriend has a lot of opinions that don’t necessarily jive with what we were expecting.  Won’t even consider pooping in the potty.  Has become standoffish and grumpy to friends she has known her entire life.  Has opinions about whether or not she’ll take a nap today or ever and she definitely insists she still needs her Binkie.

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As with our other two, the Binkie Fairy made her appearance shortly after Little H turned three, leaving a gift behind and the promise that naps would never again happen in this house.  For a while, JDubbs and I were strong.  Two weeks in fact.  But in those two weeks Little H stopped napping, incapable of soothing herself to sleep, spent half her days with her entire hand in her mouth and became an overtired, exhausted wreck.  I wasn’t looking so great myself. Something had to give, and apparently it was her immune system.  Soon after we took her Binkie away she came down with both a sinus and an ear infection, probably from being so run down.  And this three-time Mommy said, Enough.

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So what if she is three? She didn’t start taking a Binkie until she found a rogue one under the changing table when she was one.  So what if we took a stand and said we’d stick to it?  Little girls have to sleep, they need to not stick their hands in their mouths after walking through their siblings’ elementary school (probably reason #2 she got sick, actually).  Mommies need their babies to nap while they do things like run the book fair and apply for new jobs.  Everyone needs to sleep and be happy and wake up rested.  There is a time and place to take a stand, but now is not that time.  So back off, Former Self–I know a little more than you do.

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The presumptuous childless person I used to be would shake her head with judgment and say, She’s going to regret that and JDubbs’s pre-fatherhood self would reply, We’ll never give in like that. It’s all about being consistent.  And then we’d go spend a carefree afternoon at the beach drinking margaritas because, oh yeah, our pre-children selves lived in San Diego and had money and time and energy to burn.  Those two had no idea what they were in for.

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No excuses, pre-baby Self.  I thought I knew it all.  I thought being a mom would be the most gratifying, fulfilling experience of my life, and to an extent, that is true.  But what makes it so gratifying is that I am so much more accepting of my flaws.  I now know that I do not need to be perfect.  I will lose my temper, choose the easier road, pick my battles, feed them fast food, let them watch too much TV while I catch an extra half an hour of sleep on the weekend because I am only as good a mother as my body allows.

I have a feeling that once summer comes, with adventures galore and siblings at home, Little H will catnap in the car and her nap will become a fond memory.  Maybe her Binkie will hang around in the evening for a while, but one thing I know for sure is that I am not going to beat myself up about it or punish her for it.  Every one of my children have been different, uniquely blessed and presenting unique challenges.  For every dollar I saved on diapers when she potty-trained early, I will spend five more on braces when she’s thirteen.  But you know what won’t be on my radar then?  Her Binkie.  You know how I will remember these last two months together at home?  Nostalgicially, blissfully, practically perfect.  And my Former Self can judge all she wants, but this mama really does know what her babies need.

Enjoy that Binkie, Little H.

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