By Melissa Stefanec
One thing that bemuses me to no end is the list of things I said I would never do as a parent. In my pre- and early parenting years, I made a lot of naive and self-righteous promises.
Like most new parents, I had a list of things I thought I would be above. I also had a list of things that were too good for my child. Most of these plans were rooted in good intentions; I wanted to give my children the best life possible.
However, once I had kids, things went awry. Awry is defined as “away from the appropriate, planned, or expected course; amiss.”
If I had only planned for things to go awry, I wouldn’t have resolved myself to so many embarrassing things.
So, as an act of self-deprecation, here is a list of things I said I would never do as a parent. Feel free to chuckle at my pretentiousness.
• Let my kids be seen with messy faces — In my teen years, I was a cashier at a grocery store. When families came through my line, I would often be appalled by the kids’ messy faces. How hard is it to wipe a kid’s face before you venture out?
As a parent, I have discovered a phenomenon. I wipe my kid’s face clean and, seconds later, ketchup or chocolate magically reappear. No amount of wiping or maintenance does the trick. Children just have dirty faces.
• Feed my babies a lot of store-bought food — I don’t know why I was afraid of store-bought baby food. Even 10 years ago, there were plenty of organic options. And, even if I had bought by daughter the cheapest stuff on the shelf, a little thing called the FDA had her covered.
I liked the idea of making my daughter’s food and refining her young palette. Eventually, demands caught up with me. In short order, she was sucking food out of pouches like every other baby. By the time my son came along, our shelves were stocked with the store-bought stuff.
• Be late all the time — As a child, I hated that we were late to almost everywhere we ever went. I couldn’t imagine what was taking my parents so long. Why couldn’t they just get ready and leave? When I became a parent, I was sure I would get up and get going early enough to maintain the steadfast arrivals and punctuality I prided myself on.
Since I’ve had kids, I plan on being at least a little late to every obligation I have. I now know what my parents were doing to make me so late as a child—everything.
• Give my kids food with dyes — Food dyes bother me. It’s probably not rational, but that’s how I am. I thought anything that could turn a tongue “raspberry” blue couldn’t possibly be good for a human. I swore I would only let my kids have dyed food at other people’s gatherings.
The reality is, food dyes are nearly ubiquitous in foods for kids. Sure, more companies dye things with beets today, but no amount of beets is going to give that “cherry” gas station slushy its brilliant, red hue. These days, when my family is on a road trip, I choose a content kid who is full of red dye over a whiny kid who was denied a slushy full of red dye.
• Let my kids eat in the car — This one dovetails nicely onto the slushy talk. As a teenager, I had siblings who were much younger than me. Cereal and crackers were common offenders in my family’s vehicles.
I vowed to never let my kids (if I ever had them) destroy my car with juice, crumbs and wrappers. However, as a parent, I discovered hungry toddlers are angry, loud and disagreeable. I couldn’t get puffy snacks in the hands of my kids (and all over my backseat) fast enough.
• Let my kids eat school lunches — I recoiled at the idea of my kids eating school lunches. They contained things like canned vegetables and processed meat. I had delusions of grandeur when it came to packing my kids’ lunches.
Then, I found myself exhausted at 10 p.m. and feeling incapable of doing any more things. It wasn’t long before I was drawn to the siren song of school-made lunches. The whole-grain hamburger buns made everything OK.
• Yell at my kids in public — Before I had kids, I couldn’t help but feel disdain toward parents who yelled at their children in public. What I never really processed was that every parent is human and has bad days. Today, when I see a parent yell at a kid in public, I remind myself how little I know about their story.
Chances are, I just caught this parent in a weak moment. Some days, I am there myself. When kids are being out of line, none of us is capable of being a role model every time.
Now that I’m a parent, I can’t help but look back at my younger self and say, “bless her heart.” I hope that parenthood keeps teaching me to be more forgiving of others (and myself).
I can’t wait to see what the old-lady-version of myself will chuckle regarding the resolutions I’m making today. (Something to do with cell phones, maybe?)
I guess that’s something to look forward to.