It has recently dawned on me that I haven’t been parenting the way that I thought I wanted to. Never in a million years did I think that I would be that mother who would be out with friends, but catering to my kid the whole time—rattling gadgets at her, picking toys up off the floor repeatedly at restaurants, taking half eaten crayons out of her mouth. I never thought I would let my adult conversations be interrupted by my children. I just never thought that my kid would rule my world. But I am that mom. I’ve become that which I’ve feared. I don ‘t know when or what I did (or didn’t do) exactly, but I have realized that I have taken a wrong turn somewhere.
We had some good friends over for dinner the other night—good friends whom we rarely see. Good friends who live in Denver and drove an entire hour to see us. Thank God for stiff drinks and good conversations with Jesse because I certainly wasn’t present. Just twenty minutes after they left, I couldn’t even remember what we talked about. I do remember, however, telling Ramona to show our friend’s 6 month-old baby, Harlan, all her toys about a bazillion times. I recall taking her to the bathroom to wash her hands at least twice to wash off the guacamole that I permitted her to get into while I was cooking. I do remember numerous conversations, or shall I say, the same conversation numerous times with Ramona about how “Mommy is talking to her friends right now, so please be patient”. But I don’t remember much about the time that I had just spent with our friends. I don’t know what the hell we talked about. Quite frankly, I was completely frazzled. After they left, I felt embarrassed and humiliated, wondering what my friends must have thought as they toted away their sweet sleeping baby.
I just finished the only parenting book thus far that has resonated with me, “Bringing up Bebe”. It’s about the difference between French and American parenting and how French babies are raised to be autonomous. They don’t throw food, they sleep through the night by 3 months, they play independently while mom and dad have adult conversations and they eat gruyere instead of Kraft singles. While Ramona actually does prefer blue cheese to string cheese, she is everything but autonomous and self-reliant. In my defense, I didn’t even know that the French way was possible for a two-year-old. I thought that this clingy behavior from Ramona was simply the “terrible two’s” and for all I knew, was parenting perfectly. This book rocked my world. The other night’s dinner with our friends and the looks on their faces rocked my world. The whining, the fussing, the demanding, the pleas for 5 books to be read at bedtime instead of 2 is rocking my world and it’s time for some change and some God-damn discipline around here! I’m not sure how to turn this boat around, but I have to believe that it’s not too late. I just don’t know where to begin. This blog post isn’t going to end with some sage advice about what I’ve learned or a new technique that I’m going to try in the future. It’s simply a vent. It’s a confession of sorts that I have become a boundary-less, exhausted, ignorant, push-over Mama. That’s the truth. But my heart is in the right place. My heart is almost always in the right place—although it’s not always for the better.
I know that I’ve been extremely co-dependent in my life, enabling many around me to avoid conflict or to spare others from feeling pain. But pain is inevitable in life as cliché as it sounds. I’ve been working hard on changing this about myself over the last couple of years as I’ve gained knowledge about the sickness of co-dependency and the avoidance of conflict in general. But Ramona is really bringing these issues to the forefront these days . The insane love I have for her is forcing me to grow and I’m seeing things about myself, every day, that I want to change for her sake.
Ramona needs to feel pain to thrive in this existence. It’s part of life—I certainly can’t guard her from that; in fact, allowing her to experience pain in small doses and in safe places is part of my job as I usher her into this world. And God certainly knows that there will be some “conflict” in her teen years that we are going to have to face, so I should be practicing that now as well. The first step to change it to admit that I have a problem and that my life has become unmanageable because of it. Dramatic? Maybe. But holy moly, parenting is dramatic.
Hopefully, I’ll have a follow up post with all that I’m learning and all the ways that Ramona is becoming an autonomous, courteous and more cooperative little lady. Maybe soon, I’ll be having adult conversations with some of you. Until then—prayers for some swift parenting recovery, please.