Ten or fifteen years ago I would read just the title of this post and get pissed and offended. Now I am “that” woman. I am the mother in her 40s with over 20 years of parenting experience and five children and I now “get it”. When you have your first child you don’t know shit you just think you do. You have the books, you belong to Mommy Groups and Due Date Clubs, and you have all these ideas about what you as a parent will and will not do. You may even have a degree in early childhood education or sociology and believe that parenting is as cookie cutter as the text book promises. Bless. I’ve so been there.
I will say that I surely do not know it all. Parenting is a journey and each child brings its own challenges and rewards not to mention learning curve. I’ve often said that had Mr. K and I had stopped with our oldest, Elizabeth, I would believe I was a perfect parent. For the most part she was easy to raise. She is now in college, pre-med, excellent student, has shown good judgement, and over all a pretty fantastic human being. Not that the other kids aren’t fabulous but the ones that have followed have added a long list of challenges and definitely parenting outside the box.
I was pretty sure that I knew it all those first five years. I had probably read a few dozen parenting books, belonged to several online mommy groups, had a subscription to Parents and Mothering, and was full of condemnation for those that were doing it wrong. You know, the mothers not doing it like me. But then we decided to grow our family and I was in for a rude awakening. Everything that worked with the easy, typical child absolutely did not work with our second. I was lost and a bit crazy for the months and years ahead adding a third child. Then a fourth. And then a fifth because hell, what’s one more! And it was child number four I realized that there was really no one right way to do things. Parenting was not a one size fit all, cookie cutter venture. By baby number five I realized I had wasted a lot of energy and angst the past decade over bed time, potty training, food, and a host of other issues.
There seems to be a theme among inexperienced mothers that I not only witnessed but was a part of and that was the illusion of being in control. Read that again. Try to control everything with your child and thinking if you do XYZ will make your parenting/child/life easier will just cause you frustration, copious amounts of wine drinking, and binge eating the toddler snacks while you hide in the closet wondering where you went wrong. I know mainstream media and a few crazy “experts” claim that you can continue to be self centered adult and that children are just accessories you can add to your life that will just compliment you but I am here to tell you – THAT IS BULL SHIT. Being a parent is no longer about you, it is about the WHOLE, and when the children are little it really is all about them. And I will say if you can’t wrap your mind around this just don’t have kids. Get a dog. Or better yet a fish. Because I have dogs and they are pretty needy sumbitches.
Does the above paragraph mean you have no life? NOPE. What it does mean is that your life will be altered. The glass coffee table will need to be put away until the kids are ten and maybe not even then. You will likely have very few opportunities to pee or take a shower alone. There will be sleepless nights. Your schedule will not be their schedule. In fact your schedule – when you eat, go to the gym, have sex, visit with friends – no longer is yours in the early years and as I am now experiencing, the teen years either. Get the notions of how you dreamed it would be or how it should be out of your head. And once you have kids it will impact your marriage too. It will either change for better or for worse, or if you have a bunch of kids all at once it turns into just trying to fucking survive with some sanity in tack.
But let’s just imagine for a moment parenting for you has been smooth sailing. You have darling little cherubs. Not only are they the smartest and most beautiful, talented kids on the planet but they slept through the night, were easy to potty train, are not picky eaters, and were developmentally advanced. Bless your heart, you probably believe that has something to do with your parenting or your college degree. ::: cue laughter ::: Actually no, it has nothing to do with that at all. You got lucky. Your superiority and smugness at how well your YOUNG children have turned out has really very little to do with your parenting methods, set schedules, and control issues. When they are adults we will talk.
And if you are reading this and thinking “Is this post about me?” Probably.
So here is me pulling my crone card out (I’ve been waiting awhile to say that) and I am pretty sure it says on the back “bitch”.
Kudos to all my friends having babies in their late 30s and 40s. While some were planned I know a good many were surprises. In the last few years I have had so many friends having their 3rd, 4th, and 5th babies after most their children are half grown I can’t even count. I really can’t imagine starting over at this point. I’m seriously thankful for those last little stair steps (and a hysterectomy) because I imagine that if I was to have a baby at this stage of my life I would essentially allow it to be feral. Teenagers and toddlers – lawd have mercy just thinking about it makes me want to hide in the laundry room, drink moonshine and eat all the things. The thing I have noticed though as my friends enter the toddler and young child years again is the judgement, advice, and even admonishment of their parenting by inexperienced, and often much younger mothers.
Bless their hearts.
If your oldest child is less than ten years old and you can count on one hand the last time you had to wipe a butt, mothers of multiple children or those having “second” families after already raising children to be self sufficient teens or adults DO NOT NEED YOUR ADVICE, OPINION, or JUDGEMENT. Just keep that shit to yourself. I will also add do not be offering your “professional” or “educated” opinion to parents raising special needs children when you have neuro typical kids. (and there is another post coming on this) You are not doing these mothers, or fathers, any favors. In fact if you get a smile and a pat answer from them or “I’ll keep that in mind” they are really dismissing you and likely think you are being a jerk.
Older mothers who have had more than three children do not want your potty training advice, do not want to hear about making their toddler “independent”, why their child should no longer have a bottle or a pacifier, nor do they want to hear anything else for that matter while they let that fourth or fifth child run barefoot, half naked, and eating something off the ground. Why you might ask? Because in the big scheme of things – THESE THINGS DO NOT FUCKING MATTER. Once you surpass three children you begin to realize that not only is every child different but that they will be okay should you not follow What To Expect or Toddler Wise. In fact, most of us know that the pages of those how to parenting guides are not developmentally appropriate, often just make us frustrated and feeling inadequate, and better served as kindle for fire or wiping your ass.
I think if I hear one more mother of one or two children lend potty training advice to a mom of many I may lose my shit. In the last six months I have witnessed this very scenario. Two is not a magic number for toilet training. Child development is a spectrum. When you are reading a text book it is based on an average not the whole. This is why I find it to be ridiculous that day cares, mom’s day out programs and preschools require children to be potty trained before attending. For one “babies” of families often potty train later, as do boys, especially if they are the youngest of many. And even though pediatricians and science tell us not to force children to use toilets we still have this dated advice and expectations. And we can apply this to just about anything – pacifiers, breastfeeding, bottles, and bedtimes. And if this is not clear enough for some reading this – it is not your business. So just keep your judgement to your self and your unsolicited opinion.
And here is something I can tell you – they eventually use the toilet and stop wetting the bed. I’ve yet to meet an older child breastfeeding or sucking a bottle. They do sleep. Eventually. In fact when they are pre-teens and teenagers hitting puberty you will wonder if they do anything else in their spare time. They do learn to wipe their own butts, learn to read, no longer want to be in your bed, and have manners.
AND I have some ASSVICE for you – THEY ARE ONLY LITTLE ONCE.
Babyhood, Toddlerhood, and Childhood is a brief part of all our lives. Some of us got a clue by the third plus kid or we realize it when they are teenagers and we understand that some things didn’t serve our children or our family. It can be a much more rewarding and enjoyable experience when you can laugh at yourself and not take the really benign things all that seriously. Experienced mothers know this. And while some of you inexperienced mothers may think we are doing it wrong – well, we have time, experience, and patience to show you we were right. So just chill the fuck out, drink some wine, and burn the parenting books.