There’s not a gentle way for me to say this, so I’m just going to say it: we make parenting entirely too complicated.
When I was pregnant with my first child back in 2008, I read every parenting book and website I could get my hands on, in an attempt to prepare myself for what was coming. I’m a nerdy perfectionist with a type-A personality, and obviously, people like me make the very best mothers. We’re hyper-vigilant, germ-conscious, by-the-book fascists who operate under the assumption that our children will automatically follow the pattern laid out for them.
I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
Aside from the fact that over-parenting often produces a child with a complete lack of self-esteem and coping skills, most crazy moms also end up in a therapist’s office eventually. Having lost our ever-loving minds, riddled with resentment and frustration, we want to know why parenting is so damn hard.
It’s hard because we are making it hard, people. We are creating our own difficulties by following the advice of experts rather than listening to our natural intuition, because we are driven by an insane need to keep up with all the other (equally crazy) moms, and because we are constantly looking sh*t up on the internet.
Stop. Just stop.
Sometimes I look back at the mom I was and want to shake her. Hard. Case in point: our 3-year-old was hyperactive, so after copious amounts of internet research, I put him on a special diet cutting out all unnatural food dyes, additives, gluten, and processed meats. You name it, I removed it. I stressed over that kid’s diet more than I’ve ever stressed over my own, which is really saying something.
After over a year of watching his diet like a hawk, I was finally forced to accept that eliminating red dye #40 wasn’t doing anything except making my own job harder. I was constantly getting mad at my husband for doing things like breaking off chunks of his Pop-Tarts for him to eat or letting him have sausage biscuits from McDonald’s, and despite my best efforts, our son was just as hyper as ever. It wasn’t until years later that he was finally properly diagnosed with ADHD that it all became clear.
My younger kids are lucky that I got all of my food crazy out of my system with their older brother, because my middle child refuses to eat vegetables and our youngest eats handfuls of sugar for breakfast. And guess what? We’re all happier. Especially me.
Another thing that caused me a great amount of grief was sleep. Not mine — theirs. I followed all of the rules. I abided by the charts that tell you this is how much sleep your XYZ-aged child should get per night to the letter, but it didn’t matter. Not one of my children were nappers. I fought it and I fought it and I lost sleep myself worrying about why they didn’t sleep like the books said they should.
I faced a similar pattern of stress regarding potty training (why didn’t my 24-month-old show interest in the potty yet?), teething (Are those teeth? Nope. Are they showing yet? Nope.), and every other developmental milestone out there. I spent approximately eight years in a constant state of hand wringing over things beyond my control.
Parenting changes as we get better at it, thankfully. These kids have forced me to grow as a person in ways I never wanted to, ways that are painful and awkward and hard. But standing on the other side of some of the difficulty, I can look back and appreciate how far I’ve come. Yes, I still have a long way to go — I mean, crazy people don’t just become sane overnight — but I’m finding that shedding some of my needless worries creates a lot more room for fun.