I was a much better mother before I had kids because my imaginary children were so much better behaved and more predictable in my mind. I have a higher degree in child, family and school psychology and, while I learned how complicated little ones really are in my studies, I thought that I would be way more prepared to deal with any obstacle or curveball that came my way. As a psychologist who works with kids on a daily basis, I have never pretended to have it all figured out, but I did have some ideas about how to approach difficult situations. When I was around other parents observing them deal with tantrums, whining, or irrational behavior, I would think, in a non-judgmental way (or maybe with slight judgement), oh, if they just did this or this, that would quickly solve the problem.
Now that I am far removed from that hypothetical child in my mind and dealing with a real, living, breathing human, there are so many days when the ego wants to kick in and beat me up from the inside out for not being able to handle particular situations with grace. The truth is, Perry and I, just like every new parent had no idea what the eff we were doing.
Below are a few things that we do that we never thought we would:
- Scheduling: There was one particular time when we were visiting friends and family and one couple wouldn’t come meet us because it was “during the baby’s nap time”. In the car ride to the event, Perry and I discussed how we weren’t going to be at the center of our baby’s world and that the baby would just have to deal and fit their naps into our schedule. When Winter was small, I tried this nonchalant, go with the flow plan and, honestly, it gave me anxiety. I would get worked up thinking about where she would nap (would I hold her or lay her down in someone else’s bed) or thinking where and how I would feed her. We found that Winter was actually guiding us to a schedule before we even knew it. She really led the way and found a natural rhythm on her own. We noticed that all three of us did so much better when there was predictability and routine. Now a year and a half later, I have said no to a dozen events because it was during her naptime and I don’t feel badly about it at all.
- Screen time: This is hot topic amongst us parents. When do you start screen time? How much is too much? Does FaceTiming with family count? What about having your child watch the videos you recorded of them on your phone? Prior to having Winter, I read in my studies that screen time before two had a negative effect on children. So I was bound and determined that there would be no screen time until then. But then I read this article which lifted the two-year-old screen time ban and, quite frankly, I was relieved, because there was no way we were going to make it until two. We definitely don’t go overboard, but around a year and a few months we would show her videos of herself when we needed a quick distraction. Then around a year and four months we would put on segments of Sesame Street while changing her diaper or getting her in pajamas and noticed that it hit the reset button for Winter. Now, we limit it to one episode a day and I don’t have any guilt. Sometimes we all need to push the pause button and it’s nice to either sit there and engage in the content alongside her or, duck out for five minutes at a time to put dishes away, answer a quick email or fold laundry. We have yet to use it when we’re are out and about but we have a few flights coming up and you can bet your ass that I am downloading an episode or two, because breath-holding spells when she doesn’t get her way on airplane are NOT fun (you can read about our experience with breath-holding spells here)
- Germs: Oh in the beginning, we bought it all. The cover that goes over the shopping cart, the placemats to bring with you when you go out to eat, hand sanitizer in every bag, and wet wipes galore. It wasn’t that I was a “germaphobe”, I just wanted to be sure I had it all, just in case. Now flash forward to today and I am lucky if we leave the house with diapers and you can forget about totting along all the extra stuff. It is just too overwhelming. I, of course, take necessary precautions but I would be lying if I said that I wiped down everything she touched or didn’t just plop down in the middle of a public place to read to her (pictured below) or give her a banana because she’s freaking out.
- Bribery: And last but not least, oh yes, the bribery. In my “pre-actual child” mind I thought that children should get into their car seat because a) they want to or b) because you said so. Winter, god love her, is a very strong-willed child and because of this, we are mindful about giving her choices so we can try to prevent a breath-holding spell. These choices are as simple as giving her two options for where she wants to eat breakfast or what shoes she wants to wear. But sometimes there isn’t a choice. If we have to go somewhere, we have to go. So in those moments, I have a special reserve of yogurt covered raisins that I keep in my bag and every so often, if I know the transition is going to suck, I pop one in her mouth beforehand. She will do almost anything for a yogurt covered raisin. Let's hope they never lose their magic!
And once again, parenthood has given me a run for my money and realize that there is actually very little that I knew before I had my own child.
What are some things that you and your partner do that you never thought you would?
Photography by Brittany Renee'