I talk a pretty good game. My work, and my deep interest in children, and my parental self-absorption, all make me think about kids and raising them and teaching them and the kind of world I want for them. I can sound like I know what I’m talking about.
The thing is, I often feel a bit of a guilty fraud. Because the things that I know, that I believe, that I exPOUND upon– I may or may not actually DO. At least, I may not do them nearly as well, or as much, as I would like to believe I do..
Case in point: Screen time. YES, it is true (it is true, right?) that Alden hasn’t seen THAT much tv or movies, compared to the average 5-year-old. But he watches “a little something” on more than half the days of the week, I would bet. And there was that time he downed like six episodes of The Cat in the Hat so I could take a nap. A real nap. And the real kicker is in the “practice what you preach” department– Josh and I just completed a Battlestar-Galact-a-Thon of embarrasing length. And my evenings often see me curled up on the couch with a glass or three of wine in the glow of my laptop.
Case #2: Healthy eating. Intuitive eating in a context of real food. Working on it. Some days it’s a massive win, and Alden is eating bok choi at dinner like a champ. Other days nothing entered his system that wasn’t tan. I can say the same is true for me.
Case #3: Taking risks, outdoor play, reclaiming childhood. While I believe wholeheartedly that children need to TAKE risks in order to learn how to assess risk… that they need to become confident by having truly tackled things that are hard— my heart agonizes watching Alden on (as he called it) “an old school teeter-totter”. Wood board across a metal pipe, visible bolts, obvious side-to-side yawing. Horribly fun. He and four other boys monkeyed around on the thing for an hour, doing an amazing job of not getting pinched, dropped like rocks, thrown off, heck, there weren’t even any splinters. I made myself be completely nonchalant watching him clamber to the center and then inch his way out, crawling backward, away from the fulcrum to the end. I was so glad and proud– and dread-filled all at once.
Maybe it’s just kind of like that… The things that I believe in, are things that are hard for me to DO– at least some of the time.
And, in thinking this over, you know, writing about parenting is tricky…
Because, well, writing about what I want and believe and wish for… and then writing about coming up short…. well, it can sound an awful lot like judgment. Like “Oh, gee, I’m so awesome for having this particular set of parenting goals, even if I fall short, and wow, if you don’t even have those goals in the first place, wowser, what kind of schlub are you??!!”
(In case you aren’t sure, that is so, totally, not my point.)
I read a lot of blogs that have some amount of half-reflective, half-defensive self-critique in the parenting department. I yell too much, but hey, it works. Or, I sometimes spank, but you know, they’re fine. Or, my kids ate Fruit Loops for dinner and so be it.
And I read a lot of comments on these blogs that say things like “why can’t we all just support each other and not judge each other’s choices.” Fair enough. (Although if a writer ends a blog post ASKING for opinions, she may get them.)
But for me, if writing this blog is for any purpose, it’s for processing. Processing for ME. As an extravert (ENFP, every single time I have ever taken Meyers-Briggs, go figure) I learn about my thoughts by putting them out there and looking at them. I want to polish of my ideals and my beliefs on a regular basis and hold them up against the daily compromises and easy ways out and anxieties. And remind myself what and who I want to be, as a mother, as a person.
I can’t speak for anyone else. I talk a good game, when it comes to my hopes. I better. I’m the one on this particular field.
(I’m going to go ahead and apologize for the “sportsy metaphor.” I pretty much only played sports on fields when I had to. I am now going to think about a parenting metaphor that is a lot more like a gig. Or a jam.)