A Good Game


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.

Aldens 1 012

Photo by Alden D, age 5, 5/2013

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.)


10 thoughts on “A Good Game

  1. I, too, like to write in order to process. And I, too, have immensely high goals for the kind of person and parent I want to be. And I, too, routinely fall short of them. Sometimes I can shrug that off. Sometimes I feel sickly guilty at the end of the day. There is no “But…” here, just an agreement. We all want something better, and we all fall short of it…sometimes. Those brief shining glimpses when we don’t are what keep us trying to be better, right?

  2. *laugh * I hear you on the screen time because I was just debating that with myself today. I used to take showers with Munchkin – kill two birds with one stone: he gets clean *and* watched! – and I get clean too! But at seven months pregnant it’s more than a little uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous (he’s started demanding stand in the water alone time and it’s more than my body and our stall can accommodate easily), so out comes the tablet so I don’t have to worry about him pulling the house down around my ears.

    I imagined all sorts of read and art-fests, fun field trips, lots of one-on-one quality time with my kid when I quit my full-time job in December. Instead I spent most of 3 months trying to muster up the energy to get dressed as I fought morning sickness and Munchkin had far, far too much movie time for my comfort. I might have a shot at winning the record for longest continuous quote of “Totoro.”

    There’s a someecard out there that says “You’re making it difficult to be the parent I always imagined I’d be,” and that’s the way I feel. A little shocked, a little annoyed with myself, and a whole lot of, well… ticked off that life gets in the way of having the life I want to build!

    On different note… I’m not really finding these blogs that say, well hey, I feed fruit loops/spank/yell, but it’s okay. Mostly the ones I find have a glowing, perfectly turned out Mom and the perfect day they’ve had with the perfect amount of fun. That’s why I love Mamalode and their writers so much… because it ISN’T perfect… although even still, I read Nici’s blog, or I read Jennifer’s articles (looking at you above! ;)) and they write so candidly about the problems they’re having and then… here’s the kicker… the *lessons* they learn, and when I’m in the middle of it I’m going, “Well, s&^%, I don’t know what I’m learning here, I’m just trying to get through it!” So even then – even while I still love these people – I still feel like I should be achieving more! So your candid admission that all is not golden in Perfect-Mom-Land is rather comforting.

    Okay, so longest blog response ever??? I’ll leave it here. But thank you for writing about sticky parenting. 🙂

    • I so hear you on the “lessons”. — I fight the urge (sonetimes) to try to package my blog in terms that make me look good. You know, This hard situation happened, but I learned this and this, and isn’t life amazing, mwah! Sometimes it IS like that, though!
      I don’t get the vibe I was talking about from Mamalode writers– but if you poke around on places like BlogHer there are a whole lot of different perspectives, and I have recently, specifically been annoyed to the point of commenting a few times by posts about yelling and spanking. I don’t really want to link because I am not trying to start something– only to think about it. 🙂
      And yeah, darn old life– getting in the way of all our grand plans!

      • I must chime in and say that both your blogs (Chimera & MissoulaGrace) have been helping me lately. I recently started blogging this year, I’m an ENFP as well, just as I can’t imagine life without my babe, I can’t imagine life without my blog! As a new blogger/mom, it’s hard to find a balance online between complaining, oversharing, and making my life look “too perfect”. I want to be real, but I also want to be inspirational, and I don’t want to scare all my friends away from having kids by telling them how I really feel all the time. Anyway, keep writing, fellow Missoula ladies- so glad to read your words!

      • Thanks, Emily! Blogging about real life is a pretty strange space– you capture it so well in that comment– you want to be honest and authentic. Yet positive.
        I sometimes feel like blogging is helping me be positive- I mean, focusing on the positive is a geed thing! It’s a “secret of happy people” according to ten billion lists of such “secrets” (HA-Not anymore!!) I look forward to reaidng your blog as well. 🙂

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