The above is a direct quote from my Mother’s Day breakfast. Actually, the yogurt was closer to three weeks past its expiration date, but that’s on me. I do the grocery shopping, and I can’t resist the bright pink “50% off” stickers that they put on yogurt that’s about to expire. I always buy it, because I firmly believe “best before” dates are a sham, and I’m a sucker for a deal. I ate the yogurt and lived to tell the tale. So there!
It was my first Mother’s Day. J did a great job. He made me breakfast, lunch, and dinner (!) and we went for a walk in the park with the boys in the afternoon. He bought me a giant ice cream. He even got me a card that didn’t feature a The Far Side cartoon (I love The Far Side, but sometimes you just want something a little more…sentimental, you know?).
Okay, now that I’ve mentioned The Far Side I just have to show you my favorite. J got me a birthday card with this on it once. Apparently I have done this once or twice myself:
(Image credit: I lifted this from EJ’s Blog, but the original belongs to Gary Larson, creator of The Far Side.)
End of digression. Anyway, during the time I had on Sunday to read our local paper – a special Mother’s Day treat! – I came across this Postmedia News article. For the link-averse, let me summarize.
In case you weren’t aware before reading this piece – your approach to parenting has a label! You can be a tiger mom, an attachment mom, a helicopter mom, a snowplow mom, a minimalist mom, or a free-range mom – or some combination thereof. (Presumably all of these labels can be applied to dads, too, though most of the dads I know aren’t actually giving this much thought to their particular parenting philosophy.)
I’m not going to get into what all of these labels actually mean. Before the boys were born, I approached my impending parenthood like it was the practicum portion of a really long university-level course. I prepared. I read books. I watched documentaries. I made notes. All of that went out the window, of course, when the nurses kicked me out of the hospital and sent me home with two 6-pound baby boys. (I really didn’t want to go home. Clean laundry, fresh diapers, and hot meals magically appeared in hospital. I was fairly certain they would not do the same at home.) Anyway, my point is, I couldn’t subscribe to a particular parenting philosophy without going all-in and making sure I was doing it “right.” And that’s just not practical when you’re faced with the day-to-day realities of parenting. As the author of this article noted, you take the day as it comes and adjust your approach accordingly.
But this is what stuck with me from this article: “When my mom was raising me and my sister in the 1970s, I don’t think she gave much thought to how she interacted with us. She was a stay-at-home mom, busy doing chores and preparing dinner while we entertained ourselves.”
Aha! This struck a chord.
I would say that I allow my boys a lot of what you might call “independent” play time. I supervise, of course, but they’re busy pulling up on furniture, climbing into laundry baskets, pulling apart my photo albums, even occasionally playing with one of the 872 toys in their playroom. While they’re doing that, I’m washing dishes, folding laundry, writing a grocery list – even blogging.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t just plunk them in front of the TV and ignore them all day (in fact, we don’t even turn on the TV during the day – the boys are too young to really “watch” a show and whenever it’s on, they just zombie-ify in front of my eyes). And of course I love to get down on the floor and play with them and read them stories and cuddle. But for good portions of the day, they do their thing and I do mine.
I constantly feel guilty about this. Somewhere along the way, I have picked up this idea that I am supposed to be constantly engaged in active play with my children. Teaching them words, demonstrating physical skills, letting them use me as a jungle gym. It’s been drilled into my head that they won’t develop at the proper pace if I don’t, or they’ll be unable to form secure human attachments – they’ll be irreparably damaged, and might in fact be better off in daycare with a qualified Early Childhood Educator who will ensure they’ll be properly stimulated.
I don’t know how true any of that is, and I’m not sure where it came from. I’m just doing what comes naturally to me. Really, taking the time to ponder and select a “parenting philosophy” is probably a relatively recent phenomenon, and another one of those uniquely North American things that moms elsewhere in the world think is utterly ridiculous. But it’s hard not to compare yourself to the other moms at playgroup, who have installed baby apps on their iPhones or use flashcards with their 10-month-olds. I think it’s ridiculous, personally, but what if it’s not? What if my kids will forever be at a disadvantage because the most stimulating thing they’ve done all day is pull coasters off my coffee table?
This is what I spent my Mother’s Day breakfast thinking about – all the ways I could potentially be depriving my children of the structure they need to reach their full potential. I wish I’d had a mimosa with that yogurt. It would have taken the edge off. Anyway, a belated Happy Mother’s Day to all of you, mom or not – and don’t feel bad if you’re reading this while your kids climb the curtains in the next room. Mine are doing the same. And I’m pretty sure we’ll all be okay.