When I was a teenager, I never questioned whether I wanted to be a mother someday. Of course I did. But there were a lot of things about being a mom that no one ever told me.
For one thing, I didn't know that my children would bless me in ways that are difficult to articulate. I didn’t know it would be like taking my heart out and watching it walk around. I didn’t realize that I would come to know myself through knowing them. I didn’t anticipate learning the greatest lessons of my life from someone who could barely talk. No one told me my children would make me a better person or that my life would be more complete through them.
Additionally, no one warned me that my two year old might try to run away from me in the library and that I would chase him unsuccessfully for twenty minutes while pushing his little brother in the stroller until eventually hiding behind a column and grabbing him as he ran past.
No one told me that my heart would swell watching a broken-hearted child cry like his best friend died when he lost a beloved toy and that I would secretly sneak to the store at night to buy a new one.
Or that sometimes I would be so tired, I'd be willing to give my child absolutely anything (think candy for breakfast, five thousand hours of screen time, or a pony) for five more minutes of sleep.
When I was seventeen, I would watch young moms with their kids and vow to never be "that kind of a mom." But I didn't understand all that had driven "that" mom to behave the way she was. And I didn't know that ten years later, I would be "that" mom. Or that I would be okay with it.
Here are the top five things I said I'd never do and how I learned the error of my ways:
5. My kids will not eat sweets before dinner. And definitely no candy for breakfast. Duh.
Well, since a bowl of Fruit Loops has basically the same amount of sugar as a chocolate chip cookie, I deserve numerous smacks on the forehead. We don't keep sugary cereal in the house at all times, but it definitely happens more often than I'd like to admit. And the amount of syrup my kids squeeze onto their waffles when I'm not looking has to be enough to send a person into sugar shock.
I hate mornings and I'll do just about anything to make them go smoother. If that includes Fruit Loops or syrupy waffles, then so be it.
Lesson learned. Don't make promises you can't keep.
Teenaged Teresa, deal with it.
4. I will never, ever, put my kid on a leash.
Numerous amusement park trips as a youth taught me to hate the kid leash. Watching parents dragging their kids around on leashes struck me as degrading and just plain weird. How could those parents walk around treating their kids like dogs and be okay with it? I would never, ever do that to my own kids.
Well, as you read earlier in this post, my first child was a runner. That's why I call him Energy. He began walking at ten months old and has been running ever since. He loved to squirm away from me in the grocery store, at the mall, at church... basically any public place. He also loved to escape when we were walking from the car to our house. If I didn't keep a firm grip on his arm while unlocking our front door, I'd be involved in a high-speed chase around our complex... with his baby brother, Mellow (thankfully, aptly named), in tow.
Needless to say, I've come to appreciate the need for a kid leash.
3. I would never forget to pick my kid up from something
As a young mom, I heard lots of stories from veteran mothers about the importance of cutting out unnecessary activities from your kids' lives in an effort to curb the chaos. These mothers told tales of running from one place to another, always a few minutes late and eating McDonalds in the car. Often, the mother would arrive home, exhausted, only to remember that she'd neglected to pick one child up from an activity. (This was, of course, before the days of cell phones. You know, when we all had to walk to school up hill both ways in the snow.) The poor child had been sitting alone outside for hours waiting for mom to show up.
These days, no adult in charge would let a child sit alone outside of their facility for hours without calling a parent, so I haven't lived this exact scenario. But, I have come to understand how it could happen. Even with just three kids involved in after school activities last year, things got real messy, real fast. "Where's my leotard?" and "I forgot to practice!", mixed with crying baby and three-year-old pleadings for attention left me feeling more than a little frazzle-brained on countless occasions. Add someone firing off homework questions, the phone ringing, and ground beef sizzling on the stove in a hasty effort to avoid stopping at McDonals and the situation is perfectly set for a child to be forgotten.
It could totally happen.
2. I won't let my kids dress like slobs
I grew up wearing hand-me-down clothes, which was great when they came from my super-cool cousin, but not so great when they were from the Goodwill clearance rack. I remember feeling very embarrassed, even as a young child, when my clothes were ugly or mismatched. (I'll admit here that I'm probably remembering this far worse than it was - my mom is amazing and wouldn't have let me run around in rags). But I vowed that my kids would always match.
Fast forward to the stubborn little girl who has put on a striped pink tutu with an orange polka dotted shirt, but who has obediently dressed herself just as you asked her to.
Or the pre-teen boy who flatly refuses to wear anything but ratty t-shirts and athletic pants, but who does his chores without complaint, gets good grades, and is a great big brother.
I've realized there are worse things than having kids who dress like ragamuffins. Far worse. Fighting over clothes is so not worth it.
1. I will not let my kids watch cartoons that belong in a drug-induced hallucination
I watched an episode of The Wiggles with my young sister-in-law shortly after I got married.
Seriously? I'd thought. Someone thought this was a good idea?
I found out much later that, yes, apparently, someone did think The Wiggles were a good idea: Kids.
When we happened upon an episode of The Wiggles one day well into my child-rearing years, my kids' eyes lit up and their bodies twitched with the urge to get up and dance. I knew I'd soon be changing my tune. Yo Gabba Gabba followed, much to my chagrin. Though my kids loved these shows, I believed it had taken an adult with a very demented brain to come up with them.
I, however, will always be indebted to the "demented adult" who came up with the episode of Yo Gabba Gabba that features the song, "There's A Party in my Tummy." This clip has successfully convinced several of my picky little eaters to clean off their plates with a smile on their face.
Severely demented or wickedly clever?
I must apologize for my hasty judgements and bow to the brilliant minds that think this stuff up.
So yes, I am now "that" mom. The one who is far from perfect, but is doing the best she can. The one who loves her kids even when they use her brand new, dry-clean-only shirt as a napkin.
Being a mother is, without question, the hardest job there is. But if I learned one thing as a teenager, it is that anything worth doing is hard. The hardest experiences of my youth made me a stronger person and made me who I am today. The same can be said of having children. They will push you and teach you--about yourself, and about others.
Kids love unconditionally and we, as their parents, do well when we can follow their examples and curb our tendencies to judge. Teenaged Teresa was wrong about a lot of things. And that's okay. Though I've been surprised by many aspects of motherhood, I wouldn't have it any other way.
I am surrounded, each day, by a bunch of little people for whom I am simply, 'Hero'.