Finding the paradox of parenthood

Oh these three!

Oh these three!

Do you ever have one of those moments when the irony and paradoxes of parenthood hits you square in the face? Recently, I have been having those moments… a lot! So, my writer’s blocked mind (yes, I know, my blogging has slowed down a bit…lately I’ve been so busy being a mom that I’ve had a hard time processing enough to write about it!) thought this was the perfect opportunity to make a list. Here we go – a list of some of my current parenting paradoxical struggles, in no particular order.

  1. Eat your vegetables. Eat your vegetables. Eat your vegetables. No… you can’t eat any more carrots. Whaaaat? What parent tells their kid they CAN’T eat more vegetables? Apparently, this one. See, somewhere along the way of trying to get my kids to eat their vegetables (and much to their dismay, chicken nuggets are not vegetables), they fell in love with carrots. And now, the only vegetable they ever want to eat is carrots. Raw carrots. Carrot sticks. Baby carrots. Sure, that’s great and all. And I do let them eat A LOT of carrots. But I want them to be exposed to other vegetables too… namely green ones. So, no, tonight you cannot have more carrots.
  2. You can do it… you can walk! Oh wait, you’re walking! Oh no… stop walking! Walking becomes running. Running becomes bolting. Bolting becomes a nightmare. Especially when there are three kids with capable legs who can run in different directions. Maybe learning to walk isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes I find myself longing for the days when the baby could only lay stationary on her play mat and her entire world consisted of the brightly colored animals dangling above her head. Simpler times, indeed.
  3. Say [insert any word here]. Use your words. Talk, talk, talk! But no, don’t say that… Yes, learning to talk is an amazing feat and communication plays a key role in interaction. Watching kids find their words and expand their vocabulary is truly incredible. And having them be able to communicate their wants and needs is much easier than trying to decipher their babble and their cries. But learning to talk also means learning to talk BACK, and that is a form of communication I could happily do without.
  4. Big girls (or boys) get to sleep in big girl (or boy) beds… Okay, sure, transitioning out of a crib and into a kid bed is a huge sign of growing older and exploring independence. But does exploration of independence have to happen every night between 8 and 10pm, mostly in the form of walking down the hall to tell us something that could have certainly waited until the morning. Tell me again why I transitioned you out of your cage… I mean crib.
  5. The law of opposites rings very true these days. And no, not of the “I say hot, you say cold” variety. I mean telling my kids to go to the bathroom before we leave the house and they swear up and down they don’t have to go, only for them to need to pee approximately 4 minutes after we drive away from wherever we are. Or, they tell me their belly is full of dinner, but minutes later tell me they’re hungry… for cookies (okay, yes, I have room for cookies too, but still…). Or, on weekend mornings they are bright eyed and bushy tailed at 6:30am, precisely the day I want to be lazy and move slowly. But during the week, when we are trying to adhere to an actual schedule, they stay in bed like a teenager. What is the deal?!

More than anything, I find that the paradox of parenting is rooted deeply in the dichotomy of wanting my kids to grow up, and simultaneously longing for a button to slow the growing process down. With each milestone that passes, I celebrate their accomplishments while also being reminded that they are growing out of the stages of being babies, toddlers, and little girls and quickly approaching being big girls, teenagers and young women. People tell me all the time that “it goes fast.” Yeah, no kidding! The days are long but the years are short and they really do go by so quickly. In five short years, I have already found “it goes fast” to be a huge understatement, and can only imagine what the next five, let alone fifteen, years will look like. How can I make time slow down?

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Finding my own bias… and overcoming it

When I was a little girl, I told my parents I wanted to be a veterinarian for kittens. Not any other type of animal. Not even grown cats. Just kittens. As a young girl, I dreamed of doing just that. Of course, as I got older, my aspirations changed and I started following a path toward medicine, public health, social advocacy, and so on. Now I work for a summer camp overseeing the customer service, family relations, and communications – a path I never could have predicted but greatly enjoy.

princess in jerseyA few weeks ago, I asked my three year old what she wanted to be when she grows up, thinking she’d tell me she wanted to be a firefighter, an astronaut, or any one of the other professions little kids seem to say when asked. Instead, she told me that when she grows up she wants to be “a mommy.” My first inclination was to cringe – was I not doing something right that my daughter wasn’t aspiring to be a doctor or superhero or any other world-changing type of profession? Then it made me sad that I cringed at this – what a wonderful aspiration to want to be a mom. It is the most selfless and rewarding (and exhausting) job I know. She wants to care for others, take care of others, and put their needs in front of her own.

As I came to terms with my own bias and her aspirations, I decided to ask her again a few days later “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I was hoping to redeem myself and react perfectly (one can dream, right?). So I asked her. And she responded to me “a princess.”

Yep, I cringed again. That’s what a hashtagger would call #parentingfail. As a mom of two little girls, I’ve avoided the princess world like the plague. I don’t believe in little girls wearing only pink and purple (though my daughters choose those colors every time). I don’t believe in the idea of the maiden in distress needing to be rescued by her prince. And, I definitely don’t buy into society’s collective belief that girls are princesses and boys are superheroes, sports stars, etc. etc. etc. When we talk about princesses in our house, I tell my girls that princesses are just girls with crowns on.

So, when my older one’s aspirations changed from being a mommy to being a princess, not only did my internal battle over the past few weeks rear its ugly head but also one of my parenting philosophies and principles got thrown into the mix too. Again, I grappled with my own bias – why did I cringe? And what difference does it make what a three year old says she wants to be later in life? As I continue to look inward at my beliefs, philosophies, and parenting practices, I try to remind myself that at this age, it’s about exploration, imagination, discovery and growth. Too often we are looking so far ahead at the future we miss what’s right in front of us.doctor kit

So, I decided to ask my daughter the same question, one more time, and promised myself that no matter what she said, my answer would be anything other than a cringe.

“Honey, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I want to be a doctor… for stuffed animals. Just like Doc McStuffins.”

And with a big smile, I gave her a hug and said “Okay, let’s go get your doctor kit because ‘purple bear’ has a belly ache.”