Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Perhaps I am Overthinking This Whole Parenting Thing

I have had more than one person comment to me recently that they are not the mother they thought they would be. They then are quick enumerate the many, many ways in which they claim to be a disappointment to themselves. In the past I never gave this much thought because I have said the very same thing myself and had my own list at the ready. But now, I’ve been thinking, maybe I (we) need to let up on myself (ourselves) a little.

Yeah, I had a vision of what kind of mother I would be. But this is a vision I created before I knew what it was like to have children; a daydream I created while going through the hell of trying to get and stay pregnant; a carefully designed mirage that turned out to be pure fantasy and speculation and wishful thinking. And we are beating ourselves up because we don’t live up to this? I also thought pregnancy would be a lovely, glowing Madonna and Child(ren) experience, steeped in wonder and awe. Nope, sciatic nerve zaps and constant urination and perpetual discomfort weren’t a part of that image.

Like many people born in the seventies and earlier, there are just a handful of blurry and fading pictures and a few fuzzy home movies to encapsulate my childhood, which pales in comparison to the blogs and pictures and home movies and books that my own children have. Perhaps the girls will someday be embarrassed of this biographical bounty. Time will tell. I guess I am motivated by my personal lament for more evidence that I existed before I was ten/twelve years old, which is around when most of memories start. (I will never, ever win that “When was your earliest memory?” game.) So I observe and record and capture and document and save save save every last detail of the girls’ lives, for their sakes and for my own. Someday when one asks me what there favorite food was when they were two, I need to be able to answer it. (For the record, Avery is loving fig newtons and pizza and, suddenly, pastina, and Madeline leans toward all types of fruit.)

But for most people, memories makes up for what lacks in pictures and warping VHS tapes. This is where I fall way short. My memories are so fractured and just plain scant.
But it is, for me, impossible to parent without conjuring up how I was parented. How I parent either aligns with what was done with me or, more often than not, contradicts it. And there is a whole lot of just guessing on my part, of sort of feeling around in the dark until I find something that resembles a door knob so I can open a door and let in some light, because there is a whole lot I don’t remember. What I do remember is not so great. And it makes me feel sorry for the little me. Yeah, I know how cheesy that sounds, but it’s true. I look at my beautiful daughters every day and think how DARE everyone not love them to pieces. Did my parents think that about me?

This might be a good time to recall that actions speak much louder than words.

So I kiss the girls each a hundred times a day, at least, and despite my tendency toward hyperbole, this is not a case of exaggeration. I do it because I never remember that as a child. Specifically, I have no memories of being kissed, or hugged, or even really touched much. Therefore, “Kiss Often” is part of my Parenting Blueprint. And the rest of it, I think Nicole and I are making up as we go along, and that seems fine.

There are a million books out there and lots of unsolicited advice, but maybe parenting is such a unique and highly personal endeavor that it is impossible to define it in broad strokes or ten chapters. Maybe it’s not about enrolling the girls in dance classes or taking them to the playground every day or limiting their television viewing. And maybe my parenting prowess will not be measured by how many food groups I can get them to ingest or by the length of their afternoon nap. Maybe it won’t even be measured by the girls’ memories. Maybe it is just a new small, attainable goal each day, and striving to make sure the girls feel loved.

I have said to other people — and other people have said to me — that the very fact that you are thinking about your parenting skills makes you a good parent. Let’s hope that is true!

Pictured above, what happens when Madeline eats applesauce unsupervised! And Avery with her new hair do (introducing: Barrettes!) And Madeline with the French Toast Nicole made from the Challah bread I made. Did you follow that? It was my first try making Challah and it was pretty good!


K J and the kids said...

It's funny you would post this. I've been meaning to post about a book I'm reading to help parents :) ha ha
Sometimes I read to help me get answers. And then I hope that I haven't done so much damage that it can't be undone.

I agree with you though. I think your girls will be just fine.
Love them.
They will remember and have wonderful memories without even trying.
CUTE pictures !

suz said...

Do tell more about the challah, is it difficult? What's the recipe? I have a french toast recipe that is really best with challah but I can rarely find it in the grocery store.

Mina said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

I can relate to your post, especially about not remembering much from when you were a child. I don't have many memories from childhood, and my mother was definitely not the touchy-feely type. She still isn't but we've grown so much closer as I've gotten older. What's odd is that I am definitely affectionate with others, and I love to show it. I used to question how I would be as a mother, and if I would be similar to my own mom, but then I realized that we are completely opposite. My mom grew up in a children's home, so she has a reason for being the way she is. Deep down, I always knew my mom loved me, so I have her to thank for making me the way I am.

As far as recording your girls' lives, I think that is wonderful, and if I ever have a baby I hope to do the same.

Mina said...

Oh, and your daughters are gorgeous! They have the cutest grins! :)

iheartmytwins said...

making them feel loved is the most valuable thing you can do. keep it up.

Calliope said...

the other day I actually had a 2 hour conversation with my Mother about what I will be doing differently with my kid than what was done to me- in terms of discipline mostly. A giant moment of growth happened where she was able to say that she wasn't perfect and made mistakes. I still have work to do, but to be able to say, "this is what I plan on doing and this is WHY" was really good. It was very obvious that so much of my parental intentions exist as opposites to what I was exposed to.

Mostly I plan on kissing W as often as he will allow it and telling him that I love him as often as he can stand to hear it, and then some.

I realized a few years ago that I never heard, "I love you" unless it was said off handedly in response to my saying it. LIke someone saying bless you after a sneeze.

It made me incredibly needy of tangible expressions of love.

sorry for blabbing away here...I should have e-mailed, but this is what your post brought up. So it is your fault. heh.

justine said...

it seems to me like you are some a conscientious parent. i think your girls do (and will) only benefit from that and lots of kisses.

i think that's one of the things that i will try to do differently from my own parents- being more thoughtful about why i am doing things and more kisses. i fear for my children how they will never make it out alive with two mothers who like to give lots of kisses! they will know they are loved. as i am sure your girls do, too.

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