It was easy to think I knew everything about being a parent before I had kids, and even after I had just one. Sometimes people did things differently than I would, and in many instances, different meant wrong. It wasn’t until I had three kids of my own that I found out how many people I had misjudged, because not only is each child different, but each parent and each situation is different as well. I want to apologize to anyone I rolled my eyes at or talked poorly about before I even knew you. Here are a few that I can think of off the top of my head — and I have many others deep down in my heart.
The Hoosier Mom and Her Kids
When I had my first son, I dressed him like a doll. First it was CLEAN, adorable little sleepers with matching hats, then it was polo shirts and khakis. He had no problem with me telling him what he was going to wear, and even let me put gel in his hair to spike it up. A stylish, well put-together kid he was.
And while I did enjoy wearing my comfy sweats at home when I first became a mom, I took leaving the house as an opportunity to dress myself up. I put makeup on and wore cute little denim skirts, just to talk to the lady behind me in the grocery store line.
I didn’t understand how some moms came to the zoo looking like they had just crawled out of bed, with three kids in tow who had clearly slept in their clothes and hadn’t brushed their hair for days.
I didn’t understand it, until I had three kids in tow.
Getting out of the house with two was harder, especially since son number two ran away from me every time I tried to change his diaper. And because taking extra time to chase the baby made my oldest late for preschool, I couldn’t grab a new outfit each time he pooped. If a quick glance at the inside of a stinky sleeper didn’t show a skid mark, I considered it clean….enough. And me? I started to follow the sporty look. Hair up in a pony tail, a tank top and running shorts – even if I wasn’t running. Because I at least wanted to LOOK put together.
Fast forward a few years to when number three came, and “put together” is not in my vocabulary. Being too busy with the baby meant my big kids started choosing their OWN outfits. Now, any shade of blue matches any shade of blue, and if their favorite shirt is still on the floor after wearing it two days ago, it’s time to wear it again.
And the third one – the girl – could fall right in line with that children of that lady I saw at the zoo. She hates to even have her hair brushed, much less wear pretty bows. She has one or two sundresses that aren’t “too tight” around her waist, so if I have to pull one of them out of the hamper to make her happy, I do it.
Me? I shower every day, so I’m proud of that. But what I put on myself has no rhyme or reason except that it has to be easy and comfy as I drive my kids around town. Last night, I slept in my clothes that I knew I’d be wearing to walk my kid into school. I don’t call it lazy – I call it smart.
So to any of the moms who I thought were hoosiers, I get it now. And I’m really, really sorry.
The Lazy Mom
I got into fitness when I was 18, and from that point on I ran, lifted, crunched and squatted every chance I had. After work, I’d head to the gym, and I didn’t understand the moms I worked with who said they never had time to work out. Excuses, excuses, I thought.
Even when I became a mother, I sat my baby in a bouncy seat and did Tae Boe DVDs at home. I strapped my sons into strollers or a wagon and walked them for a couple miles each day. I even joined a gym, stuck them in the childcare room for two hours while they played, and I got my groove on in aerobics classes or on the stair stepper.
As I stood in front of the mirror in the fitness center, I saw a mom who would come in, walk on the treadmill for 15 minutes, and walk back out. Pfff, I thought. What is THAT supposed to do? What’s the point? She must be lazy.
Just as I received my certification as an AFAA Fitness Instructor, I got pregnant with my third. I kept working out and teaching classes, but I started to feel a tweak in my back. I pushed myself through it, because I was not a wimp. I gave birth to my daughter, and when she was about three months old as I was holding her, my back gave out. I almost dropped her but held on for her dear life as I screamed in agony. After lots of doctor’s visits and therapy, I was diagnosed with a herniated disc. I was bedridden or couch ridden on many days, or hunched over as I walked around the house. I didn’t walk or jog or stair step for a year until I finally had surgery to fix it.
Now, all I do is walk, and I am so thankful for that.
But do you want to know how long I walk, now that I have three kids who are in multiple activities? Some days, for 30 minutes, some days, for 15. It’s hard to find time to strap a sports bra and tennis shoes on when I know I’ll be running out to my van in an hour to go to a band concert, or soccer practice, or a baseball game. And the kids have to eat, and are the uniforms clean?
So to the lady I saw walking for 15 minutes, good for you. I know you wanted to go longer, but maybe your baby was crying in the daycare, like my third child always did when I tried to go back to the gym after my surgery. Maybe you were dealing with pain like I did.
I shouldn’t have judged you, and I’m sorry.
The Mom who Gave Her Baby Soda in a Sippy Cup
Throughout my first pregnancy, I made a list of foods I ate, categorizing them into food groups and filling in the gaps if I hadn’t eaten enough proteins or grains by the end of the day. Needless to say, when I had my baby he always ate enough fruits and vegetables to satisfy the Food Pyramid. He didn’t touch a dairy product until after a year, and candy was certainly not a daily treat. When he was three, if he wanted a drink other than water, he got 100% apple juice.
How on Earth, I wondered, did some parents I saw in the mall allow their infants to chew on fries and slurp soda through a straw? When I saw one woman pouring Pepsi into her daughter’s sippy cup, my mouth couldn’t have opened wider.
After having three, you should be a fly on the bleachers at my son’s baseball game, watching me shovel candy into my daughter so she stops bugging me and I can watch him bat. I’m pretty sure she was licking ice cream cones at 6 months, and has certainly had her share of soda. By the age of three, she had already had two cavities, and now she’s five. So yeah, you can do the math.
To the mom who gave your baby soda at the mall, I don’t know if you were having a rough day and needed something to make your kid happy. Or maybe you forgot her apple juice at home while you were rushing to get your older son off to school. You have your reason, and it’s none of my business. So I’m sorry.
The Mom of the Bratty Little Girl
I had my boys two years apart. They were good babies, generous toddlers, and helpful preschoolers. When they had friends over, they offered to share their toys and for the most part just went off and made up games or pretended to be Power Rangers.
I saw little girls who threw themselves down if they had to share a fruit snack or cross their arms or put hands on their hips if they were told no to a new doll. I couldn’t believe that moms actually ALLOWED their kids to act that way, and was sure that I was just a better parent because my kids behaved better.
And then low and behold, I got a girl.
I was so excited to fix her hair and dress her in pretty tutus, but as soon as she could, she pulled bows and clips out and threw itchy tutus across the room. Her brothers loved playing with her, but as my middle son says, he “liked her a lot better before she could talk.”
She argues about everything. She slams doors. She hates to let friends play with her favorite Barbie. She pouts and complains and my husband and I look at each other like we have no idea where she came from, because we didn’t give her any less love and attention than we gave to the boys. She’s different, but we are so thankful for her and wouldn’t change a hair on her head.
So to the moms who I thought LET your daughters be brats, I’m sorry. I know that you were just doing the best you could, and that your children were not actually demons. I know you loved them just as much as I love mine, and that the looks I may have given you didn’t make you feel good. Now, instead of me making judgments about how you dealt with your raging diva, I’m going to be asking you for advice on how to deal with mine.
Even after having three kids, I don’t know everything, but if I have one word of advice for new parents, it’s to not make assumptions about those around you. Because chances are if you do, it will come back to bite you in five, 10, or 12 years, and you’ll be wanting to give someone an apology.