Learn from the Past, Live in the Present, Prepare for the Future

by Jen on July 10, 2009

in Lessons Learned,Lowering the bar for mothers everywhere

Some days I long for the time when I no longer get puked on, peed on, pooped on, drooled on or snotted on. That Shangri-La-like future when no one head-butts me by accident or tries to climb me as if I am a human-shaped ladder or piece of playground equipment. The golden days when the only daily hygiene tasks I perform are my own. The moment of zen no one insists on joining me in the bathroom. The tender moment when I no longer get fishhooked while trying to snuggle. The relaxing mealtime when no one, upon deciding they do not, after all, like the food they are eating, removes the partially-masticated mass from their mouth with their fingers and expects me to take it in mine to relieve them of it. Right. Now. When I am not expected to lift or carry anyone on a routine basis. When no one needs me to wipe anything. When I finally feel like my whole life no longer smells like shit, and I mean actual shit, not a metaphor for anything.*

But the day will come when I can’t lift or carry them. When no one will let me pick out their clothes. No one will want me to hold them on my lap in the rocking chair and sing to them before bed. At some point not only will they not need me to help them with grooming, they won’t ask my permission — or even my opinion — before getting a haircut (or tattoo or piercing). So when parenting gets rough, I try to think of the coming days as an incentive to cherish the ones I have now.

My own dad has a philosophy about parenting: that it reflects the relationships in the business sector. When your kids are babies, you’re a line worker. You’re on the factory floor every day. You’re so essential, the place couldn’t run without you. If you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.

When they get a little older, you’re more of a foreman. You provide direct supervision, but they do most of the actual work themselves. You set up the framework or system for what needs done, but your kids take care of it on their own.

Then, as teenagers, you eventually become upper management. Oh, you still call the shots, but if you’re good at your job you don’t micromanage or concern yourself with minutiae. If you’ve fulfilled your role well, then they will do the same.

Finally, when your kids are adults, you become a consultant. They only call you in on special projects when they want your expertise. They may listen to your advice, but ultimately the decisions they make and the lives they lead are their own.

There are ways to keep your children dependent on you for longer than necessary, but frankly, that’s not the kind of mother, or person, that I am. My sister-in-law picked out the clothes my nephew wore each day until he was well into high school. By contrast, by the time I was in high school, I was doing all my own laundry. (By choice. My single dad, who I lived with, had seriously f-ed up a couple of my things and was forbidden to wash anything of mine after that.) I guess I was just raised that, once you can do for yourself, you do it. That independence is a virtue unto itself.

I’m aware that before I know it, I’ll be less of a necessity and more of an accessory in their lives. I know it’s true, though right now it’s hard to believe, that I won’t be mired here in wiping hell, feeling constantly distracted and running behind, forever. So for now, I’m trying to learn to relax and enjoy my time on the floor.

*Actually, it would be a simile, right? Using like or as to compare something?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ragtopday July 11, 2009 at 9:58 am

I really like your dad's philosophy on parenting. I never looked at it that way, but it sure rings true. I'm moving into the foreman stage now, with some line work still from time to time. As friends with kids older than mine say, it doesn't get easier or harder, it just changes. The real secret is enjoying the stage you're in. Which is easier on some days than others.

2 Jenni July 11, 2009 at 11:01 am

Hey, Jen. Great post. I feel much the same. Whenever I'm feelign totally mired in the filthy trenches of parenthood, I try to remind myself that this is but a teeny, tiny fraction of my kids' lives. A fraction that will be over in an instant, a fraction that I will eventually long for.

Okay, so I'm NEVER going to long for scraping toddler shit from underneath my fingernails, or reading Click, Clack, Moo with a toddler on my lap while I am trying to go to the bathroom. But I will miss the rocking, the kisses, the full body hugs. I miss them just thinking about it.

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