ANN BAILEY: Being a mother is easier in theory than in practiceThis is my 13th year as a mom and I couldn’t feel luckier. My children’s zest for life, resiliency of spirit and compassion have immeasurably enriched my life. Meanwhile, they have taught (forced) me to become more flexible, both mentally and physically, helped me to focus on the important things in life and encouraged me to look at things from a child’s unique perspective.
By: Ann Bailey, Grand Forks Herald
This is my 13th year as a mom and I couldn’t feel luckier.
My children’s zest for life, resiliency of spirit and compassion have immeasurably enriched my life. Meanwhile, they have taught (forced) me to become more flexible, both mentally and physically, helped me to focus on the important things in life and encouraged me to look at things from a child’s unique perspective.
My experiences of the last 13 years also have taught me that I was a far more perfect mother before my children were born and that parenting is much easier in theory than in practice.
For example, before I had children I was never impatient, always knew the right thing to say and absolutely, never ever, raised my voice. I was appalled when I went to grocery stores and saw children who were whining about buying candy or went to the mall and saw a child having a meltdown because he or she was being pulled away from the play area. I knew that my model children of the future would never exhibit that kind of behavior in their own homes, let alone in a public place.
I also was sure that if I ever did have children I calmly would discuss the misbehavior my child was engaging in and discipline in a manner that fit the crime. I knew I would never be the type of parent who resorted to threatening unrealistic consequences for the behavior.
Another thing I was much better at being a mother at before I had children was feeding them only food that was nutritious. Forget the macaroni and cheese, hot dogs and sugar cereals, my healthy little troopers would be eating foods such as broccoli, grilled chicken breasts and plain oatmeal. When they weren’t eating their main meals, they would snack on carrot sticks, fresh fruit and rice cakes.
Before I started raising children I also knew that my children only would engage in non-violent, creative play and that they would have no interest in watching television or playing video games.
I made it through most of the first year with my preconceived notions still intact, but then all of my theories on parenting one by one started developing cracks.
I can’t remember the first time I raised my voice (OK yelled) at Brendan, my oldest child, but I do recall having a battle of the wills with him when he was pretty little about taking naps. I’d like to say that we had a calm, reasoned discussion about the issue, but I’d be lying.
I’d also not be telling the truth, nor would anyone believe me, if I said that was the last time it happened. Though I work hard on being patient, there are times when I lose my composure big-time and blurt out things such as, “If you don’t stop fighting with your brother you will have the play station taken away until you graduate from high school.”
Just as I’ve lost my temper while disciplining my children at home, it’s also happened in public. While I didn’t resort to all-out yelling, I did hiss in their ears and then carried them out of the grocery store kicking and screaming a few times when they were younger. Now that they’re older, I’ve learned to develop an acute attack of deafness when they make a request for candy when we’re in the check-out line.
Speaking of candy, I do limit the amount they get at home. However, when I envisioned a candy-free world for my children, I didn’t take into account the candy-filled world outside the walls of our home. Though I rarely buy it, it’s readily available at sporting events, they get it as gifts and it’s given as treats at birthday parties. The same goes for pop. I’ve reconciled myself to this, comforted by the fact that they get few, if any cavities, and are a healthy weight.
Their general good health also is a consolation when it comes to encouraging them to eat more fruits and vegetables and less “kid” food such as the macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. I continue to cook healthy, low-fat recipes and while they try them, they eat peanut butter sandwiches, cheese tortillas or scrambled eggs many nights.
As for the play, my sons and daughter are some of the most creative kids around when it comes to amusing themselves. However, some of their recreation involves wrestling, fighting and using play guns of every type. Indoors they use an arsenal of Nerf guns and for the outdoors they have paintball guns, pellet guns and bows and arrows.
The real vs. the ideal
Playing with the guns and bows and arrows has not had an adverse affect on their personalities and they remain kind, compassionate and gentle children. That reality and the others I’ve mentioned, illustrates that in parenting, like in life, the real is much different than the ideal.
It’s also made me realize that not being a perfect parent doesn’t mean that you’re not a good parent. As long as I have had my children’s best interests in mind, spent time with them and have tried my best to do what’s right, I feel pretty good at the end of the day.
Today, Mother’s Day, I feel grateful because being a mom is great cause for celebration. I view my three children as three of my biggest accomplishments and feel extremely blessed to have the privilege of having them call me Mom.
I’m also thankful that I will be able to tell my own mother, who is 85, Happy Mother’s Day. One of the calmest, thoughtful and most loving people I know, my mother continues to be an inspiration to me.
My warmest wishes to her and to all mothers.