Thursday, May 3, 2007

Oh My Goodness.

Rebecca Woolf at Girls Gone Child wrote earlier this week about being a good mother. There is something to what she said: in spite of all of my self-depreciation and cynicism about half-assing it as a parent, I am, I think, a good mother. I think I’m actually pretty great at it.

There’s a lot of talk about the Mommy Wars, a syndrome that I find more boring than pretty much almost anything else on earth. Your kid walked at 7 months, talked at 8? He was potty-trained by 18 months? Oh--bi-lingual by 2? And a musical prodigy? Wow. What does my kid do?

Oh. He chews on his own sock and laughs at “America’s Funniest Videos.” Sometimes he punches himself in the mouth and yells “Ow!” and then laughs. Okay…well…I mean, I guess…all kids develop at their own…whatever. Whatever.

It’s fine to be proud of your kid’s accomplishments. I mean, at this age, they kind of reflect on your abilities as a parent. But much more so than that, they reflect on your interests. Sweet Juniper can recognize Medusa and Narcissus and Athena, and she’s just a few months older than Max—but then again, Juniper’s father has probably forgotten more than I ever knew about Greek Mythology. Max can use the melon baller to scoop cookie dough onto baking sheets and scrape out a mixing bowl with a scraper—because we cook together a lot on the weekends.

The fact that he can’t name the presidents in order, or tell me he has to go potty in Swahili, or compose a sonata on his four-key Fisher-Price piano doesn’t actually reflect on my “goodness.”

It starts pretty much as soon as you find out you’re pregnant: Are you planning on nursing? Co-sleeping? Stay at home or work? Stay at home and work? Spanking, or time-out? At every step, somebody is questioning whether you’re a “good” mom or not. Usually, you’re the somebody doing the questioning.

So, what’s with all the self-depreciation?

Being a parent feels kind of serious. Talking about how good I am at it feels like tempting fate. It’s like when you’re seven, and you’re so busy telling your friends how awesome you are at riding a bike that you don’t watch where you’re going, and you run into the back of a parked car. Except as a parent, the knee you skin will not be your own. It will be the knee of your baby, the knee you would throw yourself in front of a train to protect.

I don’t have any idea what makes a good parent or a bad parent. Like I tell the Goddessmama all the time, there’s the way I’d do it and the way somebody else would do it, and people might not see eye-to-eye with me, but I think I’m consistent in trying to do what’s best for my kid and my husband and me. And I don’t know enough about what I’m doing to make a call on how anybody else is doing it, so I don’t really know what makes a “bad” mom, except for what would make me a bad mom.

Max is doing fine, in pretty much every way that’s important to Dan and I. That’s enough evidence for me that I’m a good mother. But I don’t know what goodness has to do with it. Max is very much the way I imagined he would be, back when I was first imagining him. He’s funny, and affectionate, and independent, and he has is own way of doing things. He gets frustrated, but he doesn’t stop trying.

But I like how I am with him. I feel like the best version of myself with him. I like that I trust my instincts when it comes to him. I like that I have instincts to trust. I like me, as a parent. I’m the kind of parent I would have wanted.

And he likes hot sauce on everything but his cereal. I don’t know if the fact that Max is quirky makes me a good parent, but it definitely makes him a good kid.

Or, if not a good kid, at least it makes him mine.


Heather said...

Found you from your comment on Rebecca's blog.

I have to agree that I get tired of hearing all the accomplishments of other people's kids, and at the same time I'm thinking that those parents should be proud of their kids. I try to not tell other parents about the accomplishments of my kids that is simply a development thing. Things like reading or writing their name, that eventually most kids accomplish. Doesn't matter when they do it.

I also don't know what makes a good parent...I think most of us are good parents but are looking for reassurance from others that even though we make mistakes we are still good parents.

Hmmm. I guess I should write about this too.

I enjoyed reading your take on it.

dutch from sweet juniper said...

indeed. juniper can't cook for shit.