(Alex: 3, Lila: 1)
Life as a parent is filled with questioning our choices. It’s night’s spent laying awake wondering Did I double, no, triple check the label on that oatmeal bar I gave him? Did it have nuts in it? We’re not doing nuts yet. Oh no, I’m pretty sure there must’ve been nuts. Why am I such a slacker? Why can’t I even survive lunchtime without potentially killing my child?
I live in a constant battle to keep Mommy-guilt in check. Constant. I need to breathe, in and out, to regain a sense of reality, the sense that not everything that I do to or with my child is going to impact him or her forever. Sometimes, an oatmeal bar is just an oatmeal bar.
And sometimes, watching an educational DVD, is just watching an educational DVD.
Yes. I let my son watch television. Shocking, I know. Give me a moment to breathe in and out, let my Mommy-guilt subside.
And we’re okay.
The trouble is, in this world where I am raising these children, there seems to be no moderation, no middle ground – there is nothing but the Don’t ever! and the Sure, I plop my kid in front of that thing seven, eight hours a day – cheapest babysitter around!
And so, I’m here, often feeling alone, or as though the Don’t Ever camp shrugs me off as a lazy parent (or one who is either uneducated about the ‘risks’ of television, or simply dismissive of them), while the TV=Babysitter camp can’t understand why I don’t let my son watch anything other than specific programs at specific times, with a specific purpose.
The truth is, I choose to believe that the way that my husband and I have integrated television into our child’s routine is not going to harm his development – and that the benefits of it (his vocabulary has sky rocketed since introducing him to a DVD created by speech pathologists for children his age) will outway the potential risks. Much like how I choose to have my children vaccinated, falling again into a debate. (As a person who hates to debate, I’m fairly sure that if I’d known how many heated debates are always raging in the realm of parenthood, I might never have come.)
What it all boils down to is this: Mommy-guilt exists because parenting is complex and difficult and filled with decisions such as how much (if any) television should you let your child watch, how and when to potty-train, what type of shoes should you buy – the good one’s perfectly fitted to his wide feet, or just a pair from Walmart because he’ll out grow them soon anyway. Each of these seemingly small decisions will weigh on me and find me as I’m tossing and turning and trying to sleep.
If my son doesn’t love books, I’ll blame myself for letting him watch Blues Clues. If he doesn’t excel in sports, I’ll blame myself for stunting his feet somehow with those darned cheap shoes. When really, the fact is, sometimes, some kids just don’t like books when they grow up – television or not. Long before the idiot box was invented, there were kids trying to get out of doing their reading to go outside and play. And as for my son’s athletic prowess? Maybe he’ll prefer to be in the band.
Parenting is difficult because no matter the choices that we make, the outcomes may not be that which we have intended or hoped for.
Parenting is difficult because we cannot protect our children from everything that can harm them and trying to shield them from everything may wind up doing more harm than good.
Parenting is difficult because other parents, teachers, grandparents, cousins, your neighbors, the lady behind you in the grocery store – everyone – has an opinion that they feel is worth sharing, under the assumption that it is the key – the golden answer to unlock all the mysteries of what-if’s – the way to avoid ever needing to feel Mommy-Guilt again.
The way to raise the best child possible.
But the fact is, I don’t want to raise anyone else’s best child possible. I want to raise my own.
And no matter how Alex or Lila turn out, they’re the best that I’ll ever have. The best that God has given me, and I’ll know that I’ve done my best with them out of service to Him.
And I’m ok with that. Because when it comes right down to it, to the two-in-the-morning moment of the soul when I’m laying awake replaying each of the choices I’ve made that day for my child, this is what I know beyond doubt:
I want my kids.
Kids with messy faces and who hide behind the couch when it’s time to put their bibs on for lunch. Kids who pull off their diapers and bring them to me, proudly declaring Poop!
I want kids who toss play food behind the toy chest, then walk around the house asking where it went. Kids who pull down book after book after book and imitate cow sounds, duck sounds, bird sounds, clock sounds, then point to roofs and chimneys and trees and rivers and kids who know them all by name, even though their tongue’s can’t yet speak them clearly.
I want kids who ask for Blues Clues, but still play nicely when it’s not turned on. Kids who dance around to The Laurie Berkner Band with their arms moving in perfect motion, mimicking the people on the TV. Kids who reach for the guitar and try to play along. Kids who pull out notebooks and hunt around the house on a scavenger hunt, in search of Blues Clues, but finding their own imagination leads them different places.
These are my kids. And I won’t let Mommy-guilt take away the joy that they bring me – or take away the pride that I have in knowing that though I’m not perfect, by the grace of God, I’m doing good enough for them.