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If your mama tossed her DVD player off a bridge, would you?

November 29, 2012

I remember seeing kids walk around wearing mismatched clothes and with unbrushed hair thinking, “I will never let my kids walk around like that. How hard is it to brush their hair and match their socks?”

What I’d tell the younger, pre-parenting me is this: it’s really hard. Much harder than you’d imagine.

Maybe it’s not all that difficult, per se, but sometimes it’s easier to just not worry about it. So what if The Girl’s socks don’t match. The fact that she simply found two clean socks is a milestone in itself. I didn’t feel like hearing her whine as I brushed the tangles out of her hair, either.  Her hair is tangled because instead of using conditioner, she emptied the entire can of shaving cream all over the shower. At least she was in the shower, which can be easily rinsed. I can’t say the same for nearly every wall in my house. She has colored on nearly every wall in my house. So her socks don’t match. Sue me.

When I was little, we didn’t watch movies in the car. We listened to Michael Jackson cassettes and played Punch Buggy and the Alphabet Game. If we got sick of any of that, I suppose we could nap on that big pallet on the floor of the minivan. Before we had kids, we promised that we’d never let them watch movies in the car.

We made the drive to see my family in the DC area when The Boy was about a year and a half old. He was a very good baby, but that trip was treacherous. What had taken pre-kids us about 8 hours to drive took around 10 with a toddler. We swore we were never traveling again.  We had to travel again, of course. I found a cheap portable DVD player and bought it “just in case.”

The drive was pleasant. The Boy watched a couple of shows, but we didn’t keep the player on the whole time. I know, I know. We missed out on quality time with our kid. Blah blah blah. I’m not sure about you, but to me, quality time shouldn’t include whining, bickering, and “he’s touching me! He’s on my side!” on repeat. A little screen time isn’t the end of the world.

Our parents may have survived car trips without a DVD player, but it wasn’t by choice. They would’ve if they could’ve. They weren’t better parents because we didn’t watch movies in the car. We didn’t watch movies in the car because it wasn’t an option. I mean, those folks on the Oregon Trail may have managed with their covered wagons, but don’t you think they would’ve preferred a few minivans?

I’ve learned never to say never when it comes to parenting. I’ve also learned that becoming a parent gives you the right to judge other parents. It’s like a little club. Judging before you have kids is like me trying to teach you to play Jai Alai. I have no idea how to play Jai Alai. I’m not even sure if it’s a sport or a game.

Let’s face it. We all do things we said we’d never do. We all do things our mothers might not agree with. When my kid eats the ice cream scoop we just scraped off the sidewalk in a small beach town in Florida, feel free to judge away. I’m still not going back to buy him another cone.

While we question one another, we also understand each other. That’s what really matters. When my kid’s shoes are untied and I don’t seem to care, all you parents out there know I care. I either haven’t noticed yet, or there’s something else that matters more (like, immediately).

So my kids watch movies in the car, wear mismatched socks, only sometimes brush their hair, and they don’t bathe every day. I say stuff my mom said, like “because I said so” and “if so and so jumped off a bridge, would you?” They occasionally eat fast food. I have given them candy before school. We sleep in while they get their own breakfast, which is usually whatever they can reach in the pantry. I don’t usually help them with their homework. If it’s finished, that’s good enough. We eat dinner in front of Wheel of Fortune from time to time. I don’t change their sheets every week.

If you’re not yet a parent, you’re probably saying, “I will never let my life be so chaotic. I will bathe my kids every night, we will sing together on car trips – no television for us! – and I will only feed them organic grapes that I grow myself.” I said such things, too. Unfortunately, life gets in the way of such hopes and dreams.

Maybe your life will be picture perfect. Mine isn’t, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I may raise an eyebrow when you swear you’ll never take your kids to church dressed like that. I promise when that tangly-haired filthy kid with a milk mustache and peanut butter all over her face says you’re the best mom ever, you’ll smile and your heart will swell with pride. You’ll probably lick your thumb to wipe the peanut butter away, and hey, I won’t judge.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Sharron permalink
    November 29, 2012 9:34 pm

    Best column ever Jenny. Kudos from a Mom to a Mom.

  2. November 30, 2012 1:45 pm

    Not to worry — all is well!

  3. Laurel permalink
    December 1, 2012 7:02 pm

    Oh this is sooooo true. You are my idol!! As usual, you tell it how it is. Rock on!

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