Before I had children, I was the perfect parent. I knew how to do everything, solve every problem, and handle every childhood dilemma. I was well rested, I bathed regularly, and I had plenty of free time; I was just sure I could think my way out of any issue that would arise.
Then I had kids and I realized I knew nothing -- absolutely nothing.
And now I look back on my child-less self and laugh maniacally. What makes me laugh, you ask? Things like:
1. My kids will never watch TV.
Oh, that is just precious. Little did I know that my kids would love to get up at 5:30 in the morning and the only way I was going to get anything remotely close to enough sleep is by turning on the boob tube for a little Nexflix action while I try to catch a little shut eye. And the only way supper gets made some nights is with the magic of TV babysitting. People that had kids before me: Sorry that I judged you for your child's television habits. I get it now, I get it.
2. I won't use bribery with my children.
My kids won't need to be bribed because they will automatically listen to what I say because I'm the boss and they'll respect me. Except that last night, I couldn't get my kids to eat dinner and I offered a Rice Krispie treat for dessert if they'd just eat the darn food. And some days, the days I'm really tired and lacking patience, the only way toys get picked up are with an offer of TV or iPad time. Oh my gosh, I'm now combining two things I said I'd never do into one big no-no. Cool.
3. I won't say "because I said so!" and other things my parents said to me.
All those generic sayings your parents used to spout that you swore you'd never use? You totally use those now, right? I cringe a little each time I say something dumb like "Because I'm the boss!" or "Because I said so!" but it hasn't stopped me from saying it. It's not so much that I think they're great parenting tools now, it's just that I've lost so many normal conversation brain cells that at the time, these things sound good. Even if they're completely ridiculous arguments and don't really hold much weight. I'm going to use them "because I'm the parent, that's why." Ugh.
4. I will never feed my kids fast food!
That's ridiculous. We love fast food. The chocolate milk, the cheap toy, the processed chicken nuggets, the convenience, all of it is glorious. I don't know what I would do without our local neighborhood drive-thru because some nights it's the only way we're getting fed. We don't go there daily, or even weekly, but when we need it, it's nice to know that my favorite fast food restaurant is open and waiting for me.
5. My kids will never throw tantrums in public.
When I made this declaration, I had yet to meet my two strong-willed children. Or understand that kids are completely irrational. You can't reason with a 3-year-old, it just doesn't work. There will be a tantrum at some point in every parent's journey. And while I'm at it, let's go ahead and say we've all been there before so the next time we witness someone else's kid doing this in the store there will be no need for unapproving looks, we're all doing the best we can, and we all have bad days.
6. I will be a calm, rational disciplinarian.
Ha! You know who else can't be reasoned with sometimes? Sleep deprived, worn out, probably hungry parents. So when we are fed up, there is no calm and loving reprimand. Sometimes we lose our stuff. Like after our kids ask the same question or same version of the question 17 times. Or when one of them won't stop touching the other. Or when no one will listen to anything you're saying. We try to be calm. But sometimes, we are not.
7. We will still vacation like we did before kids.
I want my kids to be cultured, see the world, experience different ways of life! But traveling with kids? So hard. And it's not as fun, truthfully. Kids tire quickly, aren't the best road trip buddies, and still have to go to bed at a decent time or they'll be bears the next day. This might be different as kids get older, but sometimes it's just easier to stay home when your kids are younger. Although, you know what is really nice? Kidless vacations.
8. I will never use technology to keep my kids quiet in public.
Except sometimes there's a long wait at the restaurant or the doctor's office is running late. Or you're at a school performance for an older sibling and the younger kid couldn't care less about the singing and dancing going on up on stage. So you buy the puzzle games or the cake decorating games or the jewel games with hopes that they'll just sit still and be quiet. Sometimes you try the books you keep in your car or the emergency crayons you keep in your bag, but when all else fails, the phone will keep them quiet. And it is totally worth it.
You know what I'd tell my pre-kid self? Chill out. You don't know what you don't know and figuring it out as you go is completely fine. An occasional stop at the drive-thru isn't going to make my kids morbidly obese and a couple cartoons after school won't rot their brains. My kids are loved well, mostly clean, and laugh more than they cry. I'd call that a parenting win.