Childrearing

My Idiotic Parenting Ideas Seemed Really Smart Before I Became A Mom

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A friend recently mentioned that she took a train ride with a young tot who was not on his best behavior. While my friend, a female, was filled with compassion for the mother who was clearly struggling to keep her son in line … her traveling companions got off the train and promptly spoke ill of the mother. They went on and on about how when they had children, they’d never tolerate such behavior and would do a much better job of controlling their children.

I could only laugh when hearing this story. My mind cut — as if in a movie — to the scene where these men were completely unable to control their children as they jumped around like monkeys and wreaked havoc on the passengers of a cross-country flight.

My brother is very wise. He mentioned to me, when I was pregnant, that I should be careful about what I say. See, he told me, he had a couple of rules he’d made when his wife was pregnant with their first — and these rules were the first thing to go when they had their kid. So I kept my rules to a minimum. And yet, I was still completely wrong.

I mean, one of my idiotic rules was that I wouldn’t dress my daughter in pink. And, you know, I kept that rule for a solid three weeks. At which point she graduated into a new size of clothing and my on-hand batch included some very nice gifts in the color … pink. My girls are girly, but not too girly, but wearing pink — pink! — is no big thing.

Another friend of mine had a whole slew of rules. She knew exactly what kind of mother she was going to be. So thoughtful, so together. She had probably read 200 books on parenting and early childhood by the time her oldest came along. And, well, she says at least eight of her rules were out the window within 24 hours. The one she remembers most? Her “no pacifier” rule. What’s funny is that this women has two other children, too, and while her oldest continues to confound her every parenting thought and strategy, the younger two are actually totally responsive to her great ideas.

My general parenting strategy has been pretty similar to what I thought it would be, but I’ve thrown out more than a few rules in the process. And I have been so completely humbled by my children’s behavior in public. I will never judge another parent simply for the fact that their child is screaming. It’s what you do with a screaming child that matters. And even then, sometimes there’s nothing you can do (e.g. our Honolulu to Chicago flight with a 15-month-old who would not be calmed).

I talked about this with some friends and they gave me a ton of rules they’d made before having kids that they ended up breaking:

I will never …
let my child run around in a restaurant.

let my kid eat candy
let my kid stay up late.
let my kids drink soda.

let them watch television.
spank my children.
let my children wear superhero costumes in public on a day other than Halloween or Purim.

let my children out in weather-inappropriate clothing.
co-sleep.
use drugs during labor.
let so much as a drop of formula touch my child’s lips.

What are yours?