Wait a minute. I’ve read this before.
Yes indeed. If you’ve read my blog in the past, you may remember this one. I archived it and today I am re-posting another updated version for new friends and new moms and anyone who needs a reminder. A reminder of that which nobody cares about, but mostly what they do care about. What they care a lot about.
The first day of school. Ever. It’s a huge milestone for most families, and we are no exception. We kind of make a big deal out of it every year. The first day of school is always cause for celebration in our house. This school year our boys are in grades 5, 3, and 1. We’ve got three first days of kindergarten behind us, and one last one coming up in September. Maybe it’s a little odd to be talking about the first day of school when the school year is in fact winding down to a close, but hang in here with me a minute. This is an essay about mothering, and I am bringing it up again because Mother’s Day just passed and I think some moms need to let go of the pressure to get everything right with their little ones.
Getting our children ready for their first day of kindergarten has looked a little different for each of my children. Mateo was ready because he was ready – his first day of school couldn’t come soon enough as far as he was concerned. Andreas needed extra support with the transition to school routines and expectations, which is not unexpected of children on the autism spectrum. Even though we didn’t get his diagnosis until half way through kindergarten, his teacher navigated the school transition with him beautifully. Olivier went to kindergarten as the youngest in his class, not turning 5 until halfway through the school year in February (our cutoff is March 1). The decision over whether to send him kept me up at night for months, but ultimately it was the best choice to send him early and we haven’t looked back.
Now we are having this same conversation about whether to send Rosalie, who also has a February birthday. We are talking about readiness, social skills, academic ability, maturity, behavior, and in her case a massive case of toilet anxiety. There are a lot of things, however, that aren’t even in the back of our minds as we try to make this decision because nobody really cares about them anymore.
Nobody cares anymore whether my children were breast fed or bottle fed as infants. They also don’t care how or when we introduced solids. What they do care about is whether they can keep themselves from engaging in food fights in the lunch room. I wish I were speaking hypothetically here, but I’m not. They care about whether my kids are eating enough and eating well, at all stages of development.
Nobody cares anymore whether they were born via c-section, vaginally, VBAC, at home, in the hospital, with a doctor or a midwife, with drugs or without, how long it took to push, or whether they were born in your heart instead of your uterus. What does whether I had an epidural or not have to do with anything? It doesn’t. I love birth stories, don’t get me wrong. But there does come a time in the mommy journey when we start talking about other things. When the birth story is mostly just something we keep in our hearts instead of spewing every detail out of our mouths whether people want to hear it or not. (Guilty!) It might come up among moms now and then, but whether it has anything to do with a kid by the time they are headed to school? Not a conversation that happens.
Nobody cares anymore whether we cloth diapered, used disposables, engaged in elimination communication or let them run wild and naked and free (provided that appropriate clean up followed the mess). It’s just never come up. Not at a birthday party or a class field trip or on the playground. They do care whether my children were kept clean and dry, and were taught how to use the bathroom at developmentally appropriate times. They do care that my kids can make it to the bathroom and back on their own without incident. How we got our little miracles to this point of wiping their own behinds? Nobody cares.
Nobody cares anymore whether my babies slept in a bassinet, play pen, crib, or in my bed with me. This is mommy heresy I’m spewing here but I swear it’s true. They care whether my children have a safe, warm, comfortable place to sleep. Period. They care about making sure my children were and are tended to at night when needed even though I’d rather be sleeping thankyouverymuch. The teachers care a LOT that my kids are getting the right amount of sleep so that they can behave and focus in class.
Nobody cares anymore what particular kind of (non-abusive) discipline we used with our little ones. “Did you use time out or redirection when Olivier threw tantrums at age 27 months?” has never been asked of me while standing outside the school with the other parents waiting for the bell to ring. They care that we discipline in a way that is loving, consistent, and respectful of our children as tiny humans. They care that we care about how our children speak, act, and treat other people.
Nobody cares anymore when they took those first steps. I’m not joking. They don’t. The earlier the steps happened, the less people care. And the less they believe you anyway. Trust me. They do care very much though, if our children walk in kindness with their peers. Not who walked first or runs the fastest. Your child is never going to sit down and write a test that asks him or her at what age they first began to walk. Promise.
Nobody cares anymore when or what the first word was, assuming typical development of course. Your kids’ friends? Yup. They don’t care! Teacher? She probably cares more about whether my child can keep his mouth shut than when it first opened. They care very much if your child has struggled or is struggling and they will do what they can do in order to help a kid catch up or get that tricky “th” sound down. And just between you and me – my early talker, Mr. Precocious, Mateo was and is a great reader and does very well in school. But my Martian-speaking, “I’m not taking till I’m good and ready,” on-the-spectrum, little Andreas is often ahead of where his older brother was at the same age. Quite a bit ahead. So. The talking thing isn’t necessarily an indicator of which kid is going to be the most advanced. Isn’t that great news?
Nobody cares anymore how many colds they had in their first year. Or second year. Or beyond. Kids are germy. They get sick. It builds their immune systems up, again assuming a typical immune system here. They care that we’ve taught them proper hand washing. And how to cough into their sleeves. And that we are with it enough to keep them home when they are contagious. They care that we did the doctor visits when the cold turned into a 2 month bout of bronchitis. They care that we stayed on top of those recurrent ear infections. They care that we take care of our kids when they’re sick.
Nobody cares anymore if we did baby sign language. I kid you not. The only thing people care that my kids are doing with their hands is that they know how to keep them to themselves. Sign language? Baby-mama please. When another boy wrapped his little hands around Mateo’s neck at school one time, the last thing I cared about was whether he did baby sign language as an infant.
Nobody cares anymore if we allowed TV before the age of 2. Or 3. Or whatever. They care that whatever TV watching did happen, didn’t interfere with all of the wonderful play of early childhood. It didn’t. The teachers really care if we read lots and lots of books to our babies, toddlers, and preschoolers in an attempt at instilling a life long love of reading. We did.
Nobody cares if my kids are super geniuses or cognitively delayed. Okay, not totally true. The teachers care because that’s their job, but no parent has ever tried to do an IQ comparison on the playground. I mean, really? The other kids don’t even know what an IQ is. Other children do care very much if my kids are patient, inclusive, generous, kind, and fun. Are my children good friends? Do they share? Do they play well with others? This one is the one that keeps me up at night. Because Andreas actually was IQ tested and he’s an intelligent little boy. But you know, that doesn’t really count for so much when he hides around the corner in a new Sunday school class, because he wants to play but doesn’t know how and the room is new, and the kids are different, and teachers keep trying to be friendly with him. (How dare they!)
This last one is the most important. Hear me.
Nobody cares whether I was a stay at home mom or a career mom or a work at home mom or what. They do care very much whether my children are loved, respected, cared for, and provided for adequately. Mothering is work for all of us. Generally speaking people aren’t keeping score, and those who are tend to isolate themselves in the long run. It’s not healthy. We need to care for each other completely, and not just in the parts that make sense to us or look the same as ours.
I’m not saying that our decisions don’t matter. They matter an awful lot. There is a good reason why our choices keep us up at night and make us fret all day. Our kids matter. How we raise them matters. But unless they are being neglected or abused, the day to day choices and changes just don’t matter to other people as much as we imagine they do. Strangers on the internet with too much time on their hands should not count in the pile of opinions we take into consideration.
Unless people care about how you’re doing in your life as a mom, don’t you worry one bit about what kind of mom they think you are.
My magic eight ball that I don’t actually have tells me that chances are very good that you are a good mom if your children are fed, clothed, clean, warm, safe, provided for, loved, respected, valued, well-disciplined, educated, socialized, and nurtured in their development. You’re a good mom.
Do you hear me?
You. You’re a good mom.
All the grief we give each other and ourselves, both silently and not-so-silently, over who is making the best choices…it’s just so futile. You won’t care in 5 years. I swear you won’t. And maybe you were right about that mom whose parenting is a train wreck. Well so what? There’s a kid on the other end of that parenting who isn’t benefiting from our smugness at being right.
There is a lot to be said for good advice. I’ve received some great parenting advice from moms who knew better than I did. I seek it out when I’m at a loss for how to handle the next major thing I’m going to forget about in another 5 years. The best advice of all the good advice I’ve been given?
Go with your gut. Do your research, be diligent, pray, get advice when you need it. But at the end of the day you just have trust yourself. Or your discernment. Whatever you want to call it, go with that.
Because your kids will care. One day they will care more than anything what kind of mom you are today. And the specifics of what they care about probably aren’t going to involve the breast or bottle debate. Just a hunch. They probably won’t even remember their first day of kindergarten, and they certainly won’t remember all of the things that went into getting them to the point where we could send them to school with reasonable certainty that we have prepared them to go out into a small part of the world without us.
I asked my kids a couple years ago what they think is the most important thing for a mom to do. Mateo said, “take care of them and keep them healthy.” Andreas said, “love their kids.” Olivier said “take care of them” and the boys’ friend Leif said, “love them.” Rosalie ignored me. It really is that simple, and that complex. Love them and take care of them – if we’re doing that, in whatever way is best for us and our kids, that’s enough.
And that’s what we need to care about.
copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved