Parenting is filled with joy.
Nothing swells my heart more than when my oldest boy, on his way to his room, makes a quick unsolicited pit stop to kiss me on the arm and declare “I love you, Mama.” And when my littlest tilts his head to look up at me, grins his dimply smile, and states that Mama loves him “all da way to da stars,” my heart certainly grows a few sizes.
But along with the highs, there are the lows.
And I’m realizing there are more lows than I anticipated.
When I was a little girl, I daydreamed about my wedding day: the dress I would wear, the song I would dance, the shade of the flowers in my bouquet (little did I know then that I’d end up having not one, but two dresses, songs, bouquets….! Oh, if only I’d known, I would’ve daydreamed double!). Then, as I got older, I started daydreaming about being a Mommy: the pink bows and skirts, the Barbie dream house, the dolls (little did I know then that the only pink items in the house would be in my own closet, the dream house would continue to be a dream, and the dolls would be army men and action figures).
The point being: I’ve always had preconceived notions of what IT would be like. The IT referring to just about anything of any importance. And the older I get, the more I realize that it is these pre-set expectations, these self-imposed constraints, which cause me great grief on a day-to-day basis, because, as most of us know, IT rarely turns out exactly as you expected it to.
Having been a teacher of small children for a full decade prior to having kids of my own, I had some very definite visions of what IT would be like: school. As my baby slowly became a boy, I started daydreaming again: my son would be the well-rounded kid, the one who the teachers loved, the one who always turned everything in on time, the one who behaved, the one who said “please” and “thank you,” the one whose parents obviously were doing their job.
Yesterday, when picking up my two boys from school, I was told that Ben had had “a really bad day” (this was accompanied with some wide-eyed brow-raising and some whew-like whistling from the teacher) and had earned himself a red card. This red card was not accompanied, luckily, with stories about bullying on the playground…we have come a long way from that. His “yellow and red days” are more about not sitting still, goofing off, insisting that he come down the slide backwards and on his tummy. Immediately after this explanation, the teacher then went on to ask “Oh, and did you hear about Aidan?” (which I had…my usually-angelic-in-school two-year-old decided to whack his classmate on the head with a toy hard enough that a report needed to be signed). I went home yesterday, two adorable and sweaty little boys in tow, feeling dejected and discouraged.
This morning, while dropping them off, I hid my face from the mother of the kid Aidan had whacked, and wondered if she was thinking: “Oh, there’s the mother of THAT kid.”
I assured Ben’s teacher that yes, he had, in fact, gone to the bathroom (TWICE) at home before coming, but for some reason he was currently fixated on going again when he arrived at school, and apologized sheepishly for her having to take him for a third day in a row while I went to work.
I got into my car and silently prayed for a “green day.”
And then I started to cry.
In my daydreams of being a parent, I never imagined feeling embarrassment or shame when dropping them off at school. I never thought I’d worry about what the teachers must think of my kids—or worse—of us.
And therein lies my issue: I worry too damn much about what other people think.
I’m frustrated and stressed because I want it to be like a problem statement: “If this, then this.” I kinda thought that’s what parenting was: IF you teach your kids right from wrong, IF you are consistent and firm, IF you balance the rewards and the consequences, IF you are a good role model, THEN they will…
What is it that I would be filling in the blank with here?
…THEN they will not go down the slide backwards on their tummies???????