As a mother of a toddler, I am constantly terrified.
I mean, there’s a lot of pressure to make sure you’re not destroying the world by messing up any future generations. Everyone has a different opinion on how to avoid that.
Of course, we act like we know we’re right while secretly asking ourselves, “Oh my goodness, what if I’m ruining her by giving her crackers and juice and sitting her down in front of the TV just so I can send an email without interruption?”
It doesn’t help that people want to tell us how to be a parent. Ever notice how we’re better parents before we have children, and we’re better at parenting someone else’s child?
I was recently told by someone I had never met until that moment: “She should be potty trained by now.”
Sophie is not even quite 22 months old, which is commonly cited as the youngest you should begin potty training. Never mind that — since your cousin’s husband’s aunt’s stepson was potty trained by 10 months.
Quite honestly, it’s hard to wade through all the information out there to decide what’s right and what’s going to help us avoid raising another generation of guyliner-wearing, skinny jean-loving, Nutella-eating, too-cool-to-care-about-anything hipsters.
But it seems as though when I feel like I’m on the verge of being awarded worst mother in the history of the world, Sophie does something to amaze me.
Sophie likes to “help” with housework. I use the term quite loosely. I go by her cues, and no, I don’t make my not-even-2-year-old do chores. If she wants to, I’m not going to stop her, though. Mostly she plays in the dishwater while I wash dishes or drags her cloth diapers around the house while I’m trying to stuff them.
Sweeping is her favorite. And she’s actually pretty good at it. Just this weekend she came to me with the granddaddy of all dust bunnies, which proved to me that my sweeping skills have been surpassed by my toddler’s. She looked at me and asked “Away?” while nodding — her way of saying, “This does belong in the trash and not the floor under the desk, right Mommy? So why haven’t you already thrown it away?”
OK. So maybe that wasn’t exactly a mother of the year moment for me, or housekeeper of the year for that matter. It was a small glimpse of reassurance that I’m not totally ruining her life with my parenting style.
Sophie likes to help with laundry, mostly by pulling the clothes out and trying to put them over her head. From my living room where I sit to fold clothes, I can see into part of my bedroom. I decided to give her the simple task of putting our folded clothes, one at a time, on the bed for me to put away later.
I went to put some clothes away in drawers, then went back to fold another basket, continuing to let her place clothes on the bed for me. Except this time, she was disappearing around the corner of the bed and out of my sight.
After a while, curiosity got the best of me, and I went to see what she was doing. I spotted about 10 shirts hanging out of my underwear drawer. She had seen me put clothes in the drawers and mimicked my behavior.
She was so proud of herself and I was so proud of her for trying, I didn’t let her see me take them out of the drawer. I thanked her for her help and left them there until she went to sleep.
I cling to those moments. Those are the moments my sanity is briefly restored. Well, those, and also the moments I’m savoring a spoonful of Nutella.
Each day, even on the hardest days, there’s something that I can look at and say “I’m not completely ruining her for life after all ... even if she did sleep in bed with us all night and then I gave her a peanut butter oatmeal cookie for breakfast, which she ate while watching ‘Curious George.’”
Murray County native Misty Watson is a staff writer and photographer for The Daily Citizen. You can tell her your parenting secrets or your unsolicited advice by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org, messaging her at facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN or on Twitter, @mistydwatson.