Posted by LaurenKelly | Posted in Miscellaneous | Posted on 18-03-2012
Meet my son, Gooby. He is 3 years old and, as my first born, is the amazing little person who taught me how to be a mom. And, in case you are wondering, Gooby is not his real name. He earned this nickname when he was a few days old because his colic and reflux, plus his very expressive brow, reminded us of the cartoon character Mr. Magoo. The name eventually morphed into Gooby and stuck. On his recent preschool enrollment forms, I described Gooby as spirited, imaginative, creative, emotional, moody, and expressive. Though what I really wanted to say was, “My son actually thinks he is Spider Man, a Power Ranger, and Luke Skywalker combined. He is borderline obsessed with firemen and construction workers, and I once thought he had developed the hoarding disease due to his relentless pilfering of trash and common household items which can be found stuffed to the brim in his Fisher Price toolbox (which he also pretends is a kitchen).”
Like all first-time moms, when I was pregnant with Gooby I worried whether he would be born healthy, wondered what he would look like, and hoped (and still do!) that he would not be plagued with some of the mental health struggles that exist in both my husband’s and my own family history. Throughout my pregnancy, I often tried to imagine how I would be as a mom and wondered if it would be difficult to accept my child for however he turned out. Though I love my husband and my parents, I had never actually created another human being from scratch, and did not have experience with the extreme physical and emotional investment of being a parent. But the truth is, when Gooby was born, those worries did not hold their weight. Those worries didn’t matter, because I knew the moment I set eyes on my son that I would love this little person with all of my being, and most importantly, without conditions. Since the day Gooby was born, this is the world in which we have continued to exist inside our family. And it’s awesome. However, I also know that unconditional acceptance of all human beings is not transferrable to the real world.
As parents, I’m sure we have all received the unsolicited piece of “advice” from a random person on the street about our child(ren). We have all received the sideways glance from a stranger in the grocery store judging our style of managing an unexpected toddler meltdown. We have all felt judged as parents at one time or another. And in turn, we have judged ourselves. Though I am not proud of it, I will admit that I too have judged others, certainly contributing to the perpetual cycle of parental insecurities. Perhaps it is a rite of passage. Or maybe it is a coping mechanism. Regardless, it sucks.
As a mom who works fulltime outside the home, I must entrust the care of my children to others. My husband and I don’t have family that lives near us, so both of my kids attend a phenomenal in-home daycare. Gooby started at daycare when he was 3 months old. Over the years we have relished in our provider’s recounting of Gooby’s life without us while we are at work. We enjoy celebrating Gooby’s successes and we learn from his failures. This means that early on, we had to develop the skill of receiving (and appropriately reconciling) feedback that may differ from our own opinion about our child. And I will say that as a mother, hearing anything short of positive feedback about Gooby has been the most challenging part of all. Because receiving criticism from my daycare provider about my kid, constructive as it may be, is not the same as hearing it from the random stranger on the street, or in the grocery store. This feedback holds more weight. I have to listen. I have to reconcile. I have to learn. I have to accept that not everyone thinks that my kid is as perfect as I think he is. This is the real world, after all.
This past week, my daycare provider talked with my husband about Gooby’s obsession with ninjas, swords, guns, and battles. Turns out, that what we think is innocent boyish play in our house, may not jive so well with other parents whose children attend the daycare. After receiving this feedback, my husband came home to discuss it with me. My instinct was to immediately feel protective of Gooby’s imagination and creativity…and of my own parental ego. Because not only did this feedback put into question Gooby’s utter perfection, it also questioned my parenting skills. I started doubting myself, asking internal questions like, “Have I been a bad mom because I haven’t cared enough that Gooby likes to shoot toy guns? Am I influencing violence in society by allowing him to watch television shows that have some violent themes, like Power Rangers and Spider Man? Am I perpetuating society’s stereotypes of boys vs. girls by not encouraging Gooby to play with more gender neutral toys?” And really, I was embarrassed. So my husband spent some time talking me down from my emotional ledge into the world of logic.
Gooby is not alone at daycare. His actions have influence on other children. And in turn, those children will have influence on him. But man, it is tough not to have complete control over every situation. It is heart wrenching to know that I will not always be able to protect my kid. And as he grows older, I know this will only become bigger in scale and consequence, and ultimately more difficult to manage. So in the end, I realized that I have to respect the rights of other parents to express their opinion about how my child might be influencing their own. And one day I will also need to go to bat for my own children, because that is what parents are programmed to do. Ultimately, I am thankful to have a daycare provider that I consider our parenting partner. I am grateful that I have a daycare provider that I respect, and that I know loves and cares for my children when I cannot be with them. That is all any parent can ask for.