Parenting, much like pregnancy, is a super humbling experience. And I think the more judgmental we were pre-kids, the more likely you are to have charming and humbling experiences where you realize that the distance between how you thought things would be and how they actually are is just a gulf of experiences you hadn’t had yet. These are mine.
- Sleep. I was soooo judgmental of parents who didn’t sleep train and then whined about not getting enough sleep. I’m still pretty judgmental about some aspects of this, like your kid should have a consistent bedtime, and you should do cry it out if you have to, but sleep training did. not. work. on my kid. I mean, it did eventually, but it was a 7-8 month process. We tried really hard. Hours and hours and hours of cry it out. Much googling. Many books. It really sucked for awhile. Eventually things got better. But I saw a friend recently and her 20 month old wakes up 3 nights a week at least. My coworker’s 2.5 year old doesn’t sleep through the night. I no longer assume the parent is doing anything wrong.
- Eating. I was a really picky eater growing up and I was like, “picky eaters are made, not born, so I will feed my kid all the things and she will eat them.” Ha. My child eats like, four things, and that’s it. I cater to her a lot more than I planned to. We still offer her everything that we are eating, but we also offer her one thing she likes so that she will actually eat something. (Because it turns out that if she’s not hungry, she sleeps better, and I would rather have to cater to a picky eater than never sleep.) I also find that catering to her tastes helps me to be much more relaxed about mealtime and less likely to turn it into a power struggle. But I will definitely be that mom sneaking vegetables into her kid’s meals.
- Licensed Characters. My child right now hates all shoes but her ridiculous gold Mary Janes with a pink flower on them, and it’s summer, and I want to go to the splash park. And Stride Rite girl’s shoes shrink when they get wet! So she owns a pair of crocs and a pair of navy blue sandals, which she will wear, but only with socks, so I think they rub her feet. So I’m searching for possible other sandals that do not cost a million dollars and my child likes fish, and I saw Finding Dory shoes and was like, hmmmm I wonder if she would wear these since they have fish on them! And getting dressed is such a battle right now unless I offer her one of her two Octopus shirts and then she gets very excited and wears that. So I can see why parents, worn and exhausted by the work of parenting a toddler, lean into their kid’s obsession and buy them batman shirts or whatever because it is so much easier than fighting with them every day. A lot of licensed stuff is still poorly made and overpriced so right now I’m holding out, but I get it now.
- Girly Clothes. I planned to dress my kid exclusively in gender neutral stuff and try to avoid the gendered clothing and boxing her into everything being pink and ruffly. Except I shop a lot from the girl’s section of the store. And I grumble about there being too much pink and I don’t buy her a lot of pink, but she wears much girlier clothes than I ever planned on. And she still ends up with a lot of pink, because other people buy it for her or that is the only color that something comes in. (Her bike helmet is pink because literally all they had at the store was pink and we needed one ASAP.) This season I bought her a ton of clothes from the thrift store that were mostly t-shirts that were very gender neutral, and the reality that I’m realizing this season (our first summer with a walking kid) is that “boy’s” clothing is more practical. I buy her mostly “boys” swim gear because it covers more than girl’s bathing suits, and boy’s shorts are longer and better for sliding. I don’t want her to be unable to go down the slide because she’s wearing a skirt. But the rest of her clothes are flowers and ruffles and glitter. For some reason it feels very unfeminist of me to dress her in a way that conforms to gender norms. But I also don’t really want to use my kid to make a point to society about clothing and colors and assumptions.