Last week, while waiting in my pediatrician’s office, I read an article about the negative effects and consequences of bribing your child. My mind jumped back just 45 minutes prior when I shamelessly bribed my son with a matchbox car in order to let me put on his socks. (Not even for him to put on his own socks, mind you. No, he received his precious prize for allowing me to put socks on him while he sat there looking at me. Yup.) Awesome, I thought, another parenting article reminding me how bad I am at parenting.
I am pretty sure I am not alone in feeling this way though. We read some article advising us that we aren’t giving our kids enough –fill in the blank– or are giving our kids too much –fill in the blank—; we compare our children’s accomplishments (or lack thereof) with other kids their age; we are accosted by images of a seemingly picture perfect family life by some mom friend on Facebook and we immediately feel inadequate…and annoyed.
But here’s how I figure: it’s all in how you spin it.
I guarantee your Holly Housewife mom friend has her bad days, days where her kid throws epic temper tantrums in the organic artisanal vitamin aisle at Whole Foods and she stubs her toe on her Pottery Barn rustic dining room table and she secretly scarfs down a Wendy’s cheeseburger instead of that colorful kale salad on her Instagram. Does she post that stuff? No. Because she’s focusing on the positive
She’s spinning it. And that’s fine.
So that’s what I’ve decided to do when I feel the wave of mom guilt come over me. I’m going to spin that silly guilt away. And you can too.
1. You didn’t serve Macaroni and Cheese. You created Pâtes aux Fromage.
Everything sounds more sophisticated in French, especially if you are speaking it to someone who doesn’t really know it. So the next time you feel guilty about that vegetable-free meal you gave your toddler, just plug whatever the menu item is into Google translate and voila! You have a Julia Child sounding dish that will impress all the other moms on the playground. It’s not PB&J, it’s un sandwich au beurre de cacahuète et à la confiture. They’re not fish sticks, they’re bâtonnet de poisson. Just imagine the look on their faces when you tell little Billy that it’s time to eat his gâteau aux fruits. (Sidenote: Google Translate is often really bad. In this situation, it doesn’t matter, but this little video may also be helpful.)
2. Your toddler isn’t sleeping on the floor; He has a Montessori style bedroom.
Does your little one climb out of his crib so much that you just decided to put the mattress on the floor? Does she wander into your room at night and end up on the dog bed? Did you just not have the time to get a toddler bed and there was another baby on the way who needed the crib so your toddler is stuck with a floor mattress? Don’t fret. Because you’re not lazy or thoughtless. You, fancy pants, are doing it the Montessori way. There are a lot of great things to say about the Montessori system, none of which I am qualified to discuss. But what I do know is that it is one of the buzz words in the parenting community. Even before Prince George and Ryan Gosling gave it a nod. According to the Montessori way, this type of floor sleep arrangement gives your child freedom while respecting his development and stressing his independence. Did you know you were doing all that by letting your child sleep on a dog bed? Now you do!
3. You didn’t forget to put the laundry away; You are fostering personal responsibility.
If you are like me, your laundry tends to go from the hamper to the washer to the dryer to a laundry basket…and then it tends to sit there in some sort of laundry limbo. I don’t know what it is about that last step of putting the laundry away, but I never seem to get it done. This usually hangs over my head, but now no more. Because me leaving a basket of clothes in my child’s room is now “a teachable moment.” I am letting him pick out his own outfit, put away his own clothes, and sort his own socks…even if I do still have to put them on him.
4. You’re not ignoring your child; You are establishing independent play.
Now, I am in no way defending parents who drop their kids off at the playground and then sit hunched over their phones the whole time. That still bugs the crap out of me. But there are some times during my toddler filled day when I just need a break to send a text to a friend, check my email, or watch videos of puppies meeting kittens for the first time. There, I admit it. And I am not going to feel guilty about it anymore. Because while I am on my phone, my toddler is learning to play by himself for a bit. And that, according to child psychologists, is a good thing. So there.
5. You aren’t letting him watch TV; You’re helping with language acquisition.
Again, not a defense of plunking your child down for marathon of cartoons, but when did the dreaded screen time become such a monster? To this day my mom says she would’ the able to get things done had it not been for Sesame Street, which has now, by the way, been cited as being just as educational as preschool. These mornings, I can only manage to load the dishwasher and get breakfast on the table with the help of Dr. Seuss on my iPad. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s better than okay. Because thanks to Dr. Seuss, my son can now tell you that barber, baby, and a bumblebee all begin with the letter B.
6. If all else fails, give it a name.
Is the way you parent not found in a book written and endorsed by some fancy doctor with a lot of titles after his or her name? If not, then come up with your own term and all of a sudden your way of parenting sounds a lot more credible. In our household, we are currently experimenting with the Waite Way of eating dinner as a family. This includes cutting vegetables into tiny pieces so they are barely recognizable, attempting to sneak these tiny bites into the mouth of a toddler, trying to ignore the toddler’s incessant pleas that he “wants something else” while attempting to maintain an adult conversation with one’s spouse, letting the toddler bring his truck to the table if it will just quiet him for a minute, bribing the toddler with animal crackers, and then letting the toddler leave the table to play so one can quickly scarf down the meal before the toddler finds something to get into. Is this method ideal? No. Is it pretty? No. Has it been endorsed by a board of pediatricians? Of course not. But, occasionally, this is what dinner at our house turns into. And I won’t feel guilty about it anymore. Feel free to ask me about the Waite Method of potty training too. It involves a lot of tears (mostly mine) and a lot of accidents (mostly my son’s). This method guarantees your kid will be potty trained by the time he turns 18.
So there’s some new language and a new way of looking at things. Hopefully it makes you feel like a good parent on a day when you might not feel that great. And if that doesn’t help, just know that for every Fancy Facebook friend you have, there is at least one stressed out parent trying to bribe her son to let her put on his socks.