My baby just started walking.
She was 3 weeks shy of her 1 year birthday, and I screamed with joy and excitement at this wonderful new milestone in her tiny little life. But as the moment passed, the past year of our lives (Sensitive Formula, pacifiers and lullaby bears) flashed before my eyes, and a new vision came to mind. A vision of screaming “no” as she toddles away in a parking lot. A vision of electrical wires, and unplugged outlets, and doorways without baby gates. And suddenly I realized: the game has changed.
It’s funny how with the growth of our children, our very lifestyle (whether bedtime routines, or feeding schedules, or movie preferences) can shift in an instant, and be replaced by their latest frontier. Despite what we may think, they are not the only beings completely dependent upon us for survival…every millisecond of our lives is decided by their stepping stones, their lessons learned, and their baby steps.
Call me crazy, but these days motherhood seems like a never ending and constant war between two sets of extremes. To breastfeed or not to breastfeed? To potty train or to go diaper free? To day care or to homeschool? To work in an office or stay at home? It doesn’t matter what the choice or reason, I often get a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach when meeting a new mother for the first time, because I often don’t know which team she’s playing for. Do I drop the “non-nursing” or “sometimes my kids watch Dora the Explorer so I can squeeze in a shower” bomb too soon? Do I admit that I sometimes use Happy Meals or Tootsie Rolls as bribes, or that my daughter doesn’t realize she’s manipulated into watching iCarly with me, because I secretly love it?
To be honest, I represent Switzerland when it comes to common mommyhood lifestyle battles, and it’s not because I’m afraid to pick a side…it’s because I am yet to find a “side” that really fits. My oldest daughter walked at a mere eight months old, and back then, I thought it was nothing out of the ordinary. She talked early, she walked early, and she learned how to disagree with every single thing I said equally as early. After she was born (back when I naively thought that “ideals” and picture-perfect “plans” would last soon after the time outs and negotiations start), I had a very clear vision of where I stood in the mothering world. I was an attempting-to-lactate, anti-day care, always organic, zero TV tolerance mom with a pension for books that prompted my kids to skip diapers in favor of peeing on trees. At the time, I always wanted to be ahead of the curve. I had full confidence that my daughter would be a potty trained, spinach eating, vocabulary reciting prodigy by the age of two, and didn’t see anything wrong with this extreme belief in my child’s abilities.
Four years and two babies later? I have quickly realized that the “grey zone” seems like a much more comfortable place for me to raise my children. Yes, my admirable breastfeeding dreams may have been crushed by a series of health problems, a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and (frankly) my general lack of skills… but I still (proudly) managed to pump breastmilk for both my girls for two months. I used to think we would eat food only grown in our garden (while simultaneously composting our trash and feeding the hungry), but sometimes choosing Apple Dippers at the drive-thru window seems like much a larger victory.
I admire and appreciate mothers who can walk the line of their beliefs, stand strong and truly practice what they preach (in fact, I’ve often wished I was just like them). But for the rest of us mere mortal mommas (the ones who walk the “grey zone” between work, nursing, schooling and the like), maybe we should just embrace the here and now, and stop worrying about the ideals we’re trying to fit into our lives.
I don’t know if the baby will continue to hit her milestones at the pace of her older sister, but frankly, I don’t care. As long as she’s peeing on the toilet by the time she goes off to college, we’ll call it even. And maybe it’s the process of coming to terms with all of your hopes, dreams and values with your firstborn (and then having them quiet literally be pooped on over the years), but it has a way of making you sit back, relax and enjoy the next baby’s triumphs with a newfound appreciation.
I don’t care when my kid’s learn, what they learn, or how they want to go about learning it…but as long as I can be a part of the process, I’m happy.
So the next time I feel anxiety for our increasingly less organic, educational and goal oriented lifestyle, I will try to remind myself that the best part of any plan, is realizing you don’t need a plan at all. And if all else fails? I’ll take a deep breathe and attempt to remember one, small thing:
Bailey Vincent Clark is the Editor-in-chief, author and founder of Makeover Momma. She talks about Mealtime Makeovers on Monday, “Speedy Advice With Makeover Momma” On Wednesday, and has a weekly column on Friday: “Getting Friendly With Makeover Momma.” If you would like to ask questions, submit concerns or simply chat: please email email@example.com.