When my sister found out she was pregnant with her first child, my first thought was Aren’t you afraid you’re gonna fuck the kid up?
Way to be positive, Rozzi! I know.
But, I've seen too many talk shows, made-for-TV movies and "E! True Hollywood Stories" to know that, man, a lot of peope blame their parents for their problems. Everyone’s mother or father or both were either too strict, smoothering, overprotective, lax, mean, nice, insulting, discouraging, encouraging, neglecting, loving, flawed, perfect, smart, stupid, abusive, unaffectionate, manipulative, anxious, controlling, religious, laid back rich, poor, or drunk.
Even if you are the best mom or dad you could possibly be, there will be something you did or didn’t do that your child will eventually hash out with her therapist. Knowing that I could potentially screw up another human is part of why I’ve long had a fear of having kids. When I asked my sister if she was freaked out about this, she replied, "No, not really ... I mean, all I can do is my best."
"Do my best."
Once I thought about it, this was the first of many lessons I learned from watching my sister and many of my other amazing friends raise their kids. It's helped me to be less freaked out about having kids and kids in general.
While I do remember many of the positive things my own parents did when raising me, I witnessed those things as a kid, so they live differently in my brain. As an unbiased observer to the way my friends raise their kids, there’s a different kind of learning I’m experiencing. My friends who in high school would shoplift costume jewelry with me from Claire’s Boutique at the Aresenal Mall, who got high and went to raves with me in college, and whose hair I held back as they vomited up Peach Snhanpps and 7-Up. And these friends are now moms, wonderful, smart, successful moms.
Here are a few things I’ve learned so far:
Be patient: Oh my God, I cannot believe how patient my friends are with their children. When I am at my sister’s house and her six-year-old and two-year-old are screaming for her attention she is able to calmly say “please, I am trying to have a conversation with Auntie
Giulia, I will be with you when I am done.” No screaming, no eye-rolling, just a calm request that 9 times out of 10 works. Sure, once in a while my sister will snap, but for the most part she is able to maintain her cool even with the chaos.
Practice mutual respect: My dear friend Maria talks to her five-year-old like her equal. And her five-year-old responds like her equal. Sure, Maria calls her daughter cute names and curbs her vocabulary to be easily understood by a child, but she does not patronize her daughter. She explains the why behind everything. She doesn’t talk down to her as if her opinions don’t matter. She says please and thank you to her daughter. Plain and simple, she doesn't bullshit her daughter and in turn her daughter doesnt bullshit her. (Note: don't say "bullshit" in front your kid)
Appreciate the little things: In this world it’s easy to want bigger, better, more! I mean have you tried to watch the news lately? There’s one guy telling you the top stories while three lines of other news stream along the bottom. That’s why with kids it’s so great to just soak in the simple, precious moments (actually life moments, not the bi- eyed angle statues), like when your little one is first trying to figure out how to use a fork, when your son cuddles up and asks if he can read you a book, when your daughter (my niece) is doing an interpretive dance to the "Big Bang Theory" theme song. My friends are in awe of how lovely these little moments are, reminding me that it’s the little things that matter most. (I know I sound like a Hallmark card but I’m feeling some feelings here dammit!)
Appreciate the little things IN THE MOMENT: I think we can all agree, we don’t need to know about your baby’s every move on Facebook. What I love about my friends is most of them do not attack the public with their children, instead they are in the moment with their kids. That’s not to say one can’t show off their kid online (please I posted this the second after it happened), but when I see an expectant father live-tweeting his sons birth or a detailed post with pics about what’s in a kids diaper, it’s too much. When I finally pop a mini-me out of my hoo ha (classy!) I plan to be like my sister and my friends and be selective about what I share with the world.
Ask for help: Luckily, none of my friends are martyrs. I feel like so many moms and dads from my parents generation love to remind us how much they suffered and sacrificed for us. Meanwhile, my friends do not hesitate to ask for support whether it’s from family members, friends or hired hands. And their significant others share the child-raising and house maintaining responsibilities. For me, it makes having a kid less scary knowing I’m not expected to be superwoman.
Take care of yourself: I haven’t lost my sister or friends to motherhood. They get a sitter and meet up for a drink or two. They get their nails done and buy cute new clothes. They still hang out, have fun and consider being a mom part of who they are, not only who they are. And they are all amazing moms who still get to be amazing individuals.
These lessons are not only ones I will implement while raising my kids, but ones I am trying to implement in my overall life. And while I’m still scared I’ll “fuck up” my kid, I can at least show them this article and say “Look, I tried!”