Since becoming a mother, I have become more in touch with my “critical thinking” side. I’ve also become more of a “mind wanderer”. And recently I found myself crying over a values.com commercial. Yeah, a commercial. It was about this husband and wife who had a daughter (like I now do). The commercial made it clear that they had a tradition during her birthdays. The candles on the cakes started to increase in number, the daughter continued to change and grow, and eventually she decided to head out to celebrate with her friends instead of at home with mom and dad. Mom and dad “cheers’d” forks, ate the cake together with the realization that their baby girl was growing up and celebrated at home on their own. In the next scene the parents were getting grey, their daughter walks in with her husband and a big ‘ol pregnant belly and they celebrate the same tradition they had so many years before. (Insert tears here haha). Why was I crying? Maybe because I could picture that life and imagining that as my daughter changing through the years and it made me emotional? Maybe because it’s not really the reality I’m familiar with as it appeared on the commercial but it’s something I desire to have with my daughter? Who knows… but it got me thinking about so much – values in general, my childhood, my parenting experience this far, my hopes and dreams for the future….
See, when I was younger, I had developed (and held on to) a certain set of values. I had created hopes and dreams for what I wanted my life to be life. Some of them changed and evolved over the years but the main ones stuck. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I always felt that I was meant to be a mom. A big, fancy career was never my main focus. Having a family of my own? That I could serve and nourish? That was the dream for me! I wanted the ever faithful, loving, wholesome, family-man husband. I wanted the beautiful, kind, healthy, respectful but playful kiddos. I wanted the stay at home mom lifestyle that allowed me to be the “PTA Style Mom” I always hoped to be. Church. School functions. Family dinners every night (and weekly, once the kids were grown). The close, loving, accepting relationships with one another. I wanted to have the marriage my children admired and aspired to one day have. I wanted to be the mom that my children fondly remembered as the glue that held it all together – always patient, always calm, always accepting, always gentle, and always respectable.
Life happened, circumstances changed and I let those hopes and aspirations fall to the wayside. I did my own thing, came to terms with the fact that maybe I wasn’t intended to have those things, and I portrayed something a lottle different in my life. And no, that’s not a typo. But the truth is, those values and dreams were still very much alive within my heart. It just took some time to pull em back out.
My husband and I have very different backgrounds. We were raised very differently. But it seemed like we ultimately both wanted the same thing. And honestly, for the most part, we do! It works! But when he met me, he had to overlook quite a bit just to see the potential in who I was. He pulled the real me – the “normal” me, the better me – out piece by piece, little by little. Eventually he was able to see through my… difficulties…. to the wifey material that I eventually became (and continue to work on). And eventually we began our beautiful little family. I started to see life differently and focus on the future I’d always hoped for.
The thing about having kids is that it changes your perspective on a lot of things. You begin to analyze situations differently. You begin to see, step by step, potential outcomes of each interaction and behavior and the affects that it can have on your children. You start to remember things that you made a point to put out of your mind just to remind yourself that your decisions as a parent shape your children. You begin to look at your surroundings and the people in your life and imagine the impact that their presence could have on your children. You begin to find value in healthy living because you realize your children will mirror your lifestyle. For me, everything has become a math problem – how will “x” and “y” affect “z”? It can be exhausting.
One of things that I was told at my baby shower was to not be afraid to do things differently than others and to not be afraid to stand up and say “that’s not how I choose to do things with my child”. At the time I thought “yeah, right, like I’m gonna have the nerve to be that assertive”. But boy did that change! And I’ve noticed people, in general, somehow get offended when you choose to do things differently…. why? I’ve had people in all areas of my life (literally, all areas) get offended at one point or another over, not necessarily a decision I choose to make as a parent, but that I verbalize how my parental choices differ from theirs. And, of course, my favorite – the friends who have seemingly stayed the same, not choosing healthier decisions (which, to each their own) but then proceed to mock the very fact that you are evolving as an individual to better suit your personal opinions of what is best for your own child and the environment in which they grow up in. That, too, can be exhausting.
I think the reason I was given that advice at my baby shower is because people tend to steam roll if not slowed down. I’ve had friends and acquaintances who had been parents for about two minutes longer than me that just couldn’t wait to push their parenting “tips” on me. The tips sometimes felt more condescending than helpful. Assuming I need/want to watch you bathe your baby to know how to do it? Telling me not to give my child the breast so often? Advising me that tummy time is a mandatory 60 minutes a day? Trying to convince me that the “cry it out” method is the only way to go? I mean, come on. Some of it was good intentioned but never is ONE way the ONLY way. But if you say that and you’ve offended someone. You distance yourself from something you view as unhealthy and you’ve offended someone. You live differently and you’ve offended someone. Somehow, my differences have offended your sensibilities?
Well I’m a firm believer that, as parents, evolution is a beautiful thing. Your parents could have been overall good parents but does that mean it was always perfect? No. You take the things that formed who you were and you change them, tweak them, throw them out all together – do whatever you have to do to help shape the reality you hope to create for your child. Your friends could have had a season in your life, showed you some good times, been there when times got tough but does that mean that they are conducive to your lifestyle as a parent? Does that mean that 100% of them belong in your future? No. You put your family first, realize the environment you are willing to raise your children in, visualize what your children will be soaking in, hold on to the memories and let go of the toxicity. It’s just life. It’s not offensive or wrong to grow. It’s not offensive or wrong to want different things than you may have experienced. It’s not offensive or wrong to choose a better reality for your children. And it’s never offensive or wrong to put them and their happiness first.
I know this whole learning thing will be a lifetime experience. I’ll mess up. I’ll make mistakes. I’ll look back and realize I should have done things differently. I think we all will. But if I’m not trying my hardest to create the best possible life for my child then what am I doing? I can’t be worried someone will get their panties in a bunch every time I choose something different. And I can’t be afraid to stand my ground.
I always want to teach my children to be kind. I want them to know it’s okay to be different. I want them to speak to others with respect, even when others don’t deserve it. I want them to know what it feels like to be accepted. And I want them to accept others. I want them to be God fearing individuals. I want them to be curious and know it’s okay to ask questions. I want them to respect themselves and expect respect from others. I will care more about who they become as individuals than the letters on their report cards.
For me, the moral of all of this is that it’s okay to acknowledge differences from others and assert your values, hopes and dreams in your own life. It’s okay to have a parenting style or expectations that others don’t agree with. It’s okay to terminate negative or toxic relationships for the sake of environment or even just your sanity. It’s okay to make decisions as a parent that feel right as opposed to what someone else suggests. It’s okay to be lost sometimes. It’s okay to cry at commercials!
Life is messy. That’s part of the beauty. But if we start to worry about who is judging us or begin shaming others or make decisions as parents just to avoid offending someone then we lose part of the beauty in the journey. Our values and hopes and dreams are important. And we should hold on to them and strive to achieve them at all costs. If not for us, for our little ones.