Monday, August 18, 2014

The motherhood dizzy spin

I've been thinking for a while about how to best describe motherhood. Here's what I've come up with.

My analogy of motherhood is that game you play between innings at minor league baseball games which I have learned is called Dizzy Bat. Essentially two people put their heads on a bat,spin around ten times and then try to run to first base as fast as they can; you are totally disoriented, you look like a drunken monkey, who is also uncoordinated and unable to perform even the simplest tasks, and there is a 90% or better chance you will fall flat on your face.

At least that has been my experience.

So why do it? Well, also similar to Dizzy Bat, we are hopeful that if we win the race, there will be a prize waiting for us at the finish line. Only in the game of motherhood, instead of a Bob's Chicken Shaker t-shirt, we are hoping to win a productive citizen who at adulthood calls, texts, or holograms us at least once a week (by the time our kids are grown, Richie is sure the Star Wars technology will be available), gives us a grandchild or two, and picks out a nice home for us when the time comes.

The problem is, that between the time you put your head down on the bat and start spinning (which I guess in this analogy would be conception), and the time you get to first base (which ironically has nothing to do with conception in this particular analogy), no one is handing out report cards on how well you are completing the motherhood task.

Well, except for everyone.

Similar to the screaming fans in a baseball stadium, as soon as you announce you are having a baby, everyone you know, and a surprising amount of people you have never met, begin chiming in on exactly how you should raise said baby.  We got advice on everything from breastfeeding to discipline strategies, feeding and sleeping schedules, when babies should wear hats (all the time, even in August in Texas -- this advice came from Richie's grandmother and was followed exactly due to my deep desire to stay on her good side, because there are some people whose good side you should always stay on).  As our daughter got older, we got advice on if and when we should have another baby, which when you think about it is both odd and kind of awesome in a creepy way, since essentially what this boils down to is people telling you to have unprotected sex, which is exactly the opposite of what everyone in your life has been telling you right up to the point where you start talking about having babies.

Like every new parent, we were overwhelmed, exhausted, and terrified that would make a mistake that would irrevocably scar our baby for life, like painting the nursery the wrong color or listen to AC/DC instead of Baby Einstein. So when people gave us advice, we listened. We read books. We scoured the Internet. We subscribed to magazines. We took classes.

Here's the problem with the onslaught of advice. For every expert that told us to let the baby cry it out there was another one that told us to rock the baby until she was 3.  For every person that told us to introduce carrots first, another person told us our baby would never eat carrots if we didn't introduce pears first. Use a pacifier. The pacifier is Satan's tool of death. Do not use under any circumstance. Public school's are the only way to go. The only thing worse than pacifiers are public schools.

As if being sleep and shower deprived while living on a steady diet of cold chicken nuggets and Baby Einstein for six month isn't enough to make a person crazy.

You would think it would get easier as our kids got older but my kids are 10 and six now and the advice hasn't slowed down, it has just changed topics.  Now people tell us which middle school our daughter should attend and more importantly which she should by all means not attend and how much Minecraft is appropriate in one day. Could our daughter be lactose intolerant? Should we do the HPV vaccine? How many kids do you invite to a kindergarten birthday party? What do you do when someone is bullying your kid? Really, more Minecraft?

Spin, spin, spin.

The thing about being a mom is just when you get one stage figured out, it's over. I got really good at mothering a six month old just in time for my daughter to be a year old.  Right when I mastered parenting toddlers, I didn't have one any more.  And on and on it goes.  And no way God would send me two children that had anything in common except their eye color and last name.  If I had sat down and programmed the DNA for my children they could not have looked more alike and been more different, meaning none of the mad parenting skills we mastered on that race we've started with our daughter are the least bit useful on the second go around with our son. That would make me look less drunken monkey and more like I have some clue what's going on. What's the fun in that?

But the real problem with all the advice we got is this, even though there are a million experts out there, none of them are experts in raising our child.  

Once we figured that out, it gave us the freedom to take the advice that worked for our children, pass on the advice that didn't, and raise our kids the best way that we knew how.  Don't get me wrong, I don't do it perfectly.  This system requires a lot of trial and error and I still second guess my parenting choices more often than not (read: Every. Single. Time.). But understanding that my children are a unique blend of my husband and I and a dash of something that is completely their own, and that God has called Richie and I to be their parents for a reason has given us the freedom to listen politely whenever people give us advice, and then to walk away, discuss it together, and decide what works best for our children without guilt, (except for the hats on newborns. This is a non-negotiable).

So to all of you moms who are scurrying to first base, in a blur of gold fish, crayons, diapers, and that two day old sippy cup you are praying doesn't have milk in it, swirling by you in a dizzy spin, hear me when I say, you are doing an awesome job.  That child in there, you know the one -- looks just a little bit like you when she wrinkles her nose or when he raises his eyebrow -- that child is going to be just fine.  This stage he is going through right now, not sleeping, not eating, not talking, talking all the time, hitting, biting, being bullied, not reading yet, hates school, hates his sister, hates daycare, loves daycare which breaks your heart because you just went back to work, you are going to figure it out and no sooner will you master it than it will be over.  You are the very best person for this job, no matter what any book, blog post, other mom, your mom,  well meaning friend, or expert says, because you are the expert on your child.

Trust me when I tell you this, because I may not be an "expert", but I have spun right next to you
Me and my beauties!
and will likely trip over my own feet and fall spectacularly ungracefully into you sometime along this journey, so I know what I'm talking about here.  More importantly, trust yourself, because you have taken a spin around the bat and are running this crazy race in a world full of spectators. And mommy, if they are sitting in the seats yelling at you, they ain't got the courage, the strength, and the all out awesomeness to be out there doing the Dizzy Bat race with your baby. 

Because the thing about motherhood is, even though you may have a face full of dirt when you get there, there will be a pretty beautiful prize waiting for you at the finish line.

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