Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Achilles' Heel of Parenting.

A few weekends ago we spent a leisurely weekend with another family. It was low-key and not at all stressful. No competition, no agendas, no stress, just good old fashion family fun. 

And it was just that. 

Despite that, my friend and I both displayed our parenting, or shall I just be honest and say "mothering" Achilles' heel. You know what I mean? That part of our children about which we are horribly insecure or uncertain or just a frazzled mothering mess. 

For some mothers it is sleeping. "Oh, Johnny was never a good sleeper.  He just cannot calm himself down without me laying with him each night." 

For another it may be a personality trait. "I really wish Jason was willing to try new experiences. He is scared of everything and rarely wants to engage in any new or different activities."

For others it is academic. "Suzy has the hardest time with math. She is only doing 2nd grade math skills in the 2nd grade! And she was five before she could read." 

Still others wish for a more outgoing child. "Sweet Billy just prefers to play alone. He is not comfortable playing in large groups despite all we've done to encourage him."

For me, it's food. My kids are incredibly picky eaters. I swear they eat healthy meals, but it is not mainstream and it is always awkward eating with other families. And they eat plenty -- it's just not what you'd guess. For example, Little Miss Thang eats an entire raw red pepper every day. No ranch for dipping. She doesn't do condiments {yes, also no syrup or ketchup though she devours pancakes and hot dogs}. 

Raw spinach on the side for dinner, no problem. 

Mashed potatoes, no thank you.  

Grilled chicken, yes please. 

Fried chicken on a bone, no thank  you. 

You get the picture -- they are picky, but in our own quirky, picky way. And I don't mean to make them sound uber-healthy. That is not the case. There are plenty of Goldfish crackers and ice cream sandwiches in our repertoire. But only for Little Miss Thang. For My Little Guy it is Ritz Crackers and pudding. See  -- they are even picky about junk food!?!?

My excuses or justifications or explanations often range from: 
  1. I swear they just came out this way, to
  2. I ruined them back when the hubs was often gone for weeks at a time {come to think of it, he still is} and I just let them eat whatever they wanted for dinner {and sometimes still do}, to 
  3. Who cares. They eat just fine and will certainly eventually eat sushi with me. Or any fish for that matter.  Right?
I've generally come to terms with this issue on my own. But when I'm with others I'm not nearly as confident or self-assured. I make excuses. I try to hide the issue. I do all I can to hide the pain caused by my Achilles' heel.

And during that weekend I did just that. And so did my friend, with respect to her own Achilles' heel. 

We both offered our excuses. 

Demonstrated our resolve. 

And shared our disappointment. 

Our issues were different but the result the same: we worry that we are doing a good job. 

And sometimes we, as a mothering community, are quite judgmental. I don't think we mean to be. Well, maybe some do. I thought my friend's Achilles' heel issue was innate in her children and there was nothing she could do about it. My kids don't have that particular issue, but I certainly don't think it is from something I've done particularly well. They just arrived this way. I think.

Or maybe it's not innate at all. The fact that both our respective children shared the same set of issues does lend itself to the argument that these issues are likely of our own creation. 

Or maybe the issue which made her uncomfortable is one she also shared with them, although she has certainly outgrown it now {if only you could have seen her on the rope swing}! And maybe, just maybe, my kids own eating issues stem from my own childhood resistance to new foods. I certainly was not always willing to order the sashimi platter at an authentic sushi bar. I am certain of that. 

But, in the end, who cares whether we created it or not?!?

We all do the best we can. 

Our kids are little works in process. And we all devote our time, talents and energy towards their growth. As much as we have to give at that particular moment in time. Maybe one day, week or month, we weren't able to keep our eye on the prize and we slack off a bit. Or maybe our child's inherent nature {which they share with us} leads to a sensitivity towards certain foods or experiences or a particular temperament. Is this really surprising or worrisome?  


Do we sometimes set our sights too high?


Are we too hard on ourselves and each other? 

Most definitely.

What is your mothering Achilles' heel and do you think it is innate or created?

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