We went to an outdoor concert (ZooTunes at the Woodland Park Zoo, to see Great Big Sea, an awesome Celtic band from Newfoundland, if you're interested in the deets) with Mikko this past week, and it was much more successful than our latest indoor movie attempt.
With the exception of the first ten minutes, wherein Mikko screamed non-stop for some odd reason.
No, I know the reason; I just can hardly take it in.
Sam had packed us a lovely picnic, using our new Easy Lunch Box that I won, which has (BPA-free) plastic containers with three compartments and a lid. To save on space, Sam combined some like items in some of the compartments.
What a terrible idea, thought the three-year-old, who promptly began screaming — screaming — that the bunnies and the chips were touching.
We had come late anyway, and kind of shoehorned our way in between several other families on blankets, so we were feeling a little … obvious.
And a woman nearby caught my eye as I was trying so very hard not to do any such thing, and she smiled, cuddling her own daughter on her lap. And I felt better. Because: We've all been there. Sometimes your child starts off a concert by hollering at the top of his lungs, and it is what it is.
She kept looking at me, through sidelong glances, and I kept looking at her, equally covertly. I noticed she had an ERGO and her hair was a stylish but easy-going short crop. She looked like my kind of people.
I started having these flashes of (egotistical?) panic that perhaps she had seen Mikko's pictures on my blog and was trying to place us. Perhaps she was wondering how a parenting blogger could have a child who screamed so very much.
Despite the fact that I knew it was a bajillion-to-one chance she'd ever stumbled across my blog, it started me thinking about how glad I am not to be attending BlogHer yet and bringing my real self into contact with my virtual friends. Particularly if they see me parenting at the same time. Because maybe it would blow my cover.
Sam always seems particularly unimpressed by my parenting. He likes to make fun of me for losing my temper so easily, and he's been known to warn Mikko, half- (and only half-) jokingly that I can't be trusted alone with him right now.
I guess when people know you in real life, behind the mask and seeing all the warts and wrinkles and internal yuckiness, that they don't so much buy into the blogger mystique that writers somewhat inescapably build along with their words. In some ways, you think more highly of your partner than anyone else does — but in others, you see most clearly, and therefore approach with the least degree of worship. There are no secrets, and the failures leave a lasting memory.
I've been thinking about this a lot recently, so wouldn't you know, other bloggers have, too?
Witness Arwyn at Raising My Boychick:
Yes, our parenting choices matter. No, not "anything goes." Yes, kids deserve so much, and no, a lot of kids aren't getting what they need. But who can possibly sustain a Very Best Effort at every moment for at least 18 years? I'd say no one can. I surely can't.
Witness Kelly Hogaboom:
I write because I'm sorting through this stuff – me. It's my journey. I am not putting down parents. I am a parent! I am doing this work! I am failing, daily, in eschewing limited and harmful practices! …
But I am in the position to improve and to do better; to resist the passed-down traditional tropes most people I know adhere to. … Mistakes don’t concern me; we all make them. It's the traditional parenting schemas that I question and analyze … .
I recommend reading both those pieces in their entirety, but for now, that second part of the Kelly Hogaboom quote — that is what my blogging is. I'm questioning the established culture's ways of parenting and looking at children. I'm questioning my own ingrained hard-heartedness and immaturity. I'm questioning my own current screw-ups, of smaller or greater proportions.
And if you want to read about a screw-up in detail, click on over and read my comment on Kelly's post, and weep for me. I will repost it here so you don't miss the horror:
I appreciate, also, your clarification in the comments that sometimes what you say isn’t the point; it’s how monstrous you are. I had an incident the other day that still makes me ashamed of myself. There was a supermarket meltdown, and I won’t even try to figure out who or what was at fault there, if there is a scapegoat in all of it. The result was a kiddo screaming at the top of his lungs, me rushing through the shopping with gritted teeth, refusing to make eye contact with the other shoppers, and then we had a car ride home wherein my child screeched at me to listen to him and I just as obstinately refused to answer (because I’m soooo mature sometimes).
Ok, that part’s bad enough, but when we got home, he asked where his ballet shoes were. We had bought new ballet shoes that day in anticipation of starting dance classes, and he was so proud and happy with them that he’d carried them into the store. I said, quite factually and so meanly, “You left them in the cart.” Because it was true. He had, and I had had to remember them there and pick them up and put them in the car to take home, all of which I had done. But I wanted him to feel bad, and the result was all my monster self could have hoped: instant, sorrowful wailing. Because, clearly, I was saying that to imply his shoes were lost forever because he was bad. I had to rush to make it up to him and produce the shoes ("no, no, don’t worry, they’re here"), but wow — what a jerk I was. I can’t see his adorable little black slippers now without feeling a twinge of guilt.
Sorry to use you as therapy. Apparently I had to get that off my chest.
I just think you’ve really hit the nail on the head when you say you write (as one of the reasons) to resist the traditional schemas and suggest new ones. That’s what I try to do, in myself, each day, and my writing is an offshoot of that. I fail (boy howdy, do I fail), but the putting forward of better ideas — within my own family, within myself, and then out to others — seems like good work. And as you say, I like the results so far. I like who my child is; I like who I am (and who I’m becoming). One reason I so enjoy reading your posts is because of the way you challenge the accepted ways of looking at children and parenting. Changing how we parent ideally starts with changing how we think about parenting and about children and about what is necessary and right. Or at least, so it seems to me as I try to navigate it all.
When I say, don't berate your children into performing some script of manners, I'm reminding myself what it means to be respectful toward my child. When I enthuse about finding the right attitude toward night waking, it's true in the moment and yet also a reminder for me the next time I heave a big sigh on hearing my child awake when I'm trying to relax. When I speak about gentle and child-honoring ways to discipline, I am trying to heal from my own experiences of discipline as a child and not revisit my deep-seated — and, yes, theological — misapprehension of sin and punishment on my own child.
When I write, I feel like I write maybe too prescriptively, and as if I have this all figured out — and, more, as if I actually fulfill all of this all the time. And I don't! I don't. I'm trying, and I keep trying harder, but I'm not there yet.
It's how I can co-host a carnival on healthful food choices and then run two cooking posts about Muddy Buddies and french fries. Because: We're still in process. I'm still in process, and I'm going to guess you are, too.
And I wish I were better than I am, but I'm not, not yet. Maybe not ever. The wishing is part of the growth, but even if it's all there ever is, that's OK, too. We're trying.
Not our very hardest all the time (heaven knows), but we're trying.
So if you were sitting next to me at ZooTunes, snuggling your little girl, and you wondered about the kid with the curly hair who was screaming something about bunnies and you thought to yourself, "What kind of parent is that?"
Well, now you know. An imperfect parent, with an imperfect child, but we're both pretty good, too.
I'm not alone in this, am I? How do you hide your parenting imperfections or feel you should?