July 9, 2014

That Sh*t Is Whack: Why I Let My Four Year Old Know What I Really Thought about Her iPad Drawing.


I hated being pregnant.

I particularly hated being pregnant a second time seven months after giving birth. I had two of the most uncomplicated pregnancies I’ve heard of, both with the intended outcome of a healthy baby and mom.

Neither pregnancy was unplanned; I knew I was meant to be a mom. I knew I wanted more than one and for them to be close together.

No matter how hard I tried to be in Love with the process, all I really wanted was a baby in one arm and a martini in the other.

My theory was to bang it out and move on. I’ve always been impulsive—I’m not one for a lot of planning, I just make a decision and act on it. The only thing is that having a toddler and a newborn to take care of isn’t quite the same as getting a piercing or tattoo—or randomly moving to Queens or Boulder.

With this new set of responsibilities, I felt that it was finally time to decide exactly what kind of grown up and parent I would be.

I’ve never fit in with one particular group in my life and I have a lot of trouble committing to just one way of thinking. When college rolled around and I met people who were pretty settled about who they were, I was still a drifter. I could attend my friend’s fraternity party, but couldn’t stop myself from knowing deep inside a lot of those dudes were super douchey.

I had plenty of hippie friends, but I was never completely comfortable hanging out in a drum circle—I’m pretty sure that through the haze of weed I was just trying to recollect and perform a Radiohead song when it was my turn. Although I liked Radiohead, I didn’t know nearly enough about Thom Yorke or Weezer to really belong with my Hipster friends either.

I got by, though, and I was happy to hang out with everyone and enjoy and experience what they were committed to, while still not making any kind of concrete manifesto about who Helena was.

I realized later that parenting is different: as a parent, you are a blueprint, a teacher.

I started off pregnancy one assuming I was a Goddess. My body would be a beautiful incubator of Love. I would enjoy every moment of pregnancy, have a natural birth, and breastfeed for years. Bravo for the Goddess Mothers, but I certainly wasn’t one of them…I just wanted it to be over.

I wound up with a C-section, breast fed strictly for six months and then caved and tried formula—at which point she finally slept in longer than 20 minute increments.

I started off pregnancy number two assuming I was one of those conservative moms who had their shit together. I tried to understand laundry detergent brands, shopped at the polo outlet, and made lists of goals. Bravo for the moms who are planners.

Our house was constantly a mess, and I was lucky to shower more than a couple of times a week. My uniform of yoga pants and a tank was burned at some point due to sanitation issues and a release of evil energy.

My daughters are now four and five. They are both developing completely unique, awesome, individual personalities. I’ve come to realize that the best kind of parent I can be is just be me. Some of us don’t grow up, we just keep being. We don’t decide to be one kind of parent but go with the natural progression of exposing them to all the random crap we spontaneously become interested in and then completely don’t care about anymore.

Parenting for me is not a calling to self-replicate. As a constantly evolving being, I can’t really say that I’ve been particularly killing it at any one chapter. I’ve lived a certain path, but that in no way dictates what their path will be..

I can offer my experiences and suggestions—but I also have to be open to a complete rejection of them.

Outside of teaching them not to harm and to approach life with gratitude, the best I can come up with is to just be myself around them and let them grow into their own selves.

I can remind them how important it is to be genuine and always be enthusiastically open to learning and growing.

I can tell them to believe in things—but not to the detriment of not being open to believing in (other) new things and seeing things differently.

I can teach them not to judge, and value opposition, because confidence has nothing to do with who you aren’t.

Mostly, I will teach them the importance of being real.

My daughters were playing a bingo game with my husband the other night and one of them started whining. I called out my five-year-old when it had actually been the younger one. She managed to state this softly enough that I couldn’t hear it—but loud enough for my husband to hear

I’ve got a game for you mom: how about you yell at the person who actually did something?

Some parents may have taken this comment as a sign of disrespect. I’ve certainly had my share of snarky comments— some of which I’m sure I thought were quite hilarious. For a five year old to appropriately apply the art of snark, I mostly felt pride. She was right, I was being cranky. She was also wise enough to say it so softly that I would never have known, so she was smart enough to avoid possible punishment.

She was being a real individual.

As a Mom I will allow them to explore, and find themselves. I will allow them to question my beliefs and actions. I will completely support their interests and beliefs even if they are opposed to mine. I want our family to thrive and grow with all of our differences.

Also as a mom, I’m not faking it. I’ll let them listen to Kids Bop once but then I’m blasting some Hip Hop, or old school rap, or maybe even some Morrissey. When they work hard and put their energy into something I will give them my full attention and praise.

But when they come up to me asking me what I think of the makeup app drawing they did that took them about five minutes and looks like a cracked out grandma—I’m going to let them know.

That sh*t is whack!


Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Editor: Renee Picard

Photo: Liana_Kyle at Flickr 

Read 10 Comments and Reply

Read 10 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Helena Chase