I was the perfect parent — until I had kids

I remember like it was yesterday — although it was 26 years ago — that Chuck and I vowed to each other, after our sweet little niece Jessica had just consumed a rather large piece (in reality, one-inch square) of chocolate fudge — that our children would never, ever (and I mean never, everrrrr) have such sweet, sugarey, chocolatey foods. Because we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that such treats would rot their teeth, cause toddler-onset diabetes, and was surely the “gateway drug” to cream puffs, hot fudge sundaes and maxi-sized Hershey bars.  Yep, the sweetest thing to touch our child’s lips would be unsweetened apple juice and graham crackers. Deal? Deal.

And furthermore, by golly, our child would never, ever (and I mean never, everrrrr) get out of her big-girl bed after we had tucked her in and kissed her good night, and come downstairs sniveling, snotting, whimpering and saying she just couldn’t go sleepy-bye. I mean, we just would not allow it.

(Poor Jessica, my niece, my Zsa — our first, and only, exposure to children as new newlyweds.)

And no way, under zero circumstances, would our as-yet-unborn children ever (and I mean everrrrrr) bite another child! Are you kidding me? What kind of parent parents a child that does such a heinous, evil thing!

Fast-forward, please, to 1988 and 1991, the births of our beloveds….

Circa Easter of 1989,

when Cassidy was about one, we were standing in our first Gold River home’s kitchen. We gave her a $1.99 big ol’ milk chocolate bunny. The look on her face after biting his head off was that of unadulterated, sheer joy and ecstasy. I smiled. She smiled, laughed and drooled. I would never (and I mean neverrrr) deprive my child of sweet treats, ever again.

Our Cassidy, our first-born, had separation anxiety. We’d read her ‘Goodnight Moon,’ say our prayers, kiss her nighty-night, and tuck her into her be-ruffled pink big-girl bed, blowing kisses as we turned on sweet lullaby music, softly shutting the door. Every single night. And every single night, after about 2.5 minutes, she’d come breathlessly screaming and bawling out of her room, imploring — no, demanding — that we come back in and read her another book or two. Or three. Which, of course, we did. And then we became so tired of that nightly routine that we just made a “little nest” by our bed where she could go sleepy-bye, calmly, without the nightly parent/child tug-of-war. Whatttttever.

Along came sweet Jujubee.

Now I had heard and read about little ones biting others. My children, of course, would never do that. So I just skimmed those articles. Until Julia bit a babysitter when Chuck and I went to see Titanic one Sunday afternoon. And then about a month later, she bit a chunk

out of my thigh as I was doing dishes. (An excruciatingly painful occurrence).  We were told by a child psychologist acquaintance that younger children acted out like that when they were trying to keep up with their older siblings. Oh…okay.  That makes it acceptable then.

And of course, my children would innately, inherently have impeccable table/high chair manners. After all, they were ‘little ladies.’  At least that’s what I wanted the world to think.  But I got busted. My neighbor Jody dropped by one evening at the arsenic hour, when I was feeding Miss Julia her dinner. Upon entering the room, Julia threw a bowl of peas (including the bowl) halfway across the kitchen.  Mortified me said, “I guess she doesn’t like peas,” to an aghast Jody. (I so feared that my not-yet-a-Mom friend would schedule an appointment to get her tubes tied the next day. Thankfully, she didn’t.)

So, yeah, we stepped down from the Parental Pedestal a little bit. We felt we had an arsenal of great experiences under our Mom and Dad belts, and we were confident that the next phase of parenthood surely would be easier than the infant-to-age-5 stage.

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{Corona del Mar circa 1998}

We couldn’t wait for our kids to start playing sports.  Exercise, sportsmanship, camaraderie, teamwork, learning the strategy of gamesmanship, experiencing defeat as well as victory — this was going to be great. And there was ab.so.lute.ly no way I would ever (and I mean everrrr), like, keep track of how much playing time my kid had, or, worse yet, seek out the coach for a little chat after a game. I mean, Who does that?! Well, it turns out I did that. Mea culpa. Mea culpa…

And the computer thing. The media and every family therapist in America kept admonishing all of us parents to never, under any circumstances, let your teenager have a computer in his/her own room. Duh. Of course we wouldn’t do that! Chuck and I pinky-swore that we would stand firm on this one. So we did not allow computers in their room… until we did allow computers in their room.  It was a slow, insidious process that just kind of happened.  Are we just awful parents? (Don’t answer that.)

But we did adhere to a strict dress code in our home, by gosh. It was made crystal clear that the hemlines were not to be too high, or the necklines too low. But shoot…they had to show off their just-tanned and toned legs during the summer months. And “Mommmm, I decided I’m not going to wear anything under that deep-V-neck shirt from Abercrombie & Fitch after all!” Hmmmmm. (I wonder: Do you think I subconsciously allowed it so I could vicariously live through my daughters, as my decolletage had long since lost its smoothness and buoyancy?) (Don’t answer that either.)

*****

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We’re now less than four months away from our baby graduating from college. They’re both (yikes!) full-blown adults. We fed and watered them. We clothed and sheltered them. We loved and guided them the best we knew how.  Soon they’ll both be off creating their own lives, making their own friends, choices, money (yay), decisions and mistakes.

Speaking of mistakes, yeah, I was wrong about that “perfect parent” thing. There is no such thing. And I’ve finally realized what I should have realized about two decades ago — that parenting is a hard, humbling, humiliating, happiness-filled, rewarding and never-ending job.  Yep, my Girlies, please know this: Even though you’re all grown-up and off on your own journey, you will always be entitled to my opinion. And I’ll never, ever quit being your parent. (And I mean never, everrrr.)

 

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4 Responses to I was the perfect parent — until I had kids
  1. Krista
    January 29, 2013 | 10:11 am

    Awww this one is so true…..My brother Marc said the very same thing (we all did) my sister and I take great joy in watching HIM go through the same trials we all did. While his kids are doing the same thing all kids do. NEVER say NEVER right!!! I absolutely loved your and I quote “you will always be entitled to my opinion” ! My gracious 31 and 32 yr old adults children still listen to my advice ALWAYS….but probably use it RARELY…they’re so sweet to JUST listen, letting me think my words of wisdom are gospel….! In reality its just making ME feel like a helpful mom…..what a fun journey parenting is…..I’d do it all again tomorrow…..thanks once again for a great blog!!!!!

  2. Joanna Jullien
    January 30, 2013 | 9:23 am

    Great post! I too have grown children. Two magnificent sons who have in their own ways challenged my perfect parent image. It is true that we give ourselves too much credit for the good and the less desirable. Mostly, it is by the grace of God and their own free will that our children become who they are destined to become. I for one consider myself a mom reformed, proudly and with gratitude to the Lord. For our children are such resilient blessings from God.

  3. Jody Bryan
    January 31, 2013 | 5:30 pm

    Your memory is better than mine! I don’t remember the “pea” episode but do remember all the unconditional love you have given Cassidy and Julia over these fabulous (Lord, did you say!) 25 years! You and Chuck are EXEMPLARY parents and what a wonderful legacy you are for them!
    I read Joanna Julien’s “Banana Moments” – Good stuff, like this blog!

  4. Stephen
    February 9, 2013 | 7:24 am

    I’m not that much of a internet reader to be
    honest but your sites really nice, keep it up!

    I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back down the road. Many thanks

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It's true! Despite playing defense virtually all my life against the onslaught of this sometimes-ugly aging process, it...has...arrived! I naively thought I would escape cellulite (the Cottage Cheese) and crow's feet (the Crepe Paper). But I didn't! And why didn't anyone tell me about this emotional roller-coaster that comes with being an Empty-Nester?! My name is Jodie Barringer Myers. I'm a 54-year-old Friday/chardonnay/ hydrangea-loving wife/mom/court reporter living in Sacramento (Gold River!), California. Writing is cathartic for me. And because I look to find humor and humility among the rubble that is my now very peri-menopausal self, I'm hopeful that you will laugh, cry, learn, enjoy and, most of all, relate to what I have to say. After all, we're all in this together, right?

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