Ah...Before I had Children (or B.C.) I was so knowledgeable, so righteous, so proud. I just knew, KNEW exactly what I would and would not do as a mother. How could these other moms allow the nonsense to go on right under their noses and not discipline their children? My future kids, I decided, would be disciplined, polite, cheerful, non-whiny, and of course geniuses. I had come from a large family, had spent years babysitting, worked in a daycare, and loved children, so I was convinced I had all the prerequisites of being a great mom.
Oh boy, did I critique other people's parenting skills when I would see them out in public. I remember two instances B.C. vividly. One time was when I was in the grocery store and a mom with two toddlers was screaming at her whiny kids to just be quiet and behave. My my, I thought to myself, how disrespectful those toddlers are being! And that mother is not treating the situation properly by yelling at them! Doesn't she know she just has to explain the rules of proper behavior to her kids and then calmly steer them on the correct path when they begin to veer off of it?
The second instance was when Phil and I were at a restaurant, and a little girl was calling out to her mother over.and.over.and.over again. And the mother ignored her! I couldn't believe it! I would never ignore my future daughter's pleas for attention. I vowed to Phil that we would always look our future kids in the eyes and answer them promptly.
And then I had children.
Oh yes, with the first one, I did everything perfectly. After all, John-Paul was the perfect baby. He cooed mamamamama at 4 months, which obviously meant he was saying Mama 8 months earlier than the average baby. He would let me read him books, which showed he would be an excellent scholar. And boy could he kick those legs - a future soccer star for sure! Don't we all do that to our poor first-borns? I was so convinced we were doing everything right and this was a piece of cake, that we decided to try to have another baby before he even turned one.
Oh, the second child started the downward trend to my parenting prowess. For the first time, I had to ask Phil to help with childcare duties...up until that point, I had done it myself since I was a stay-at-home mom and that was my job. But with two in diapers and so dependent, I needed another set of hands. And Andrew gave us a run for our money between his colic and ear infections, he was pretty miserable for the first 6 months of life. I was definitely that mom in the grocery store with the screaming baby and the toddler throwing items out of the cart while I scrambled and sweated to get everything done in record speed. All the while apologizing to the other people in the store.
The third baby made me question my reason for wanting to be a young mother of three. He was so difficult because of his dairy and soy allergies, and puked everywhere we went. "I need a cleanup in aisle 4" became the running joke in our house. Eamon needed to be held all the time, poor little guy, because he always seemed to be in pain. So now I was the mother who had the messy house, spit-up-stained shirt, bags under her eyes, and could easily be found yelling at the 3 and 2 year olds for being toddler boys. Not pretty or proud moments. And far from the idealistic view of motherhood I once had.
Baby four turned me into the mother who ignored all the "Mommy" cries. She just talked so early and non-stop that I sort of tuned her out. I don't even do it on purpose, but other people have to tell me that she's calling out for me. It's terrible. Plus, when you have four kids all vying for your attention all the time you have to learn to pick and choose ;)
As for Baby five, well he is just reminding me of how wonderful babies can actually be. I had never thought of myself as a baby-person. I always preferred toddlers, but this boy is changing my opinion on that. So you see, before I had children, I thought I knew it all, and after I had children, I realize I only know how much I don't know. I don't know how to be the perfect mom, I don't know how to have the perfect children, and I don't know how I'm going to get through the teenage years!
But I do know that each blessing from God has changed me as a person...has allowed me to grow in my faith and patience and humility...and challenged my preconceived notions on parenting. I wish I could go back in time and tell that smug young know-it-all Colleen "just wait!" Because B.C. she would never have believed how her life would change after having kids. In ways she never could have imagined. And all for the better!!