Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Before I Had Children

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!!


  1. Your kids ARE all disciplined, polite, cheerful, non-whiny and genius. So even though the path you're on is different from the one you envisioned, it's still getting you to the same place.

    p.s. I'm sending you some of my children in the mail so you can whip them into shape, too.

  2. laughing hysterically as I could have written ALL of that myself. BC I was such a judgemental person. I feel Like every kid is a wake up call from God of what a brat I was...especially the why is that mom letting her child act like that in church?.If it were me I would pick up that child and restrain them. Well, easy said, when you don't know what its like to hold a boy who is all muscle and kicking and squirming in every way and at least 40-50 pounds by age like 2! Yeah real easy and especially when you are trying to watch several other children and oh yeah like 6 months pregnant as well.

    anyway...you probably do a better job than me overall.

  3. Oh, gosh, I am so with you on this post!!

    I remember seeing mamas out late at night, like 11 or midnight with their kiddos shopping at Wal-mart and the kiddos were crabby and crying and I thought, "Never would I do that!" "Doesn't she know these kids need a schedule and a decent bedtime?" I have a couple times needed my 7 year old to go with and it has ended up being 10pm before we are done, even 10:30 before home to bed....but with this many kids I always take a couple with me and leave a few with daddy, we split it up, and that child wanted to go badly....

    It sure has taught me not to judge others and their situations, and added so much love and I guess helped with my perfectionism, because with kids, there is no perfectionism allowed.

    (had to laugh, my 3rd born was my "siren" she cried all the time. She never napped. (literally) She, now, is the most helpful, best listener, really pleasant child!!

  4. So true, so true. Don't we learn a lot from these little blessings? I don't know if I had a lot of thought B.C. as to what the perfect mothering would look like. I do know that too often in the last nine years I have said that I didn't even have a clue what I was getting into and that some aspect of parenting was not even on my radar or how I would deal with it.

    I know that I've learned a lot about myself. I used to think that I was a very patient person and I rarely raised my voice. And then I had kids. Ha! Wow, did my own imperfections and insecurities start to show.

    Oh sure, my kids aren't perfect, always cheerful, polite or decent in public...but, every so often someone compliments them and thinks they are. At least they are half-way decent outside of our house. lol.

    God sure has a way of teaching us so many things through lives with little ones! :)

  5. Great post. Very true!

  6. My nose has been in the air. BC..before kids...I saw this couple with the dirtiest "mini-van" (GASP) inside and out.

    True story...yesterday while waiting to drop off daughter at her piano lesson I decided to wipe off the five tons of dust on the dashboard. I accidentally grabbed the wipe she blew her nose in and smeared buggers all over the dashboard. I almost puked.
    The ever so perfect mother that I am...made her clean it off. horrible I know.

    I have been there and one that with kids. I do think I am a better mother now with my 5th then my first. My firstborn is my experiment.

  7. Love this post :) I've always been a baby person, I think. It's once they start walking and talking & all that that I wonder what the heck I've done :)

    LOVE the picture at your header! Boy are you and your girl outnumbered :)

    Happy New Year!

  8. Colleen... are you mocking me??? I'm the mom with the "perfect first baby" right now and was laughing so hard inside when I read this. Deep sigh! ...what am I in for?

    BTW... I agree with Cari... your kids are awesome.

  9. This is such a great post!!! I love it...made me laugh and tear up. We learn so much after we think we know it all!!!


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