I am not a parent, unless you count the werewolf, which I don’t. Only because I’ve been told that real children require more from one than the capricious impulse to put hats on them and take their picture.
I’ll probably never become a parent. It’s not that I don’t like children, although technically I don’t. Only because I would never claim to love any whole group, not even animals, because f*ck snakes and bats and mosquitos. In fact, I think the blanket statement “I love children” is more indicative of a speaker’s lack of careful discernment than actual capacity for love.
I like to tell people my focus on semantics is part of my charm. Likely, it’s another reason not to have kids. (“No, little Bobby, I won’t take you to the bathroom until you ask using the definite article.”) Still, regardless of whether I personally choose to reproduce, I’m no longer twenty (despite what I claim when I answer Craigslist ads), which means the majority of my friends have kids.
People complain about parents plastering their SUVs with Honor Student stickers, losing interest in any topic of conversation that doesn’t involve food allergies or pre-school applications, flooding their friends’ Facebook feeds with pictures of Baby’s first Market Extension Merger or whatever.
My friends are guilty of none of this. Rather, each has, at some point, expressed a conviction that her struggles result from personal shortcomings, that every other parent can handle what she can’t, that because she harbors regrets or isn’t always fulfilled, she’s not a good parent. But the truth is that parenting is an endless, sometimes thankless and often exhausting struggle to balance needs and logistics, finances and emotions-- or so I observe. God-willing, I’ll never share these particular struggles. I have enough trouble finding my teeth to brush them each morning. If I had to deal with some small, inarticulate person’s sudden need to tie her own shoes as expressed by punching the dog, I’d probably never get out of bed.
But here’s some small thing I can offer: The Honest Parent Series.
Each month the Our Town Blog will highlight one Chicago parent’s thoughts on the highs and lows of child-rearing. It’s my hope to contribute to a community of less self-critical, more well, honest parents who aren’t afraid to own their parenting-styles, imperfections and all. Most participants have agreed to speak publicly, though some prefer anonymity (perhaps fearing the ire of their vicious mommy blogger peers). I’m doing my best to create a representative hodgepodge; gay, straight, single parents, “traditional” families, minority voices, stout white guys with more money than God, and maybe even a werewolf or two.
January's Honest Parent: Mandi Hinkley
Fill in the blank:
My great parenting strength: is being conscious about parenting decisions and perspectives. I try to think about things like "the kind of parent I want to be" and the values I want to instill in my kids when I respond to the everyday issues that arise.
My greatest parenting weakness: is the flip side of my strength--being too much in my head and not appreciating some of the moments as they pass.
When it comes to parenting, I would rather not admit: that I see the TV as a magical babysitter when I am exhausted.
When it comes to parenting, _________is overrated. Reading parenting books. I've read a few that I've really liked, but a lot of them are preachy, judgmental, and/or seemingly designed to make you feel like you are not doing enough.
What have you learned about yourself specifically because you became a parent?
That being a parent doesn't change the person I am. It provides new circumstances that challenge me and help me grow, but I don't feel different from the person I was before (even though the circumstances of my life are often very different).
What do you wish someone had told you before you became a parent?
To remember that child development is ongoing. In just the first three years of our twin daughters' lives, my partner, Chai, and I have gotten to different points in which we feel like we have a handle on things. And then almost instantly, something shifts--the bedtime routine that had been working so well falls apart, the right mix of nurturing and discipline suddenly has no effect, and so on. It's dawned on me just recently that I have to remember that their development will constantly shift and both to anticipate that and also not be totally dumbfounded when things that made sense no longer do.
Describe your worst moment as a parent.
My real "worst" moment is not very specific: one of those times when my reaction was based in my own frustration or preoccupation rather than the facts and needs of the moment. More tangibly, I had an unimpressive moment in the first few months of the girls' lives. Because the sleep cycles of our twins were not in sync, at least one person in our house was up 24 hours a day for most of the first half of 2010. Chai and I switched back and forth between assigning ourselves a child per night, trading off wake-ups regardless of the child, and taking 4-hour solo shifts. During one of the solo shifts, I had a baby in each arm, both wailing for somewhere around a half-hour. I didn't want to wake up Chai because she was exhausted and had the added requirement of pumping milk every few hours. But nothing I could think to do was working, and I was losing it. There was something about the pierce of those unconsolable cries that was more than my sleep-deprived self could handle. Instead of asking her for help, I sat down in our living room chair, still with the girls in each arm, and just screamed. I felt better after. And also scared the shit out of Chai. Sorry, babe.