It may come as a shock (probably not) that I used to be "That Parent". You know the one, always making their kid perform (Me: "Show Grandma how you can count to ten in Spanish!") or always shopping at some store, online or brick and mortar, for that thing that promised to have your kid reading by age 2 or promising an Einstein in preschool (I think Zany Brainy would have stayed in business if I had known about it when I was still pregnant).
Oh yes, I was that person and not fun to be around. I was preachy, carting around my "helpful" baby/toddler guides to note and check that The Bee was hitting all of the milestones as she should. When she didn't quite make the mark I would frustrate me, her and anyone around as I worried about why she wasn't where the book suggested she be at that age. I felt it was my mission to inform, and nag, my fellow parents to do all of the things that I was doing. Because, of course, I had to be right. Looking back there were major other things going on - marriage falling apart, me depressed, attempting and failing (again) in school and trying to be super mom. Instead of addressing any of these problems I focused all I had on The Bee.
With regret I think that I missed so much of The Bee's toddler days; it's a bit a of a blur. There were times when I resented the role as mom but felt it my duty to push on and do what "I needed to do to make her succeed." No one forced me to act this way; I just thought that my kid and I needed to be more. During this time, my sister had just had her second kid, my nephew who is 17 months younger than The Bee. Buffy seemed to enjoy her role as mom without the maniacal bend to making her kid the smartest.
A couple of things happened that made me stop what I was doing. First there was the one time The Bee and I were doing some manic library reading, and a librarian I was friendly with asked me if I were busy. Glancing at the pile of books I had beside me, I was annoyed at her interruption but managed to listen to her spiel for a library program called Books Aloud. Although the Books Aloud program was really geared towards teachers, I was able to attend since she knew me to be a frequent flyer of libraries as well as invested in early childhood education for my kid. This caused me to meet Carla, the person who inspired me to look at the library as more than a place to park it during the day and as a possible career. Carla was a blessing. She encouraged me to read to The Bee but to also spend time with her, to relax, to enjoy being her mother. It was difficult. I had to push my child because, well who else could be trusted to make her smart! But what Carla spurred me to do may have been the best of all...enjoy The Bee.
Second: Buffy, who shoots straight from the hip and takes no prisoners, let me have it in that Buffy way she has. As she and I, along with our gaggle of kids, were headed to some edutainment thing at a library one day, I rushed her as I hurried to get to the event on time. Once we arrived, Buffy stood next the car and lit a cigarette, looked me in the eye and told me that I needed to stop making her feel guilty about what she was or wasn't doing with her kids. She inhaled and told me to knock it off, that the kids were fine and then she asked them what they wanted to do. They answered something about a park and water ice and I felt shocked that they didn't want to spend the afternoon in the library with me. She told me they would meet me in an hour and they all headed off. Sitting in the program that afternoon I felt ashamed, embarrassed, angry and silly.Perhaps there was more than one way to be a mother and perhaps the Rachee way isn't always the right way.
When The Bee finally started preschool she did fine. She was happy, she excelled and I relaxed. She may not have been reading at four but she was happy to show me her drawn pictures of princesses and cakes. She is a smart, clever, intelligent, good kid and one less book or flashcard didn't harm her or damage her.
It helped make me a better mom.
This post is inspired by the novel Julia's Child by Sarah Pinneo. Worried about what her kids eat, Julia Bailey starts a prepared organic toddler meals business. With names like Gentil Lentil, can Julia balance work and family and still save the world? Join From Left to Write on May 24 as we discuss Julia's Child. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.