This is the tale of two parents.
Parent A anxiously watches over her child, always knowing what she's doing and where she's at. Food dropped on the floor is quickly swept away. The child walks in a public bathroom with her hands folded together, touching nothing. Her car seat is clean - no leftover sippy cups or half-eaten snacks in sight.
Parent B doesn't appear to always be watching her children, although she is always checking and counting them in her head. One or two always seem to be off doing their own thing or threatening an escape. The toddler eats Cheerios off the floor in the gymnastics waiting area. When she walks into the public restroom, she sets her baby on the floor while pulling the toddler, who is hugging the toilet, to the front so she can sit on it properly. When they get to the car, the toddler pulls out an M&M from somewhere, eats it and picks up a sippy cup that "might" be from today.
Two parents seemingly so very different, but really so very much the same. They're both just trying to do the best they can for their kids. I know this because I am Parent A. Lately I am also Parent B. On any given day someone on the outside looking in will either think I am Superwoman or a one-woman circus act.
I used to be the mom that stressed over the clean floors, what my kids ate and taking potty-training toddlers to the bathroom-and germs. With each additional child I've realized how little any of that helps me or my kids. I'm stressed, they're stressed and as grandma used to say, "a little dirt don't hurt!" Whether I am totally diligent about hand washing or more than a little lax, with four kids someone is always coming down with something.
Honestly, I'm not putting my baby down on dirty truck stop bathrooms, but I did lay him down on the school bathroom floor (first thing in the morning!) and on the welcome mat when you walk in - they were both visibly clean. I don't normally let my children eat off the floor - not even at home - but if the choice is a toddler tantrum for the 45 minutes of gymnastics or letting her dump and pick up her Cheerios, I'll take my chances with the floor.
After all these years I've learned there is no wrong way to parent. That by relaxing just a bit, not fretting over every little thing, I enjoy parenting more. And really my child benefits far more from a parent who enjoys her than she risks from sitting on a bathroom floor or eating an M&M found in her car seat.
At least I hope that's the case!
Melissa is mom to 4 kids and 2 angels. She chronicles the sticky bits of motherhood at Peanut Butter in my Hair.
See more of Melissa's stories here.