One of the best and worst parts of being a young first time mom is the naiveté. Too stupid to realize just how silly you are to worry about every hiccup and diaper change, yet not experienced enough to feel good about the job you’re doing.
I always wished that there were another mom, a just-slightly-older-but-not-too-old-to-be-a fuddy-duddy Mentor Mom that could share her tips of the trade before they actually happened to me. The Been There, Done That Mom answering the ever-permeating question of my mothering life, “Is it normal [insert worry here]?”
At 21, I was the first of my friends to have a baby. Over the years, this has allowed me to be their Been There, Done That Mom, but I was not privy to have one.
Was it normal for baby to walk at 15 months? Was it weird if he didn’t like sports? Would he be okay as the youngest in school? After a clueless husband ‘shrug’ to my myriad of freak out questions, I realized that there really was no one for me to ask. So, I turned to my go-to for info: books.
The problem with trusting parenting books is that for every Ferber Method, there is an Attachment Parent and you really have to navigate an ever-contradicting world that you are simultaneously the worst and the best parent out there.
So, I navigated the best I could through early toddler years, tween years, awkward adolescence trusting gut instinct, weighing popular opinion against tons of reading material. I hid my veggies in his eggs, like Seinfeld’s wife wrote. When his educational needs weren’t well addressed in school, I brought in Mel Levine’s book to back me up. While my friends were bleary eyed after night three of Ferber-izing, I was well-rested having Dr. Sears allow me to snuggle up with my baby in bed.
For every action, a reaction and a Ph.D-holding author to back me up.
But, as my son hit about 14, I realize that the parenting materials changed drastically. No longer were my books about ideas, self-actualization, promoting confidence – now, they were suddenly about survival. The titles in these manuals were both laughable and scary:
Surviving the Teen Years
Leave Me Alone, But First Can You Drive Me & Cheryl To the Mall?
Why Do They Act That Way?
The Curse of the Good Girl
So Sexy, So Soon
Of course, the teen years are hard, anyone knows that. But I had a feeling that if I had a Been There, Done That Mom she would assure me that there has to be more to it than just surviving and being “cursed.” I didn’t want them to be So Sexy, So Soon! I waited and hoped there would be more to it than a promised horrific nightmare from 14-18.
I spent a doozy of time living in fear of those years. But, I have learned that there is so much more to it than that. I have shared with my own friends, as their Been There, Done That that teen years are difficult, yes, but also very happy and often easier years than raising a toddler.
Conversations are deeper, more meaningful. Moments to see that what you’ve learned and put into practice is actually working, and when it doesn’t work? Well, then moments happen that will challenge you in a way you’ve never been challenged before. Rewarding, fulfilling and yes, very survivable.
So, as I prep for number three on my roster coming up to bat soon for the Teen Team, I realize that even though I never had the luxury of that Been There, Done That Fairy Godmother Mom, I think I’m doing a pretty decent job with my repertoire of author-fairies, and my husband and my techniques combined. At this point, I could write my own parenting book (and perhaps, when they all leave the roost I may just have the time to do that!) and save many a mother from the pit of parenting despair.