Idealist and Realist
When Pudding was born, she was pure and perfect. I was determined to keep her that way. I would only nurse her, no chemical formula for my baby. No pacifier, my baby wouldn’t have nipple confusion. When she was ready, I fed her the organic, mostly locally-grown vegetarian diet that I ate, cooking all her meals from scratch. She wore cloth diapers, and I used non-toxic cleaning products. I’d encourage her to play with handmade wooden toys, and not allow her in the presence of TV or electronics. I’d expose her to foreign languages and museums and art galleries. She would always be perfect.
I was the Idealist Mother. The Green Goddess of parenthood. I never said it out loud, but I knew in return I’d have a perfect child. I had no problem with other people doing those things with their children, but it wasn’t good enough for mine. It was smug, it was judgmental, it is how I was. Nothing could go wrong, if I did everything right.
But right didn’t seem to work.
The first thing I caved on was the pacifier. There was no nipple confusion here, she knew exactly what they were, and needed them in her mouth the entire time. Or she’d scream. The entire time. I was ashamed, but the pacifier stopped it. She needed it, and I gave it to her.
I kept nursing her, but her appetite was insatiable, and it left me drained. I finally got over myself, and tried formula, and the instant she put the bottle to her lips, she was allergic. How could it be? I’d done everything right! Well, except for fixing her genetic predisposition. My first taste of not having control. I didn’t like it.
And then I was on a slope.
Once I started making food around her allergies, I lost my passion for cooking. For a while I carried on making different meals for everybody, but then came the second pregnancy with complications. When I began to crave chicken, I gave in and ate some for the first time in 10 years. Then I discovered how easy it was to make one meal everyone could eat- there was no going back. With more allergies, and a picky eater in Cubby, there are days I wish I could just get a break from the preparation and cooking and get fast food. The old me would be horrified.
Though Pudding wore cloth diapers until she was potty trained, this Green Goddess failed with the second child. When I observed that Pudding was more attracted to noisy cause-and-effect toys, we bought more and more of them. Going to museums became difficult, a much rarer event.
And the languages. I stopped trying to teach her French and Spanish. She’d picked up a few phrases, and a couple of words in Luxembourgish and German, but she always using them in the exact same context. Eventually I realized she was doing the same thing with English. Our friends who allowed TV had kids who had better language skills than she did. I eased up on that too. When I saw how technology could help my child to learn, I embraced it.
Eventually this week I came to the decision to do something I vowed I’d never do- even after Pudding was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder- a medication trial for her ADHD and sleep disorder. Putting something chemical into my pure, perfect baby would have been inconceivable to me a few years ago. It is hard to let go of the idea that I’m failing her when I don’t match up to the ideals I’ve always held. But those ideals just haven’t been able to deal with the reality of parenting. Just like I require my kids to be more and more flexible, I’ve had to bend too. And I’m certain that there’ll be more bending to come with time, as those ideals get left further behind, and my care becomes more pragmatic.
One thing that Realist and Idealist Mother have in common is that she wants the best for her kids. She just finds different ways now. Another thing? My babies are still perfect in my eyes. I’ll never change that much. The Idealist in me keeps looking for ways to make this world a better place for my kids to live in, the Realist is helping them adapt instead. I’m hoping that the two sides keep each other in balance, and show my kids that things are never black and white. There is always another way to look at things.