I came into parenthood with delusions of grandeur. I really thought this would be a cakewalk. After all, I have a doctorate in psychology and years of experience of working with children with all sorts of behavioral, social, and emotional challenges. All of this training and experience in theory should have prepared me for what’s to come.
After completing my degree, I worked with a psychologist, who I’ll call Dr. S, who said that her graduate education was like having a “degree in parenting.” She supposedly had two well behaved boys, who got straight A’s, excelled at sports, and who she often traveled the world with. The tools she learned in graduate school reportedly prepared her for the journey of parenting. Either she was delusional herself or just completely full of it. I often blame her for my initial thinking that parenthood would be easy for me.
First of all, the term “well behaved” and “boys” is oxymoronic. I have two boys (plus a girl) and they fight like little maniacs all the time. They are constantly running, yelling, making strange noises, and wrestling with one another. I would not describe them to anyone as “well behaved.” My husband, Mike, who is one of three boys, has had to remind me that the constant wrestling is just part of boyhood. We once drove past a house and randomly saw two boys engaging in WWE style wrestling on their lawn. He said, “see, this is what all boys do!” I come back to this visual reminder from time to time, typically as I witness one of my boys sitting on his brother’s head.
Second, Dr. S traveled extensively with her kids?! I can barely make it to Target and back with my brood without casualties. If anything, my psychology training has made things harder on me because I know what the text book or “best practice” says you should do, but I don’t typically follow through. As I am screaming my head off at them, I often think I should be ignoring the off task behavior, redirecting them to an alternative behavior, while validating and exploring the feelings that led to this conflict. Instead, I often just yell and feel horrible afterwards because I know better.
There are so many other instances where I feel my early expectations about parenthood had thrown me for a loop. When I became pregnant with my first child, who is now 9, I had several dreams that never panned out. At one point, I dreamed of staying home with him and writing a novel. While the baby slept peacefully for extended periods of time, I would sip tea and type away on my computer. This dream never panned out for a couple of reasons- A. I never came up with an idea for said novel. B. This baby never napped for more than 15 minutes at a time. No writing was accomplished, except for Facebook statuses and emails. C. I’m not really a fan of tea.
An alternative dream included returning to work 6 weeks after he was born. The ridiculous plan included the baby staying with Mike, who worked from home, while I went to work at group private practice that I recently had joined. This plan was also defunct. See point B above- he barely napped long enough for me to use the bathroom uninterrupted, let alone for someone to handle a full time job. The other reason this didn’t work out was because little did I know, I would have no desire to leave him at 6 weeks old. My professional ambitions went into the background, as my love for this tiny, non sleeping infant grew and grew. Several months later, I eventually did return to work and a babysitter was hired to watch him while I was away. Actually, multiple babysitters had to be hired, but that’s a story for another day.
Folks- parenting isn’t easy, no matter what your degree is in. Each day brings new challenges, conflicts and learning opportunities. If I knew then, what I know now, I never would have taken Dr. S and her possible delusions of grandeur so seriously.