Momfession #41 : All you need is love (I think)

child giving thumbs up
G and K give love a “thumbs-up!

This morning, I was sitting in the waiting room at the dance studio while my daughter was “doing ballet” (realistically, she was shaking her bum to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse soundtrack while wearing ballet shoes, but whatever). We are still new to the studio, and I don’t really know any of the other dance moms yet. So, I just sit and listen to their conversations. Today, like most days, they talk about what activities their kids are doing, how well they are doing in said activities, and what else they will be signing them up for in the future. They have their daughters doing ballet, then shuttling them off to swimming lessons right afterward, followed by Sunday morning skating lessons. Their sons are in hockey, soccer, and lacrosse. Their little ones all attend Montessori schools (where, apparently one child “aced” her entrance interview). Oh, and did I mention their girls are three- and four-years-old?!

I always feel like I am doing pretty well as a parent until I hear those conversations. Then, our “crazy” life of karate three times a week, dance once a week, and a special after school behaviour program for my son seems tame. Where do these parents find the time? More than that, where do they find the money?! My husband and I make a pretty decent income and aren’t extravagant spenders, yet even we feel the budget tightening with every daycare cheque, and monthly karate bill.

As a parent, I try to live by two simple thoughts: 1. try to enjoy every moment, and 2. all you need is love. The first one is obviously easier said than done, especially in those really, really tough moments. It is something I constantly work on, and admittedly, some days are more successful than others. The other rule is something I have always believed: that no matter how much money you have, or stuff you buy, or what school your kid attends, or how many baby sign language classes you sign up for, as long as your love your kid, and your kid feels your love, that is enough. That one is something that gets challenged every once in a while. And today was one of those days.

Does all that stuff really matter? The sports, organic food, and extra curricular programs, the Chinese lessons and the special swimming lessons (in salt-water only, of course). At the end of the day, are those kids going to be more well adjusted than mine? Smarter? More successful? I’m not really sure, but sometimes it makes me nervous.

I was re-reading Freakonomics the other day and got to a chapter called, “Do Parents Really Matter?”. The first time I read the book, I wasn’t a parent, so I don’t think I really paid attention to the content. But this time, I did. According to the data, it turns out that, other than genetics, not a lot matters when it comes to parenting. A kid can come from a broken family, live in a low-income neighborhood and go to a “bad” school and still have a similar chance of success as a child in a “good” school who has two parents at home. That’s not to say that I should set out to be a bad parent, but it surprised me that all of the things we do for our kids don’t matter as much as we think they do.

So, maybe my theory is OK after all. Maybe my kids will turn out the same as, or better than, those private school kids that speak fluent Chinese. Or maybe they won’t. There really aren’t any guarantees in this parenting job, are there? The best I can do is stick to my beliefs, and attempt to create a fun, balanced, low-stress environment for our entire family. And fill my heart with more love more than I ever thought possible. My daughter still doesn’t know her ABCs, and my son isn’t devouring chapter books like some of his peers, but they are loved, and they know it.

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Momfession #40: So long, farewell

The other day, I sat outside for over an hour in a torrential downpour watching my husband play baseball. It was cold and muddy, my ballet flats and jeans were soaked. As I crouched under a tiny umbrella that had seen better days, one of the players said something about how awful it was to be a spectator in such terrible weather. And without thinking, I replied, “Actually, it isn’t so bad. I would take sitting here alone, even in the pouring rain over chasing my kids around any day.”  He gave me a funny look, and I realized how terrible that sounded. But what was more terrible was how much I meant it.

My husband and I, like most parents, don’t get to spend a lot of time alone. We are actually luckier than most, though; we have a very strong network of family who live nearby which allows us one night a week out (usually to play on one of our many sports teams). On the weekends, we rarely spend time alone. After all, we hardly get to see the kids during the week, with a strict commute/work/school/daycare/sleep routine that allows us about an hour of “free” time to spend with them each day (at which point, we are usually so exhausted that it is spent watching Netflix). So, we pack our weekends full of bike rides, splash pads, apple picking, local festivals, and playdates, and make sure we are doing our best to spend every moment building memories that will last their lifetimes. However, somewhere between building forts in our living room and jack-o-lantern carving, my husband and I get lost.

I hate to admit it, but there are definitely times that I forget why I fell in love with my husband. We get so bogged down by the stresses of life and children that our relationship sometimes feels more like a series of transactions than a marriage. I make dinner, he sets the table. I do the dishes, he gives our daughter a bath. He drops the kids off, I pick them up. Days pass before I realize that we haven’t had a “real” conversation (except if you count discussing the frequency of our preschooler’s bowel movements a conversation). It is amazing how lonely it can all get, if you let it.

Which is why this weekend was so amazing. Two childless days, with no responsibilities other than hanging out with my husband, and watching him play baseball (in the rain). When his games were over, we ate pizza and watched TV together. We took walks and held hands. We spent time with some friends. By the end of the weekend, we both felt a renewed sense of excitement and love; and we both agreed that we need to spend more alone time together.

I know some people who have a really hard time leaving their kids. There are some that even admit they have never left their kids, because they would miss them too much. I definitely love my kids, and I do think about them when I am gone. But I definitely don’t pine for them all day when I am away. Am I a terrible parent because of it? Maybe. But I also think that part of being a good parent is taking care of yourself, and your relationship. When they grow up, my kids will probably not remember the weekend or two a year that their parents skipped town. But I am pretty sure they will remember the love that they felt from us, and the friendship, respect, and love that my husband and I had with each other.